the Carmel

Cell life

« Let everyone remain alone in his cell or near it, meditating day and night on the law of the Lord and watching in prayer, unless he is legitimately occupied with something else."

Rule of Carmel
Thérèse's last cell

The sisters therefore spend a significant amount of time in the cell: spiritual reading, free time, working time when it can be done alone in the cell, for example the mending of clothes. And of course toilet and night.

The cell has a bed made of trestles on which a mattress is placed, a low stool on which the Carmelite can sit. Near the window, a work corner with a work basket, an oil lamp, an hourglass to measure time and a writing desk. A bare cross and engravings chosen by the resident of the place adorn the walls.


The photo shows Therese's work corner, with her own tools, near the window. The small lamp is lit, under its basket, its writing desk, personal books (Rule, customs and Imitation of Jesus Christ) and on his little bench, his kerosene lamp.

Marie Guérin postulant working in her cell

Marie Guérin postulant praying in her cell

Cell images

In Thérèse's time, the cells were decorated with unframed engravings, simply pasted on cardboard in respect of the vow of poverty. The Carmelites not [could] avoir in their cells only a table and two images, or three images without a table ". It was also customary to put a small image on the door, often a Sacred Heart. On the walls of her cell, Thérèse had hung three pictures.

Image of Saint Teresa of Avila, the reformer of the Order of Carmel and patron saint of Teresa

Virgin and Child accompanied by a lily symbolizing her virginity. Thérèse said to Céline about this image: “ This Virgin reminds me of a mother nursing her child ". Thérèse was probably inspired by it to compose her first poetry, “The divine dew or the virginal milk of Mary”, written at the request of Sister Thérèse of Saint-Augustin in 1893. This image of the Virgin will then be pinned to the curtain of the bed in the infirmary. Pointing her to Mother Agnès on July 10, 1897, Thérèse said “ Only that is good lolo, you have to tell Mr. de Cornière ».

"Here I am knocking at the door...". Looking at her, Thérèse thought of the passage from the Song: “Open to me, my sister, my wife, for my head is full of dew and my hair is the drops of night.” phrase painted by Mother Agnès on the wall of the Saint-Élie dormitory, near Thérèse's cell. In 1892, Thérèse was inspired by this image for the realization of her small painting "Jesus is knocking at the door", which she will offer to Céline, then still in the world. On this painting, we also find a lily, perhaps inspired by the one present on the image of the Virgin and Child.

at the door

Emblem of the Sacred Heart at the door of the cell

See here the objects that were found in a cell at the time of Thérèse