Julian of Norwich
Theologian, Anchoress, Mystic
Lifetime: 1343 - 1416 Passed: ≈ 606 years ago
Julian (or Juliana) of Norwich also known as Dame Julian or Mother Julian, was an English anchorite of the Middle Ages. She wrote the best known surviving book in the English language written by a mystic, Revelations of Divine Love. The book is the first written in English by a woman.
She lived practically her whole life in the English city of Norwich, an important centre for commerce that also had a vibrant religious life. During her lifetime, the city suffered the devastating effects of the Black Death of 1348–50; the Peasants' Revolt, which affected large parts of England in 1381; and the suppression of the Lollards. In 1373, aged thirty and so seriously ill she thought she was on her deathbed, Julian received a series of visions or "shewings" of the Passion of Christ. She recovered from her illness and wrote two versions of her experiences, the earlier one being completed soon after her recovery (however its manuscript clearly states it was written far later, in 1413, and when Julian was still alive), and a much longer version, today known as the Long Text, being written many years later.
For much of her life, Julian lived in permanent seclusion as an anchoress in her cell, which was attached to St Julian's Church, Norwich. Four wills in which sums were bequeathed to her have survived, and an account by the celebrated mystic Margery Kempe exists, which provides details of the counsel she was given by the anchoress.
Nothing is known for certain about Julian's actual name, family, or education, or of her life prior to her becoming an anchoress. Preferring to write anonymously, and seeking isolation from the world, she was nevertheless influential in her own lifetime. Her manuscripts were carefully preserved by Bridgittine and Benedictine nuns.The Protestant Reformation prevented their publication in print for a very long time. The Long Text was first published in 1670 by the Benedictine Serenus de Cressy, under the title XVI Revelations of Divine Love, shewed to a devout servant of Our Lord, called Mother Juliana, an Anchorete of Norwich: Who lived in the Dayes of King Edward the Third. Cressey's book was reissued by George Hargreaves Parker in 1843, and a modernised version of the text was published by J. T. Hecker in 1864. The work emerged from obscurity in 1901 when a manuscript in the British Museum was transcribed and published with notes by Grace Warrack. Since then many more translations of Revelations of Divine Love (also known under other titles) have been produced. Julian is today considered to be an important Christian mystic and theologian.
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