St. John of the Cross
1542–1591 • SPAINOne of the greatest figures in the Catholic church, St. John of the Cross is also one of the greatest poets in Spanish literature.
Born near Avila, Juan de Yepes Álvarez entered the Carmelite order when he was 21 and moved to Salamanca, Spain, where he studied philosophy and theology at the university. At 25 he was ordained a priest.
Around this time he met St. Teresa of Ávila, who inspired him with her work in reforming the Carmelite order, seeking to restore its original contemplative character. St. John worked with her for the next ten years, establishing and helping administer monasteries around Spain.
A group of his superiors, trying to counter their efforts, jailed him when he was 35. Though a higher Carmelite authority approved his work, he was imprisoned for nine months and treated harshly. Out of his tiny cell came his most famous work, The Spiritual Canticle. After nine months he escaped and continued his work. He was canonized in 1726, and in 1926 he was made a Doctor of the Church.