Teresa of Avila vs. Crispin

Welcome to Tuesday in the first full week of Lent Madness action. Today Teresa of Avila takes on Crispin. Medieval mystic vs. 3rd century martyr.

Yesterday, amid some early voting trials and tribulations, Hilary of Poitiers handily defeated Melania the Elder 61% to 39%. Perhaps no one was surprised voting was an issue in a matchup between Melania and Hilary?

In case you missed yesterday's world-changing episode of Monday Madness, you can watch it here. Tim and Scott address the voting issue, while reminding everyone that universal suffrage is a God-given right. As long as only one vote is involved.

Teresa of Avila

Teresa is one of only four women among the 36 doctors of the church. And that’s just one of her many accomplishments as a mystic, reformer, prolific writer, and theologian.

Teresa Sánchez de Cepeda y Ahumada was born into wealth on March 28, 1515, near Avila, Spain. Even as a young girl, she was a dedicated Christian, learning about the saints. When her mother died, Teresa called herself “worldly,” according to her autobiography. Her father enrolled her in an Augustinian convent for education. However, illness sent her home. Recovered and now determined for a religious life, she joined the Carmelites; again, illness sent her home. She eventually returned to the Carmelites but grew weary of what she perceived as the order’s lax rules. She inaugurated a reformed Carmelite order with a more ascetic lifestyle, eventually founding 17 convents.

In her meditative life, she tried to ignore her visions, which included an angel piercing her heart with a golden lance. She was also prone to raptures, sometimes including levitation. Though she found writing burdensome, she was a prolific writer, articulating Christian mysticism and meditation practice. Her writings include The Interior Castle; The Way of Perfection; and an autobiography entitled The Life of Teresa of Jesus.

Teresa is the subject of much artwork, paintings, and sculpture, such as Bernini’s famous The Ecstasy of St. Teresa. She is usually shown dressed as a Carmelite nun holding a pieced heart, book, and crucifix. She is also presented in music by such greats as Virgil Thomson and Joan Osborne; in literature by Simone de Beauvoir and George Eliot; and her statue played a central role in the movie, Angels and Demons.

After her death in 1582, she was buried at the Convento de la Anunciación in Alba de Tormes; her relics are scattered in Rome, Lisbon, Paris, and other locales. Teresa was canonized on March 12, 1622, by Pope Gregory XV, and her feast day is October 15.

She is the patron saint of Spain; sick people; religious orders; people ridiculed for their piety; lacemakers; Požega in Croatia; Cebu in the Philippines; the Diocese of Amos, Canada; and the Diocese of Avellaneda–Lanús, Argentina.

Collect for Teresa of Avila

O God, who by your Holy Spirit moved Teresa of Avila to manifest to your church the way of perfection: Grant us, we pray, to be nourished by her teaching, and enkindle within us a keen and unquenchable longing for true holiness; through Jesus Christ, the joy of loving hearts, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Neva Rae Fox


Thanks to the Battle of Agincourt and Shakespeare’s Henry V, Crispin’s name may be more familiar to English majors and fans of British military history than the Christian faithful. Yet deep devotion to Crispin and his brother Crispinian can best be captured by a pun—the relationship between the soul and the sole.

Crispin and his brother Crispinian were born in the third century, sons of a wealthy Roman family. As young men, they fled Rome and the anti-Christian persecutions of emperor Maximian to settle in northern France. There, these once-pampered sons became humble shoemakers, working through the night so they could preach the gospel by day. The brothers were known for their generosity and their contempt for material goods, and their witness inspired many to become Christians. Once Roman authorities got wind of their exploits, Crispin and Crispinian were martyred by the governor of Gaul. Some accounts say they were beheaded; others say they were thrown into a river with millstones around their necks. The confusion may stem from the fact that killing the brothers was no easy task—from whips and rods and even shoemakers’ awls, every weapon of torture wielded against them wounded their captors instead. By the eighth century, the date of their execution had become their feast day, October 25.

Crispin and Crispinian are the beloved patron saints of cobblers, shoemakers, curriers, tanners, and leatherworkers. Shoemakers were both common laborers and skilled craftsmen, and they held a particularly important role in medieval Europe. All shoes were custom shoes, and a visit to the shoemaker was not unlike a visit to the hairdresser—shoemakers had to be trustworthy enough to work in intimate conditions (like lifting ladies’ long skirts to better grasp their feet). In England, shoemakers were among the only people allowed to work on Sundays, and over time they became associated with spiritual assistance and support—“sole menders” became “soul menders” in a popular pun. Saint Crispin’s name comes up again and again in the history of labor unions across both Europe and the United States. For example, the Daughters of St. Crispin was a union of female shoemakers—and the first national women’s labor union in the United States.

Collect for Crispin

Almighty God, by whose grace and power your holy martyr Crispin triumphed over suffering and was faithful even to death: Grant us, who now remember him in thanksgiving, to be so faithful in our witness to you in this world, that we may receive with him the crown of life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Eva Suarez


Teresa of Avila: Peter Paul Rubens, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Crispin: Kerstgen van Ringenberch (début du XVIe siècle), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


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143 comments on “Teresa of Avila vs. Crispin”

  1. Though occasionally prone to a trance,
    When her heart would be pierced by a lance,
    She (defying St. Paul)
    Shared her learning with all.
    So today let St. Teresa advance!

  2. I’m International Women’s Day I have to vote for a woman. Also, for me her story is more compelling than Crispin’s.

  3. Love learning about St Crispin, but St Teresa has been a favorite of mine all of my life.
    Lent Madness is so much fun!

    1. Like you Mary, I like Crispin but I am devoted to St Teresa and have been for a long time...since my college days when I read The Interior Castle

  4. Not sure my vote for Crispin was registered - took several tries from my ipad. As much as I love St. Teresa, there is something about soul menders that touched my heart. How much we need them today. And, we celebrate Oct. 25 each year at our house in homage to St. Crispin Crispianus and Henry V. We few, we happy few….

    1. I, too, voted for Crispin just because I like the idea of soul mending and because we all know Teresa of Avila is great. Power to the shoemaker, like Gepetto in Pinocchio.

      1. Amen to that! I voted for the martyr. The faith and courage to defy the empire is an inspiration.

    2. I, too, had a second day of having to tap (hit with my finger) many times, and eventually tap VOTE, which sent me back to try to vote again, before my vote recorded. I, too, liked Saint Crispen for actively practicing his faith.

  5. St. Teresa! Check out the beginning and the end of George Eliot's great novel, "Middlemarch," where Teresa of Avila serves as a lynchpin for the story of the main character, Dorothea Brooke.

  6. Teresa of Avila is one of my favorite saints! A strong woman in her day (she was constantly under threat of the Inquisition), she was often treated by priests (all male, of course) as being under the influence of an evil spirit. Though she was misunderstood, her intimacy with God kept her determined toward reform.

    Teresa for the Golden Halo!

  7. My “go to” mantra, attributed to Teresa of Avila, is “Let nothing distress you. Let nothing afright you. God only is changeless. God alone suffices.”
    Teresa gets my vote.

    1. My favorite part of the midday daily office! (From the Northumbria community via the book Celtic Daily Prayers)

  8. Much as I like to support women and academia, it’s solidarity forever: with Crispin I get women’s empowerment and labor unions. I also am fond of that speech in Henry V. Both worthy saints.

  9. This was a hard one for me but I'm very fond of the history plays and I love the Saint Crispin's Day speech from Henry V - "We few, we happy few, we band of brothers - For he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother." Seems especially meaningful to me today.

    1. Same reason Constance's companions are not nominated with her, I suspect, despite having traveled with her, nursed the sick with her, and in five cases died with her. Only one Golden Halo at a time.

    1. The Philippines were invaded and conquered by the Spanish (hence the modern name of the country...nobody asked those living there if they wanted the country renamed after King Philip of Spain) and presumably some Spanish conqueror wanted the patron saint of Spain to extend her protection to Cebu.

  10. I spent two weeks in Spain with a group of women following in the footsteps of Teresa. My she-ro!

  11. St. Crispin had nothing to lose
    and the Spirit he couldn't refuse,
    but the gov'nor of Gaul,
    with no humor at all,
    fitted Crispin with lead overshoes.

    1. Love the Mafia-like reference to lead overshoes! Had to go with Teresa because of a quote attributed to her that is a kind of life verse for me:
      Let nothing disturb you, nothing frighten you.
      All things are passing.
      God never changes.
      Patience obtains all things.
      Whoever has God lacks nothing.
      God alone suffices.

  12. So far, I have voted for every losing saint. Deep inner meaning, I wonder?

    1. Me too! And it happens every year. But at least the losing saints will be better-known now.

    2. Me, too. Wasn’t sure who to vote for today, so it had better be Crispin. Need to keep my streak going…..

  13. I think Teresa is the woman who was dumped into the mud in a road accident, when traveling between monasteries she had founded. She said to God "If this is how you treat your friends, no wonder you don't have many!" Love her!

  14. This one was a no brainer for me. I read Teresa’s writings years ago and feel an intense resonance with her mysticism.

  15. I voted for Crispin because I always vote for Martyrs for the faith. Teresa will win but what the heck. Also, I like working with Leather and awls and all that stuff.

  16. “She is the patron saint of Spain; sick people; religious orders; people ridiculed for their piety; lacemakers“. That got Teresa my vote!

    1. Try powering your iPad off and then waiting at least 30 seconds before powering it back on, and then trying to vote.

      It is amazing what issues will go away on Apple products with a simple restart.

      1. No, the buttons simply aren’t live, Safari on iPad. Must go vote on the Android phone. Fwiw, my husband’s Mac Air is fine, he uses Chrome. I’m loathe to put another browser on my iPad just for Lent!

  17. Fascinating match-up today.

    I chose Crispin, reflecting upon our call to « walk in love, » and how fixing someone’s shoes allows this, although it’s not about actually walking at all.

  18. Still won’t let me vote. Tried 5 times. I’m getting very frustrated because I really enjoy Lent Madness. My vote is for Crispin but it won’t go through.

  19. Aye, I am sure that Teresa was also visited by a shoemaker. My vote be with Crispin and his brother.

  20. Henry's St. Crispian's Day speech reminds me of President Zelenskyy's quip that he doesn't need transportation but ammunition. Therefore, in light of Ukraine's resistance, it is Crispian for me.

  21. This was really hard, especially not to support the Daughters of St Chrispin on International Women's Day!
    But Teresa seems so holy and devote, and beyond my understanding, so I voted for her. Besides I’m still struggling with Interior Castles.

  22. St. Teresa was so humble in her writings in The Interior Castle. I was surprised that she wrote her autobiography. No doubt her favored advisors put pressure on her to do so. She has influenced people profoundly with her insights, and my vote is for her.

  23. Vaya con dios, Teresa. I have a feeling you're going to "crush it" today. Nevertheless, I voted for Crispin, even though I can hardly believe that Crispin/Crispin' is two actual historical brothers. The myth is strong on this one. But I voted for him/them on behalf of labor unions. And I'm charmed by the idea that instruments of torture turned on their wielders. We should all get to witness words of spite spit at us jammed back into the mouths of the mockers and the hands lifted against us forced back to smack the face of the abuser. Strike up some Paul Dukas music and roll The Sorcerer's Apprentice.

    1. For seven years, I worked as a school district researcher. One of my annual assignments was to analyze ACT/SAT results vs. school records. Without a common identifier to link the records, I matched the records using the first four letters of the last name, first initial, and date of birth.

      I then had to manually edit the matches for twins Steven and Stevie C. The existence of both Crispin and Crispianus
      in one family seems feasible to me.

      1. Ha! If only their parents had had access to some vast digital repository famous for endless "top ten" lists, such as "baby names for boys for [insert year here]."