bernini the ecstasy of st. teresa
Cornaro had chosen the hitherto unremarkable church of the Discalced Carmelites for his burial chapel. [a] The selected site for the chapel was the left transept that had previously held an image of ‘St. Paul in Ecstasy’, which was replaced by Bernini’s dramatization of a religious experience undergone and related by the first Discalced Carmelite saint, who had been canonised not long before, in 1622.  It was completed in 1652 for the then princely sum of 12,000 scudi. [b]
The art historian Rudolf Wittkower wrote:
Following the death of Innocent and the accession of Alexander VII (1655-67) to the papacy, Bernini was restored to prominence. It enabled him to focus on Baroque architecture – notably on his famous project to rebuild the square in front of Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome, where pilgrims gathered to receive the Pope’s blessing – and on the construction of his two finest churches – S. Andrea al Quirinale, and S. Maria dell’Assunzione, Ariccia, in Rome. All of which greatly enhanced his reputation as one of the top Baroque architects in the city.
Sculptures by Bernini can be seen in some of the best art museums and sculpture gardens around the world.
Born in the Castilian town of Ávila in 1515, Teresa Sánchez de Cepeda y Ahumada entered a Carmelite convent around the age of twenty, but it was not until the 1550s that she began to experience divine visions like the one to which Gian Lorenzo Bernini gives tangible form here.
Harbison, Robert. Reflections on Baroque. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003.
When we look at the Ecstasy of Saint Teresa by Bernini we have to consider the entire space of the chapel. The chapel is called the Cornaro Chapel, after the Cornaro family who controlled it and commissioned Bernini to sculpt Saint Teresa.
Beside me, on the left, appeared an angel in bodily form. . . . He was not tall but short, and very beautiful; and his face was so aflame that he appeared to be one of the highest rank of angels, who seem to be all on fire. . . . In his hands I saw a great golden spear, and at the iron tip there appeared to be a point of fire. This he plunged into my heart several times so that it penetrated to my entrails. When he pulled it out I felt that he took them with it, and left me utterly consumed by the great love of God. The pain wasso severe that it made me utter several moans. The sweetness caused by this intense pain is so extreme that one cannot possibly wish it to cease, nor is one’s soul content with anything but God. This is not a physical but a spiritual pain, though the body has some share in it—even a considerable share.
By the time she reached her forties, Theresa had settled down to her new spiritual life, when one day, while praying and singing the hymn “Veni Creator Spiritus,” she experienced the first of the episodes that would accompany her for the rest of her life: a rapture.
The Ecstasy of Saint Theresa