Which translation of Teresa of Ávila’s 'The Interior Castle' or 'The Mansions' is best?
How to compare and decide between available English translations
In 1577, Teresa of Ávila, a Carmelite nun in Ávila, Spain, was asked by her superiors to write a spiritual guide for her Carmelite sisters. Her manuscript, The Interior Castle or The Mansions, was first translated to English in 1675. Today many versions are available in bookstores or online as a free download. But how do you decide which translation is correct for you? Understanding the key differences may help you choose which version to select.
Translations of The Interior Castle which stay faithful to the text:
While these versions are faithful to the text, as a direct translation, they maintain Teresa’s lengthy sentences and paragraphs, making them more challenging to read. You may need a study guide in hand to fully understand the text, even though readers indicate the more recent translations are more straightforward.
Since 1852, 1921, and 1946 translations are public domain, links to an online free or low-cost version are included below.
Fr. John Dalton (1852). John Dalton’s translation of The Interior Castle contains an interesting preface and translations of other letters by St. Teresa.
Benedictines of Stanbrook, edited by Fr. Zimmerman (1921). The translation of The Interior Castle by the Benedictines of Stanbrook also has an excellent introduction and includes many cross-references to other letters by St. Teresa.
E. Allison Peers (1946). E. Allison Peers’ translation of The Interior Castle is another popular public domain version translated by a professor and scholar of Hispanic studies.
Fr. Kieran Kavanaugh (1979). This translation also stays true to the faithful to the text and contains many useful cross-references. An updated study edition contains comprehensive notes, reflection questions, and a glossary.
The Modern update of The Interior Castle which stays true to the text:
M.B. Anderson (2021). This version remains faithful to the meaning of the text, but the straightforward structure and contemporary word choices make it easier to read and understand, reducing the need for study guides and references. Section breaks have also been added to aid comprehension. Learn more about the modern update of The Interior Castle.
Paraphrased translation of The Interior Castle
Mirabai Starr (2004). Described as "free of religious dogma, this modern translation renders St. Teresa's work a beautiful and practical set of teachings for seekers of all faiths in need of spiritual guidance." Starr’s interpretive version of The Interior Castle eliminates Teresa’s use of words such as “sin,” resulting in a more paraphrased translation than accurate.