Religion: John of the Cross

Some of the most soaring religious poetry ever written was composed by a tiny 16th Century Spanish monk called Juan de la Cruz—John of the Cross. From his bald head to the soles of his sandals, John was a contemplative, shy, silent mystic.

Though action, and particularly rebellious action, went much against his grain, his friend St. Teresa of Avila enlisted him in her crusading reform of the Carmelite order. Anti-reform monks kidnaped and imprisoned him in a cell in Toledo's Carmelite priory for eight months, where he was taken out once a day to eat crusts and water on the refectory...

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