Born in Fontiveros as Juan de Yepes Álvarez, his father died when he was still a boy and the rest of his family moved to Medina del Campo. There, in view of his family’s extreme poverty, he joined the school of the Society of Jesus as a poor boy. He studied theology in Salamanca.
In 1567, he met Teresa of Jesus and, from that moment on, they were both aware that they shared the same ideas about religious orders and what their aims should be.
The close relationship between the mystic and Teresa of Jesus led him to spend long periods in Ávila, some of which lasted for five years in the Convent of La Encarnación.
Although his position as Confessor at the monastery may appear to be of little importance, the reports of his pious work revealed his holiness. Furthermore, one of the fundamental principles applied to her foundations by Teresa was that the nuns were to focus on prayer and on strengthening their spirit. Therefore, it was fundamental for the confessor to guide them in the right direction and advise them on all their worries. This was why John’s work was so important and, according to certain texts, it spread to other convents in the town as a result of the aura of holiness he was starting to show.
The other important area in which the saint is recognised is literature, which has made him universally famous and for which he is considered as one of the great mystic writers of Catholicism. He always maintained his retreat in Ávila, which brought him peace and significantly influenced his writing.
The harmony between the two great saints of Ávila meant that they shared the conviction that something needed to be changed in the religious orders of Spain. As a result, John undertook to renew the Carmelite Order and, together with St Teresa, founded the Order of the Barefoot Carmelites.
The sculpture of the mystic stands in Plaza del Corral de Campanas in Ávila and is one of the most common images of the saint.