Julian of Norwich, English Anchoress
May 8 is the Commemoration of Julian of Norwich
“Julian of Norwich (ca. 8 November 1342 – ca. 1416) was an English anchoress who is regarded as one of the most important Christian mystics. She is venerated in the Anglican and Lutheran churches, but has never been canonized, or officially beatified, by the Roman Catholic Church, probably because so little is known of her life aside from her writings, although she is unofficially venerated in the Catholic Church, much as St. Hildegard of Bingen was before her de facto canonization by Pope Benedict XVI…
Very little is known about Julian’s life. Her personal name is unknown; the name “Julian” simply derives from the fact that her anchoress’s cell was built onto the wall of the church of St Julian in Norwich.
Her writings indicate that she was probably born around 1342 and died around 1416. She may have been from a privileged family that lived in Norwich, or nearby. Norwich was at the time the second largest city in England. Plague epidemics were rampant during the 14th century and, according to some scholars, Julian may have become an anchoress whilst still unmarried or, having lost her family in the Plague, as a widow. Becoming an anchoress may have served as a way to quarantine her from the rest of the population. There is scholarly debate as to whether Julian was a nun in a nearby convent or even a laywoman.
When she was 30 and living at home, Julian suffered from a severe illness. Whilst apparently on her deathbed, Julian had a series of intense visions of Jesus Christ, which ended by the time she recovered from her illness on 13 May 1373. Julian wrote about her visions immediately after they had happened (although the text may not have been finished for some years), in a version of the Revelations of Divine Love now known as the Short Text; this narrative of 25 chapters is about 11,000 words long. It is believed to be the earliest surviving book written in the English language by a woman.
Twenty to thirty years later, perhaps in the early 1390s, Julian began to write a theological exploration of the meaning of the visions, known as The Long Text, which consists of 86 chapters and about 63,500 words. This work seems to have gone through many revisions before it was finished, perhaps in the first or even second decade of the fifteenth century.
Julian became well known throughout England as a spiritual authority: the English mystic Margery Kempe, who was the author of the first known autobiography written in England, mentioned going to Norwich to speak with her in around 1414.
The Norwich Benedictine and Cardinal, Adam Easton, may have been Julian of Norwich’s spiritual director and edited her Long Text Showing of Love. Birgitta of Sweden’s spiritual director, Alfonso Pecha, the Bishop Hermit of Jaen, edited her Revelationes. Catherine of Siena’s confessor and executor was William Flete, the Cambridge-educated Augustinian Hermit of Lecceto. Easton’s Defense of St Birgitta echoes Alfonso of Jaen’s Epistola Solitarii and William Flete’s Remedies against Temptations, all of which are referred to in Julian’s text.”
For The Shrine and Cell of the Lady Julian of Norwich, see: http://www.julianofnorwich.org/index.shtml
See further: http://www.luminarium.org/medlit/julian.htm
For the text of “Revelations of Divine Love” see: http://www.ccel.org/j/julian/revelations/
For The Order of Julian of Norwich, see: http://www.orderofjulian.org/julians_window/..%5C/home.html