The Interior Castle

The Interior Castle
AuthorSt. Teresa of Ávila, O.C.D.
Original titleEl Castillo Interior
SubjectChristian mysticism
Publication date
Published in English
1675, 1852 and 1912

The Interior Castle, or The Mansions, (Spanish: El Castillo Interior or Las Moradas) was written by St. Teresa of Ávila, O.C.D., the Spanish Carmelite nun and famed mystic, in 1577 as a guide for spiritual development through service and prayer. Inspired by her vision of the soul as a diamond in the shape of a castle containing seven mansions, which she interpreted as the journey of faith through seven stages, ending with union with God.[1]

After being ordered to write her autobiography, published posthumously as La Vida de la Santa Madre Teresa de Jesús (The Life of the Holy Mother Teresa of Jesus), Teresa was hesitant to begin writing again on her views of the perfection found in internal prayer.[1][2] She started writing her seminal work, Interior Castle, on June 2, 1577, Trinity Sunday, and completed it on the eve of St. Andrew's Day, November 29, 1577; however, there was a five months-long interruption in between, effectively leaving a fortnight each for first and second halves of the book.[3] In August 1586, it was decided to print Teresa's works, which had been collected and preserved by her secretary, the Venerable Ana of Jesus, O.C.D. The Augustinian friar and poet Luis de León, O.E.S.A., was selected as the editor, and finally in 1588 the book was published at Salamanca.[4][5]

The books The Interior Castle and The Way of Perfection, taken collectively, are practical blueprints for "seekers" who want to really experience prayer as mystical union with God. Further, Teresa's exposure of how she was blessed with contemplation illuminates the Catholic theologies of grace, the sacraments, humility and ultimately love.


St. Teresa of Ávila, O.C.D.

In the hands of the Spanish Inquisition at that time, Teresa's Life was commonly believed to be the weight in the scale of whether to call her experiences heretical or not. Her humility and claims that "I am not meant for writing; I have neither the health nor the wits for it" almost prevented Teresa from composing The Interior Castle. However, according to a letter written by Fray Diego, one of Teresa's former confessors, Teresa was finally convinced to write her book after she received a vision from God. Diego wrote that God revealed to Teresa:

"...a most beautiful crystal globe, made in the shape of a castle, and containing seven mansions, in the seventh and innermost of which was the King of Glory, in the greatest splendour, illumining and beautifying them all. The nearer one got to the centre, the stronger was the light; outside the palace limits everything was foul, dark and infested with toads, vipers and other venomous creatures."[6]

With that, The Interior Castle was born. It contained the basis for what she felt should be the ideal journey of faith, comparing the contemplative soul to a castle with seven successive interior courts, or chambers, analogous to the seven mansions. It is also not unduly speculative that living in a walled city like Ávila, not to mention a Carmelite monastery, must have influenced her thinking from an interior perspective. This concept of an interior life is still important in Spanish thinking in the 21st century.

The first English translation was published in 1675; the second in London by the Rev. John Dalton, in 1852; and the third by the nuns of Stanbrook Abbey in 1912.[7]

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