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Saint John of the Cross

John of the Cross, Saint, Span. Juan de la Cruz, 1542–91, Spanish mystic and poet, Doctor of the Church. His name was originally Juan de Yepes. He was a founder of the Discalced Carmelites and a close friend of St. Theresa of Ávila, who guided him in his spiritual life. Because of his ardor in pursuing St. Teresa's reforms he antagonized the hierarchy. In 1577 he was imprisoned in Toledo and was subjected to physical and mental tortures. It was in his prison cell that St. John wrote his famous Spiritual Canticle and began his Songs of the Soul. These poems—a blend of exquisite lyricism and profound mystical thought—are among the finest creations of the Golden Age of Spanish literature. St. John is regarded by many as Spain's finest lyric poet. After an escape (1578) considered by many to be miraculous, he went to Andalusia, where his last years were spent in a constant struggle against his opponents and in the creation of masterly prose treatises on mystical theology, notably The Dark Night of the Soul and The Ascent of Mount Carmel. Feast: Nov. 24.

See translation of his complete works by E. A. Peers (3 vol., 1953) and of his poems by J. F. Nims (1959); E. A. Peers, The Spirit of Flame (1943); R. Sencourt, Carmelite and Poet (1944); L. Cristiani, St. John of the Cross (tr. 1962); G. Brenan, St. John of the Cross (1973).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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