St. Teresa of Avila

19th or late 18th century
Mission San Juan Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, California

This santo uses the traditional iconography for St. Teresa of Avila: the dove on her shoulder, the habit of the Discalced Carmelites, and the book and pen in her hands.

The mission was founded in 1786 so this statue must have been acquired, and perhaps created, some time later. The mantle is much simpler than those one sees on 17th- and 18th-century santos, but the fine features do seem characteristic of the earlier style.

The book in the saint's hand (see photo below) presents some phrases from her poetry. On the left page is a verse from her "Vivo sin vivir en mí" ("I live without living in myself"):

¡Ay, qué larga es esta vida!
Oh how long is this life
¡Qué duros estos destierros!
How hard this exile
¡Esta cárcel, estos hierros
This prison, these irons
En que el alma está metida!
In which the soul is stuck
Sólo esperar la salida
Escape is the only hope
Me cuesta dolor tan fiero,
I am in pain so fierce
Que muero porque no muero.
That I am dying because I do not die.
This is apparently a meditation on Romans 14:7, "none of us liveth to himself; and no man dieth to himself." The three lines at the bottome of the page come from a poem of the same name by Teresa's spiritual advisor, St. John of the Cross: Y estando ausente de ti, que vida puedo tener sino padecer…, "And being absent from you, who kind of life can I have without suffering…"

The right-side page is from another poem on the same theme, and apparently the same text from Romans:
Aquesta divina unión
This divine union
del amor con quien yo vivo,
of love in which I live
hace a Dios ser mi cautivo
makes me God's captive
y libre mi corazón.
and makes my heart free.




The statue photograph in full resolution
More of St. Teresa of Avila

Photographed at the site by Claire Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.