Who Is Julian of Norwich?

Our Church

Julian of Norwich Anglican Church Ottawa was established in 2015 in response to an amalgamation of two existing congregations coming together for ministry renewal.

Our Namesake

Julian of Norwich was an English Christian mystic, philosopher and theologian.

During her early life, the Black Death hit the city of Norwich three times. It is estimated that the plague killed about a third of England’s population in one single epidemic. People died so quickly and in such numbers that “the dead could not receive proper burial and in the worst of times, lay stacked in carts like so much cordwood, or in hastily dug pits on the edge of town, or simply where they fell, in the streets”. [Pelphrey, B (1989), Christ Our Mother: Julian of Norwich, Michael Glazier, p.65.] Seeing these images may have affected Julian, who was just six years old when the plague first hit Norwich. Although she does not speak of the plague directly, her book shows a deep sensitivity to suffering and dying.

Julian had a series of visions, which she wrote down, and spent her life elaborating upon. The photo depicts a statue of Julian of Norwich, holding the book, Revelations of Divine Love, at Norwich Cathedral.

Shortly after the shewings, Julian wrote what is known as the Short Text. The text is written from an autobiographical perspective, as Julian essentially narrates what she had just experienced.
Over the next 20 years, Julian reflected on her experience and the result was what is known as the Long Text.

Who Is Julian of Norwich?

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#1. To what does Julian compare God's comfort? ? Did you know that Julian was an anchoress?

From an early revelation, Julian learned that like clothing, God protects and surrounds us. “God is our clothing, who wraps and unfolds us for love, embraces us and shelters us, surrounds us for his life, which is so tender that he may never desert us.” God’s love is so profound that there is simply no way for us to comprehend it.

#2. What analogy does Julian use to describe our soles? ? We do not know Julian's actual name but her name is taken from St. Julian's Church in Norwich where she lived as an anchoress for most of her life.

Because God loves the hazelnut, God protects it. This is how Julian comes to know God as the creator and protector.

In Chapter Five of the Long Book, Julian wrote:

“In this little thing I saw three properties: The first is, that God made it. The second is, that God loveth it. The third is, that God keepeth it.”

“It lasteth, and ever shall: for God loveth it.”

#3. Jesus came to Julian in a vision saying that something is necessary, then all will be well. What is that something that Jesus refers to? ? We know from the medieval literary work, The Book of Margery Kempe, that Julian was known as a spiritual counsellor.

Recorded in the 27th chapter of the Long Book, we find the 13th revelation, in which Jesus said to Julian in her vision: “Sin is behovely, but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well”.

#4. In her book, Revelations of Divine Love, how many revelations were there? ? People would come to her cell in Norwich to seek advice.

The book is comprised of 16 revelations or “shewings”, the most famous of which is arguably the 13th. Within the 85 chapters of this long revelation about prayer, it is revealed to Julian that God is always merciful if he receives prayers. Jesus promises Julian that her suffering will stop and that she will go to heaven. She sees a body, from which a soul in the form of a child arises.

#5. What three gifts did Julian ask for? ? Considering that, at the time, the citizens of Norwich suffered from plague and poverty, as well as a famine, she must have counselled a lot of people in pain.

Select all that apply:

Julian thought she had a Passion for Christ, but desired to have more, by the grace of God. She believed that to best understand the suffering Christ endured on our behalf, she had to feel for herself the bodily pain so hard as to the death, that He had endured. Thirdly, and by the grace of God, she conceived a mighty desire to receive three wounds, which we will cover in the next question.


#6. What three wounds did Julian ask for? ? Her writings are suffused with hope and trust in God's goodness.

Select all that apply:

The first two wounds of contrition and compassion she asked for with conditions, because she thought them not be the common use of prayer. Lord thou knowest what I would, and if that it be thy will that I might have it; and if it be not thy will, good Lord, be not displeased, for I will not but as thou wilt. The third wound was to be without condition, as the wound of willful longing to God would be continual.

#7. When did Julian receive her visions? ? Julian was born in 1342 and received her visions at the age of 30.

Julian’s Revelations of Divine Love is based on a series of sixteen visions she received on the 8th of May 1373. Julian was lying on, what was thought at the time, to be her deathbed when suddenly she saw Christ bleeding in front of her. She received insight into his sufferings and his love for us.

#8. What do we know about Julian of Norwich? ? Revelations of Divine Love, reveals an intelligent, sensitive and very down-to-earth woman who maintains her trust in God's goodness whilst addressing doubt, fear and deep theological questions.

Julian said she was about 30 1/2 years old when she had her revelations in 1373, so we know she was born in 1342. She wrote the long book 20 years after the revelations, placing her somewhere in her mid 50’s. She was described as a devout woman, who was a recluse at Norwich, but had a maid living in the room opposite her cell. Julian died sometime after 1416.

#9. Could anchorites leave their cells? ? Julian held that God is present in everything that exists: all that was made is good, and therefore nothing God made is evil.

Select all that apply:

Some anchorites never left their cells, some moved between their cells and the church or might even have little gardens with easy cell access. There was no changing your mind once you became an anchorite or anchoress—anyone who tried to escape was found and brought back.

#10. Which of the following English mystics was not contemporaneous with Julian of Norwich? ? Did you know that Julian had a cat? It is believed that she developed a close relationship with her cat, and she is known as both the patron saint of contemplatives and of cats. It is said that Julian and her cat anchored the Light during one of the darkest periods of history.

Her life was contemporaneous with four other English mystics—Walter Hilton, Richard Rolle, Margery Kempe, and the unknown author of the work known as The Cloude of Unknowyng—all of whom wrote in the vernacular. Around 1413, a few years before the death of Julian of Norwich, Margery Kempe went to visit Julian in her cell in Norwich. Julian was roughly thirty years older than Margery and had lived a life of quiet but intense theological contemplation.

Julian’s view of God duplicated the theology of the Byzantine Greek monk Gregory Palamas, though it is unlikely that Julian knew of Palamas or his writings.

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