Dona Maria Vela Y Cueto, Cistercian Mystic of Spain’s Golden Age

Price:$139.95 + shipping
(Click the PayPal button to buy)
María Vela y Cueto (1561-1617), a Cistercian nun, represents the later stages of a religious reform led by St Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross, her mystical life recorded in a spiritual diary and an autobiography. In recent years interest has been gathering in religious writings by women, since comparatively little is known about them. One crucial issue under discussion is the connection between mystical ecstasy and hysteria or neuroticism in women. In the past María has been presented as a constitutionally weak female - holy but hysterical. This study aims to re-awaken awareness of an almost unknown figure who was once venerated, and also to look again at her spirituality. Her writings are of interest to hispanists, historians and theologians: (1) as an example of the growing number of mystics in Golden Age Iberia; (2) as an illustration of Spanish social history at this time; (3) for the light they throw on contemporary Church history, including the increasing importance of spiritual advisers; (4) for their description of convent life including - since María was organist and choir mistress - a glimpse of the liturgy in a convent famed for its music in an era producing some of Spain's greatest composers. More important still, her pages include passages of great power which should be made more widely known to an English-speaking public, especially anyone with an interest in spirituality.


“In this full-length study, Dr Rees rescues from undeserved obscurity one such intellectually and spiritually talented Golden-Age nun. Doña María Vela y Cueto (1561–1617), venerated several centuries ago for her saintly spirituality, was once widely read not only in Spain but, thanks to translations, in other countries. Subsequently, however, Doña María’s Autobiografía and her Libro de las Mercedes were almost forgotten about and have had, until now, little serious attention from modern scholars. Dr Rees’ book is a scrupulously researched record and study not only of the facts and circumstances of Doña María’s life as a nun in the Cistercian convent of Santa Ana in Avila, but of her interior life in spiritual communion with God … No specialist would be better equipped to prepare these new editions than Dr Rees. With plentiful evidence and through cogent and compelling argument, Dr Rees has demonstrated that Doña María Vela y Cueto does not deserve the obscurity into which she has fallen and that she is worthy of study and respect as a figure of significance in the illustrious history of Spanish mysticism.” – (From the Commendatory Preface) Ann L. Mackenzie, Ivy McClelland Research Professor, University of Glasgow

“The Carmelite Order has benefited greatly from Dr Ann Rees’ scholarly contribution to the study of their two great saints Teresa of Jesus and John of the Cross. Her abiding love for, and interest in, these towering giants of the post-Reformation has resulted in an impressive body of articles and booklets. There is a danger, though, that their brilliance can outshine other, lesser known, near contemporaries of theirs, whose lives have much to teach us. Dr Rees’ study of Doña María Vela y Cueto helps to remedy this situation and introduces us to the Third Mystic of Avila, not a Carmelite but a Cistercian nun living in that time of reform and ferment. Dr Rees’ familiarity with the Spain of the 16th century and the mysticism which was so much a part of it, provides us with a fascinating background in which to meet and discover this third mystic. Dr Rees’ knowledge of St Teresa with her down-to-earth approach is used as a sort of yardstick for trying to understand the more emotional spiritual life of Doña María … Dr Rees has given us a very perceptive and readable account of a woman with a more than usually rich complex nature.” – Sister Philomena (Prioress), Carmelite Monastery, Wood Hall, Wetherby

“I have read Dr Rees' manuscript with much interest. She brings to life themental, physical and spiritual world of the 16th century Spanish nun with sympathy, insight and humour. The text is refreshingly free from jargon and prejudice. Striking a balance between scepticism and admiration, Dr Rees resists the temptation to present her subject in 21st century terms as a frustrated and neurotic self-tormentor. Doña María emerges as more than a mere victim of a repressive society, and is placed in a much older tradition of Christian spirituality and asceticism. The quotations from Doña María's own writings (often startling in their directness) are woven into a coherent narrative.” – Martin Murphy, former Tutor of Plater College, Oxford, and authoritative writer and lecturer on Spanish history and religion

Table of Contents

Doña María and Life in the Convent Community
‘Martyr of Love’. María Vela’s Asceticism
Prayer, Visions, and Voices
María’s Theological Knowledge
Doña María, Legatee of Monastic
Mysticism’s ‘Cistercian Miracle’

Other Religion and Gender Books

More Books by this Author