In 1603, a 42-year-old aristocratic nun named María Vela y Cueto submitted for nine months to a series of exorcisms in the Cistercian convent of Santa Ana in Ávila, Spain. The rituals were intended to relieve María of the visions, voices and mysterious ailments she claimed came from God, but during the last exorcism María reached such a level of spiritual rapture that her body arched and grew rigid, and her head became stuck in the little window through which communion was passed. Only when her ecstasy ended did María’s body relax enough that the shocked nuns could free her head. 1