St. John of the Cross in Art

St. John of the Cross, priest, confessor, and Doctor of the Church. He was a companion of St. Teresa in the reformation of the Carmelites. His natal day Not his birthday but the day he died and was "born again" into Heaven. is December 14 – Roman Martyrology for November 24

St. John of the Cross (1542-91) worked with St. Teresa of Ávila to return the Carmelite order to the strict discipline of its original constitutions. This work led to sometimes violent objections within the order and some very bad treatment for John. Eventually he and Teresa were permitted to set up male and female convents of "Discalced" Carmelites separate from the others. ("Discalced" means "shoeless": they wore sandals whereas the "Mitigated" Carmelites wore shoes.)

Most portraits of John of the Cross have him in the Discalced Carmelite habit: a white mantle over a dark brown tunic and scapular. To distinguish him from other Discalceds, most images refer to his name by giving him a cross or crucifix.

Prepared in 2018 by Richard Stracke, Emeritus Professor of English, Augusta University.


Zurbarán's portrait of St. John of the Cross, 1656 (See the description page.)

A statue of the saint in a 1742 retable (See the description page.)

Bernardo Falconi's statue in the Scalzi Church, Venice. (See the description page.)


  • Cross or crucifix
  • Lilies1


  • Feast day: November 24




1 I found just one painting where lilies are used as an attribute: Nicolò Lorenese, The Anticipation of the Coming of Christ, 1686, in Rome's Santa Maria della Vittoria, the same church that houses Bernini's famous sculpture of St. Teresa. Lilies are a traditional way of referring to a saint's chastity. The painting is published in One Hundred Saints (248); a very bad photograph of it is on this page at Wikimedia Commons (retrieved 2021-12-08).