3 July 2007
DE CEPEDA Y AHUMADA, Teresa, SAINT TERESA of AVILA (1515-1582). Fragment of an autograph note, 53 x 73mm (dampstaining at lower margin, a few small losses).
The small but precious fragment, with a 17th-century superscription that it is by St Teresa's hand, is written in Spanish on both sides and is framed between glass in an ebony baroque tabernacle. The lower part of the tabernacle contains an hand-written note on paper that reads 'Carta scritta di mano della nostra Santa Madre Teresa di Gesù' on one side, and, on the rear, a small relic resting on a red velvet pillow with a paper scroll reading 'Ex Ossib. S. Adiuti Protomartyris Ord. S. Francisci'. The tabernacle is sealed on both sides with four red wax seals bearing the arms of an unidentified cardinal.
Saint Teresa of Avila was one of the most prominent figures of the Catholic Counter-Reformation. Famed for her mystical experiences, she wrote a series of spiritual biographies but also engaged in the practical reform of the Carmelite Order, to which she belonged, through the foundation of houses of Discalced Carmelites. She was canonized by Gregory XV in 1622, made patron saint of Spain in 1817 and declared a Doctor of the Church in 1970, one of only three women so honoured.
St Adiutus was one of the five Martyrs of Morocco, the first Franciscan martyrs who were killed in Morocco in 1220. Their relics were returned to Portugal soon afterwards and they were widely venerated before thier canonisation in 1481. It was presumably for a Carmelite, who regarded the saint as 'our' mother, that the tabernacle was assembled and certified by the seals.
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