Julian of Norwich
Mystic, became an anchoress living in a cell attached to the south wall of this church soon after 1374, and here she wrote
"Revelations of Divine Love"
|Interior of the chapel, rebuilt and renovated
after the last war on the foundations of the
"From Him we come
in Him we are enfolded
to Him we return."
"All that is done is well done
For it is done by God."
|On the 8th of May, the 3rd Sunday after Easter in 1373,
a 30 year old woman, name unknown, lay on her deathbed. The
curate of the parish came with a server carrying a crucifix which he
held over her head so that she could gaze on it. She had lost all
feeling from her waist down and her sight was beginning to fail.
During the night that followed she had a series of fifteen visions concerning God, the Trinity, the Crucified Lord and the Christian life. She recovered almost immediately and soon began to write down an account of her experiences which she called her 'showings'.
She became an anchoress (hermit) living in a small room through the door on the right and as was the usual practice, took the name of Julian who was patron saint of the church.
"Thou art enough to me"
|The church of St Julian, rebuilt in 1953 after the bombing in 1942
The north wall of the church (above) and the foundations were all that remained. One of the small round Saxon windows can be seen just above the porch.
The altar with its painted reredos
Left - the Norman door mentioned above leads to the small square room which Dame Julian never left for the rest of her life. It was brought from the church of St Michael at Thorn, still standing after that church was also destroyed during the last war
"Prayer makes the soul
one with God"
Mother Julian's book, the "Revelations of Divine Love" explained the visions she had received.. She had three windows in her cell, one into the church, one to her servant's quarters and the third to the lane outside from which she gave advice and comfort to the people of Norwich and those like Margery Kempe who came from further away. Among her sayings are also these:
God said not, "Thou shalt not be tempested, thou shalt not be afflicted," but "Thou shalt not be overcome."
"Our falling hindereth him not to love us."
She had found that truly the key to all religious experience is this: "Love was his meaning."
"I saw clearly that ere God made us He loved us, which love was never slacked nor ever shall be. And in this love our life is everlasting."
Her most famous saying, "All shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well" came from her own intense personal suffering. "Go on your way rejoicing," she wrote, "live gladly and gaily because of his love."
Dame Julian lived at a time of great hardship. The Great Plague of 1348 during her early childhood had reduced the population of England by up to one third. Julian's 'showings' occurred during her illness of 1373 and she spent the next fifteen years at least on reflecting on their meaning. In 1381 economic problems due to a series of bad harvests led to the Peasants' Revolt. Norwich Castle at the heart of what was then the largest provincial city in England and the 'capital' of East Anglia, was itself stormed.
In Europe the Hundred Years War was ongoing and during the Great Western Schism the papacy was not immune from its own troubles for there were two rival Popes during the remainder of Julian's life. With her 'Revelations of Divine Love' Julian was the first woman to write in English and unusual in celebrating the 'motherhood' of God. Her writings are more than devotional and she is often described as a 'mystical theologian'.
The Julian Prayer
Most holy Lord, the ground of our beseeching
who through your servant
revealed the wonder of your love
Grant that as we are created in your nature
and restored by your grace
our wills may be so made one with yours
that we may come to see you face to face
and gaze on you for ever
Through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit
one God for ever and ever
Some distance from here is the magnificent Catholic Cathedral founded by the Duke of Norfolk and dedicated to St John the Baptist. It was designed by George Gilbert Scott junior and his brother John Oldrid Scott, begun in 1884 and finished in 1910
St John's Cathedral
Links to more on Mother Julian and other mystics, especially women
Books can be ordered or some texts studied online via:
The Julian Centre, Norwich : with details of the Friends of Julian
The Luminarium : access to accounts of and the writings of many mystics, especially Julian
Umilta - the name by which Julian was often known : 'Humility'
Dorothy Disse's article on Julian - details of the texts (online and printed) and links to texts, sources, etc
Links to Parish Holiday 2001