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Julian of Norwich (c. November 8, 1342 – c. 1416) is thought of as one of the greatest Englishmarker mystic. Little is known of her life aside from her writings. Even her name is uncertain, the name "Julian" coming from the Church of St Julianmarker in Norwichmarker, where she was an anchoress (a type of hermit living in a cell attached to the church, engaged in contemplative prayer). At the age of 30, suffering from a severe illness and believing she was on her deathbed, Julian had a series of intense visions of Jesus Christ. (They ended by the time she overcame her illness on May 13, 1373.) She recorded these visions soon after having them, and then again twenty years later in far more theological depth. They are the source of her major work, called Sixteen Revelations of Divine Love (circa 1393). This is believed to be the first book written by a woman in the English language. Julian became well known throughout England as a spiritual authority: Margery Kempe mentions going to Norwich to speak with Julian.


Although she lived in a time of turmoil, Julian's theology was optimistic, speaking of God's love in terms of joy and compassion as opposed to law and duty. For Julian, suffering was not a punishment that God inflicted, as was the common understanding. She believed that God loved and wanted to save everyone. Popular theology magnified by current events including the Black Death and a series of peasant revolts assumed that God was punishing the wicked. In response, Julian suggested a far more merciful theology, which some say leaned towards universal salvation. Because she believed that behind the reality of hell is yet a greater mystery of God's love, she has also been referred to in modern times as a proto-universalist, though she herself never actually claimed more than hope that all might be saved. Even though her views were not typical, local authorities did not challenge either her theology or her authority to make such religious claims because of her status as an anchoress.

As part of her differing view of God as compassionate and loving, she wrote of the Trinity in domestic terms and compares Jesus to a mother who is wise, loving, and merciful. (See Jesus as Mother by Carolyn Walker Bynum.) Similarly, she connects God with motherhood in terms of 1) "the foundation of our nature's creation, 2) "the taking of our nature, where the motherhood of grace begins" and 3) "the motherhood at work" and speaks metaphorically of Jesus in connection with conception, nursing, labor, and upbringing. She asserts God to have the attributes of Fatherhood, Motherhood and Lordship.

Her great saying, "…All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well", reflects this theology. It is also one of the most individually famous lines in all of Catholic theological writing, and certainly one of the most well-known phrases of the literature of her era.


  • Showing of Love, ed. Sister Anna Maria Reynolds, C.P., and Julia Bolton Holloway. Florence: SISMEL, 2001.
  • The Writings of Julian of Norwich, ed. Nicholas Watson and Jacqueline Jenkins. Brepols, 2006.
  • Revelations of Divine Love

See also


Further reading

  • McAvoy, L. H., ed., A Companion to Julian of Norwich. Woodbridge, Suffolk, 2008.
  • Petroff, E. .Body and soul : essays on medieval women and mysticism. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1994. ISBN 0195084543 ISBN 0195084551 (pbk.)
  • Watt, D., Medieval Women's Writing. Cambridge, Polity, 2007.
  • Dutton, Elisabeth. A Revelation of Love. (Introduced, Edited & Modernized). Rowman & Littlfield, 2008.

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