'One of the things that makes me happy here,' wrote Teresa from her foundation at Seville, 'is that there is no suggestion of that nonsense about my supposed sanctity...'
None the less, the world persisted in believing her to be a saint. Her autobiography tells how a self-willed and hysterically unbalanced woman was entirely transformed by profound religious experiences; it is also a literary masterpiece and, after Don Quixote, the most widely read prose classic of Spain.
Along the path to her conversion, which began in 1555 at the age of forty, St Teresa had been haunted by hideous visions and illness, and her discussion of these, and of fear and false mysticism, informs some of the most moving and remarkable passages in her Life. She was an acute and trustworthy analyst of exalted states. Above all, though, her account is helpful for readers developing an interest in Roman Catholicism and mysticism, for sceptics, beginners and all those learning to pray.