ICON, FR NATHANAEL SMYTH OF BLESSED MEMORY











In ancient times the shofar would be sounded from hill to hill with a message. Sometimes I think
of that image while reading or studying: voices from the peaks of the past call to us, in a relay of
awakening wisdom. If we listen, perhaps a word of ours too will reach across the valley to touch
a soul.                                                                                                               Rabbi Wolpe

The State of the Field:
ecently Teresa Morris and I compiled an exhaustive bibliography of studies related to Julian of Norwich. A great academic industry has grown up around the anchoress Julian of Norwich but it too often parrots false premises, failing to consult with paleographers concerning the extant manuscripts of her texts, their scripts, their watermarks, and thus has become the blind leading the blind, falsifying a vast body of scholarship in print. Disappointingly, very little primary research is being carried out. For example, we need more studies like those of Norman Tanner, S.J., Brendan Pelphrey, Gail McMurray Gibson, Joan Greatrex, and David Wallace, on the tangible aspects of East Anglian culture. And we need to study more deeply in the libraries of these contemplatives, Julian displaying knowledge of Gregory's Dialogues on Benedict, of the Augustinian William Flete's Remedies against Temptations, while the editor commenting on her Long Text's chapters knows Birgitta of Sweden's Revelationes first hand and conforms her text to these other Showings. However Catholic monastics, like Sr Anna Marie Reynolds, C.P., Hugh Feiss, O.S.B., James Hogg, the Orthodox clergyman, Brendan Pelphrey, studying her through the lens of Greek theology, the Anglican clergyman, John Clark, studying the writings of Augustine Baker, O.S.B., and the historians Tanner and Greatrex, studying the ecclesiastical Norwich background, have been able to see Julian more clearly in her contemplative contexts, rather than in our academic ones. A tragedy is that the similar and better industry around the Brigittines of Syon Abbey (Roger Ellis, Diane Watt, Vincent Gillespie, Rosalynn Voaden, Anne Hutchison), as a result fails to understand the importance of Julian to that Order of the Most Holy Saviour in England, many of her early manuscripts actually being preserved, carefully collated and edited in their English mother house and also during their exiles in Belgium, France and Portugal, 'The Wanderings of Syon'. The two earliest Julian manuscripts, with Syon associations, are the Carmelite/Carthusian Amherst, which includes Julian with Marguerite Porete, Jan van Ruusbroec, Henry Suso, Richard Rolle, Birgitta of Sweden and others, and the Brigittine Westminster, which includes her with Walter Hilton. Julian deserves being studied horizontally with these other Continental and English writers, who present the formation of the contemplative life, as we see in Marleen Cre's careful editing of these manuscripts. Julian also profits from being studied vertically, in the context of those who came before her, Helena, Monica, Paula, Eustochium, Demetriade, Scholastica, Birgitta, Catherine, her role models, and those for whom she was a role model in turn, Margaret and Catherine Gascoigne, Gertrude and Bridget More, as we see in my Anchoress and Cardinal: Julian of Norwich and Adam Easton O.S.B., in Nancy Bradley Warren, The Embodied Word: Female Spiritualities, Contested Orthodoxies, and English Religious Cultures, 1350-1700, and in the very numerous Analecta Cartusiana/University of Salzburg editions by Rev John Clark of the English Benedictine nuns and their spiritual director, Dom Augustine Baker.

Flinging down the Gauntlet
Long ago graduate students of English literature studied other languages as well, and textual editing in the classical mode, including the paleography of manuscripts. It was the scientific part of our training. Then Theory usurped research and textual editing. But all these are necessary for Julian studies. I came to Julian by the back door, by way of Brunetto Latino, Dante's teacher, then Birgitta of Sweden, Magister Mathias, Alfonso of Jaén and Adam Easton, finding myself mostly in the same great libraries, the Vatican, the Laurentian, the Biblioteca Nazionale in Florence, the Biblioteca degli Incoronati of Siena, the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, the King's Library in Stockholm, the Caroline in Uppsala, the University Library in Lund, the British Library in London, the Bodleian in Oxford and Cambridge University Library, finally with Julian amongst manuscripts at Westminster Cathedral, in the British Library, in the Bibliothèque Mazarine, the Archives du Nord, the Cambrai Bibliothèque municipale, and the libraries at Syon Abbey, at Stanbrook Abbey and at Colwich Abbey. From Leeds University I obtained copies of Sister Anna Maria Reynolds' two war-time theses typed hunt-and-peck from microfilms read with a microscope, the manuscripts being buried underground from the bombing, where she meticulously and correctly edited all the extant Julian manuscripts, the two Sloanes for her Masters, the Paris, the Amherst and the Westminster for her Doctorate, and all of which she also correctly dated with the exception of the Amherst text. From the context of the 1413 date, following the burning at the stake of William Sawtre, Margery's chaplain and the
De haeretico comburendo, of 1401, Arundel's Constitutions of 1408, and Sir John Oldcastle's Lollard Revolt of 1413, rather than soon after 1373, Amherst's self-censored text may well be the '1413' it gives itself. Westminster is Tudor but seems to reflect versions of Julian and Hilton extant in the '1368' it gives, before Julian's vision. Paris is Elizabethan, from Syon in exile in Mechlin, leading English and French paleographers attest, and certainly not the 'seventeenth-century Chattertonesque forgery' Colledge and Walsh insisted it was. When it was written out by a Brigittine nun in the Antwerp region Cambrai had not yet been founded. The two Sloanes and the various fragments are indeed seventeeth-century, produced by Cambrai for Paris, but not from the so-called Paris manuscript, at that time shut up in the Bigots' family library in Rouen, the Brigittine nuns having been forced to leave it in Rouen in their flight to Lisbon. The editio princeps, the first printed edition, is 1670, but Westminster and Paris were already both carefully written out for intended printing by the Brigittines, within ruled lines and margins, a printing which could not happen under Thomas More's execution ordered by Henry VIII, and then under Elizabeth I. Stowe is an early eighteenth-century manuscript written out after the Benedictine nuns' return to England following the French Revolution. At one point only Amherst remained in England in recusant hands, all the other manuscripts being abroad in exile. Now only Paris still remains abroad. Unless there is the exemplar to Sloane, in Julian's hand, in Julian's dialect, somewhere in Belgium, or the manuscript that was seen by Gerhard Tersteegen in Pierre Poiret's Leiden library in Holland, which I challenge Continental scholars to find. While John Clark in his paper for this conference notes the presence of yet another Julian fragment to be found in Colwich Abbey's collection. There is as well an unedited manuscript here in Norwich, that used to be in Norwich Castle and which never left Norfolk. It is written for and possibly by an anchoress with the knowledge of Hebrew. It shares much wording with Julian's Showing. It thoroughly deserves scholarly attention, rather than neglect. The tragedy is that the Early English Text Society did not publish Sr Anna Maria Reynold's brilliant editions, believing Colledge and Walsh's disparagement of them. But all editors are in debt to Julian's Earliest English Text Society, the Brigittine, Benedictine and Passionist nuns who loved and preserved her texts for us, despite the following risks to their lives and well-being for saving this book: hanging, drawing, quartering, being burned at the stake, guillotining, bombing, imprisonment and exile.

Julian's Judaism
Norwich's cathedral was built with money from Norwich's Jewry. Nearby Julian's cell is the great house of Isaac Jurnet on the River Wensum. The same stonemason's mark is in Norwich Cathedral's Infirmary, Isaac's house and here at Carrow Abbey, linking these buildings together. Reading Lipman we find that a 'Julian of Norwich' was a young Norwich Jewess, though her dates are not the same as our Julian's. I was having to edit Elizabeth Barrett Browning for my father and to do so had to study the languages she knew and read, which were Hebrew, Greek, Latin, French and Italian. This stood me in good stead when I came to edit the extant manuscripts of Julian of Norwich's writings. I suddenly realized Julian was translating directly from Hebrew into Middle English and not using the Jerome Vulgate as intermediary - before the King James Bible. From that realization came the further understanding, that her text is filled with shared Jewish/Christian prayers, such as the Shema from Mark's Gospel, with the Psalm Jonah sings in the belly of the whale (Jonah 2.2-9, especially verse 5; Psalms 18.16, 139.9-12), and much else. V.D. Lipman's research in The Jews of Medieval Norwich notes that Jewish families were able to continue in Norwich following King Edward I's expulsion of them in 1290 - if they converted to Christianity. Lipman also notes their high literacy, particularly among the women, whilst literacy was low amongst noble Christian ladies. Julian may be a prototype for Saints Teresa of Avila and Edith Stein. For this reason I have invited Linda and Michael Falter to display their facsimile of the Kennicott Bible and Sepher Miklol at the Julian Symposium: Orthodoxy, both Greek and Russian, is closer to Judaism than is Catholicism. Julian's theology is consonant with all these traditions, Judaism, Orthodoxy, Catholicism, and also with the emerging Protestantism of the Reformation. She is profoundly ecumenical. One remembers the youthful Martin Buber
anthologizing her within his ecumenical Ecstatic Confessions.

The Orcherd's Avenues
Catherine of Siena's Dialogues was translated into Middle English at Syon Abbey, first in manuscript for its nuns, then later printed for the Tudor public. It sets Catherine's Dialogues in a delightful frame, of the actual orchard at Syon Abbey and its many avenues. Earlier the Vita of St Catherine in East Anglian was coupled with East Anglian versions of the Cloud Author's texts. Similarly, Birgitta of Sweden's Revelations was translated into that dialect, all of these in preparation for the foundation of Syon, originally proposed for Cherry Hinton near Cambridge. An East Anglian figure links Birgitta of Sweden, Catherine of Siena, William Flete, Walter Hilton, Julian of Norwich, and these East Anglian manuscripts, together. He was the Norwich Benedictine monk, Adam Easton, who taught Hebrew at Oxford, joking on the meaning of his name 'Adam' as 'red', as 'earth', as 'clay', as 'Everyman', 'Everywoman', who retranslated the whole Hebrew Bible into Latin, correcting Jerome's errors, consulting with Rabbis in Avignon, who became Cardinal of England and who effected Birgitta of Sweden's 1391 canonization, following her 1373 death and, on being freed from his dungeon incarceration at the hands of Pope Urban VI, returned to Norwich to write that document, at the same time that Julian was writing her Long Text with its Parable of the Lord and the Servant. Moreover, Adam Easton, O.S.B., owned, indexed and annotated manuscript texts which reappear in the Liber Regalis, the Westminster Abbey Coronation ritual, illustrated by Bohemian artists for the coronation and marriage of Anne of Bohemia, the Holy Roman Emperor's daughter and King Richard II, that he arranged for the Pope, which reappear in his De Ecclesiastice Potestatis, supporting Pope Urban VI's coronation, and which also reappear in the Cloud of Unknowing cluster of texts and in the Lord and Servant parable in Julian's Showing. In particular Easton owned and cherished the Sepher Miklol of RADAK, Rabbi David Kimhi, now at Balliol, Kimhi speaking of God as Mother, as well as possessing a fine Victorine manuscript of all Pseudo-Dionysius' surviving Works, now at Cambridge University Library. I have asked Linda and Michael Falter to share with us their magnificent facsimile of the Kennicott Bible, actually produced in Spain later than Julian's dates, but which has the most wonderful scene of Jonah and the Whale, and which also is bound with RADAK's Sepher Mikhlol. Father Robert Llewelyn, who once told me I was the person who knew most about Julian, in With Pity not with Blame, yoked Julian and the Cloud Author together; so also did Marion Glasscoe in her English Medieval Mystics: Games of Faith. Both Easton and Julian create a brilliant synthesis, a sharing, of Hebrew and Greek theology. I suspect they are from the same Norwich conversa family, perhaps brother and sister. I lectured on this material in Norwich Cathedral in 1999 at the invitation of the Friends of Norwich Cathedral.

Julian and Margery
Norfolk Record Office has the splendid webpage on Lynn's Holy Trinity Guild and the Hanse but to consult those archives one needs to travel to Lynn rather than Norwich. Everyone takes at face-value Margery's statement that her son began writing her Book. No one notices his Gdansk-born wife, a devotee of Birgitta of Sweden, as being far more likely the authoress of a text that is written, we are told, in a handwriting and in a grammar that is pointedly not English. What is extraordinary also in this Book is that we have the actual Visitation of the youthful Margery to the aged Julian, just as if we have a tape recorder at Julian's window on the world carefully recording, witnessing, their voices, their conversation, Julian's wise consolation of the troubled Margery, a consolation modeled again, as in her texts, on the advice given by William Flete and by Alfonso of Jaén, in the latter case to Birgitta of Sweden, and by Adam Easton in his document for Birgitta's canonization, concerning the Discernment of Spirits, stating that where visions tend to charity, not ego, they are of the Holy Spirit. We are honoured to have with us Santha Bhattacharji and Gabriella Del Lungo Camiciotti, both scholars of Margery. I so wish we could also have had David Wallace for his work on Margery and Gdansk. I strongly suspect that Julian encouraged Margery's far-flung pilgrimages and her subsequent Book as a surrogate and photographic negative for her own stability within her cell in Norwich, just as I suspect Adam Easton, Norwich Benedictine, encouraged Julian's contemplative vocation as surrogate and photographic negative countering his own curial business at Avignon, Westminster and Rome. All three create Viktor Frankl's Logotherapy in the writing over many years of their books.

Brigittine, then Benedictine Julian

James Walsh, S.J., Edmund College, O.S.A., Rev. John Clark and Nancy Bradley Warren have studied the preservation and editing of Julian's text amongst the English Benedictine nuns in exile, though not realizing this came about because of a licensed pirate's penetration of exiled Syon Abbey's cloister, then publishing a libellous book against them in 1622, which forced the recusant families such as the Mores and the Gascoignes, traditionally associated with Brigittine Syon, to instead found the Benedictine house at Cambrai, 1623, Julian's manuscripts being carefully treasured by both houses, and even a third abbey, in Paris, being founded by the Benedictine nuns, when the monks threatened to call in all their medieval contemplative texts to correct and censor them. We can read of their defence of these contemplative manuscripts given in Colections: An English Benedictine Nun in Exile, The Benedictine Adam Easton had prepared the foundation of Brigittine Syon Abbey which the Chancellor of Oxford Thomas Gascoigne then avidly supported and that confluence continued here at Carrow Abbey, Veronica O'Mara has shown.

Broca's Brain
I was castigated in the pages of Speculum by a fellow scholar, reviewing (while quarrying) the booklets I published of the Julian manuscript fragments at Colwich and Stanbrook in 1997, our edition of the extant Julian manuscripts that Sister Anna Maria Reynolds and I published with SISMEL in 2001, and my composite translation of those texts for St John's Abbey and DLT in 2003. He strongly objected to my observation concerning the thought processes of women, uneducated in Scholastic universities, as being different from that of educated men. I had earlier assisted Julian Jaynes at Princeton in his writing the best-seller, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. More recently Jill Bolte Taylor of Harvard and Jane Chance of Rice Universities have continued that research concerning the brain's hemispheres. Neuroscience has come to see that the right hemisphere is inclusive, responding with the senses, to colour and sound with image and music, it exists in the present moment and all time, it is democratic, it encircles chiastically, peaceably collaborating with nature, with the cosmos, it is contemplative theology; while the left hemisphere instead is analytical, centred on the self, fearing the other, competitive, linear, logical, categorizing, memorizing the past, planning the future, its theology being dogmatic, systematic, and hierarchical, the stuff of the military-industrial-academic complex, of machines. The right hemisphere's perspective can be seen in the Gospels' inclusion of the Other, the prostitute, the publican, the leper, the blind, the lame, the Samaritan, the Syro-Phoenician, the woman, the child, it can be seen in Aquinas' poetry, in the chiastic antiphons of monastic contemplative liturgy, above all it can be seen in Julian's Showing of Love; the left hemisphere is manifested in Aquinas' Summae, in his Aristotelian linear pigeonholing Scholasticism, which he came to reject as 'nothing but straw', and in the exclusion of Jews, heretics, women, children, the Other, its 'Final Solution' the Holocaust. Dante's Commedia is intensely right brain, filled with circles, image, music, polysemy and polyphony, reconciling opposites, but is killed by Fascist left-brain analysis, by Lecturae Dantis. Santha Bhattacharji's paper addresses this visual aspect of medieval culture in general and Julian's vision in particular; likewise do Paul Hurst's photographs of medieval East Anglian art. When former Pope Benedict XVI was still Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger he wrote a paper for the 1991 conference on St Birgitta in Rome in which he used Dom Jean Leclerq's findings on medieval monastic contemplative writing versus academic analytic scholastic study, and in which he spoke of women's contemplative writings, those of Birgitta, of Catherine, of Julian, as 'revealed theology', surpassing that by trained male academic theologians in universities from which they were barred. The left-hemisphere's hierarchically-structured pre-Vatican II Church dogmatically taught Julian that Jews were damned, unless they converted, but she declares, long before John XXIII's Vatican II, that she does not see this in her right hemisphere vision given her, she believes, by God. Thus it could make sense to study Julian's texts in the light of these neuroscientific findings - this new-old discipline of 'neurohumanism' (Vittorio Gallese, Università degli Studi di Parma, Anthony Passaro, University of Texas Medical Center, Houston). And to see that her lack of scholastic formation, as with Michel de Montaigne, Charles Lamb, and Virginia Woolf, paradoxically privileges her, instead of the opposite. She is being edited by an educated male. But she rebels. For her there is but one totalizing Showing of Love, ever circling back on itself. While for her editors, there are sixteen Casaubonesque Procrustean-bed Latinate linear pigeonholes, the XVI Revelations of Divine Love. We are called upon to study both, not one or the other.

The Miracle of Julian
is in her dialoguing, her collaborating, with left-brain males in achieving a right-brain visionary inclusive break-through, back to Jesus the Jew, through Rabbi David Kimhi on God as Mother, while she rejects Pseudo-Dionysius' left-brain hierarchies (a word he invented) and his apophatic mysticism, countering it with the tangible hazel nut; she rejects Aristotle's analytical Categories and his misogyny, and - in medieval post-King Edward's Norwich - she rejects anti-Semitism. Her last word in her version dated 1413, at the height of Lollardy, is a prayer for her 'Evencristenn', who are ben-Adam, every man, every woman, all men, all women. She bridges Judaism and Christianity, Orthodoxy and Catholicism, Catholicism and Protestantism. She is translated into many languages, German, French, Russian, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish, Dutch, Italian, Spanish, Greek, Croatian, Hungarian, Chinese, and, soon, I hope, Japanese and Korean. I believe she exemplifies Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy and Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning. She writes psychotherapy, Logotherapy, as
Jeongho Yang will show us, in the face of trauma. Julian, in her Book, holds in her protecting and healing hand the entire cosmos, all God's creation, all of us.


Augustine Baker O.S.B. Alphabet and Order. Ed. John Clark. Analecta Cartusiana 119:16. The Anchor of the Spirit; The Apologie; Summarie of Perfection. Ed. John Clark. Analecta Cartusiana 119:30. St Benedict's Rule. Ed. John Clark. Analecta Cartusiana 119.24.  Collections I-III and The Twelve Mortifications of Harphius. Ed. John Clark. Analecta Cartusiana 119.21. Directions for Contemplation. Book D. Ed. John Clark. Analecta Cartusiana 119.11. Directions for Contemplation. Book F. Ed. John Clark. Analecta Cartusiana 119.12. Directions for Contemplation. Book G. Ed. John Clark. Analecta Cartusiana 119.13. Directions for Contemplation. Book H. Ed. John Clark. Analecta Cartusiana 119.14. Discretion. Ed. John Clark. Analecta Cartusiana 119.9. Doubts and Calls. Ed. John Clark. Analecta Cartusiana 119.10. An Enquiry about the Author of the Treatises of the Abridgement and Ladder of Perfection; The Mirror of Patience and Resignation; Love of Enemies; All virtues in General; Spiritual Emblems. Ed. John Clark. Analecta Cartusiana 119:33. Flagellum Euchomachaorum. Ed. John Clark. Analecta Cartusiana 119.38. Five Treatises: The Life and Death of Dame Margaret Gascoigne, Treatise of Confession. Analecta Cartusiana 119.23. Idiot's Devotion - The Penitent. Ed. John Clark. Analecta Cartusiana 265. Idiot's Devotion - Directions, Parts One and Two. Ed. John Clark. Analecta Cartusiana 119:29. An Introduction or preparation to a Treatise of the English Benedictine Mission. Ed. John Clark. Analecta Cartusiana 119:35. Remains. Ed. John Clark. Analecta Cartusiana 119:31. A Secure Stay in all Temptations. Ed. John Clark. Analecta Cartusiana 119.8. Secretum. Introduction and Notes, John Clark. Analecta Cartusiana 119.20. A Spiritual Treatise . . . Called A.B.C. Ed. John Clark. Analecta Cartusiana 119.17. A Treatise of the English Mission: the First Part. Ed. John Clark. Analecta Cartusiana 119:36.  A Treatise of the English Mission: the Second Part. Ed. John Clark. Analecta Cartusiana 119:36.Vox Clamantis in Deserto Animae. Ed. John Clark. Analecta Cartusiana 119.22. Ed. James Hogg. Salzburg: Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik Universität Salzburg, 1998-2013.

Santha Bhattacharji. God is an Earthquake: The Spirituality of Margery Kempe. London: DLT, 1997.

Birgitta of Sweden. Revelationes 
Complete Latin text at

_______. The Liber celestis of Bridget of Sweden. Ed. Roger Ellis. London: Oxford University Press. EETS 291.

_______. The Revelations of Saint Birgitta. London: Oxford University Press, 1929. EETS 178.

Martin Buber. Ecstatic Confessions: The Heart of Mysticism. Ed. Paul Mendes-Flohr. Trans. Esther Cameron. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1996.

Michael Camille. The Gothic Idol: Ideology and Image-Making in Medieval Art. Cambridge: University Press, 1989.

Catherine of Siena. The Orcherd of Syon. Ed. Phyllis Hodgson and Gabriel Liegey. London: Oxford University Press, 1966. EETS 258.

Jane Chance. 'Cognitive alterities: From cultural studies to neuroscience and back again'. postmedieval: a journal of medieval cultural studies. 3:3 (2013), 247-261.

Deeana Copeland Klepper. The Insight of Unbelievers: Nicholas of Lyra and Christian Reading of Jewish Text in the Later Middle Ages. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007.

Marleen Cre. Westminster Cathedral Treasury 4: A Fifteenth-Century Compilation. Thesis, University of Glasgow, 1997.

_______. Vernacular Mysticism in the Charterhouse: A Study of London, British Library, MS Additional 37790. The Medieval Translator=Traduire au Moyen Age 9. Tournhout; Brepols, 2006.

Roger Ellis. Syon Abbey: The Spirituality of the English Brigittines. Salzburg:  1984. Analecta Cartusiana 68. Ed. James Hogg.

Hugh Feiss, O.S.B.  'Dilation: God and the World in the Visions of Benedict and Julian of Norwich'.
American Benedictine Review 55:1 (March 2004), 55-73.

William Flete. Remedies against Temptations. Ed. Eric Colledge and Noel Chadwick.
Archivio Italiano per la Storia della Pietá 5 (Rome, 1968).

Viktor Frankl. Man's Search for Meaning. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1962.

Gail McMurray Gibson.
The Theater of Devotion: East Anglian Drama and Society in the Late Middle Ages. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989.

Vincent Gillespie and Maggie Ross. '"With mekenes aske perseverantly": On Reading Julian of Norwich'. Mystics Quarterly 30 (2006), 122-37.

Marion Glasscoe.
English Medieval Mystics: Games of Faith. London: Longman, 1993.

Joan Greatrex. Biographical Register of the English Cathedral Priories of the Province of Canterbury, circa 1066-1540. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997.

St Gregory. Dialogues.

Margaret Harvey. The English in Rome 1362-1420: Portrait of an Expatriate Community. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.
Julia Bolton Holloway. Anchoress and Cardinal: Julian of Norwich and Adam Easton, O.S.B.
Analecta Cartusiana 35:20. Spiritualität Heute und Gestern. Salzburg: Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik Universität Salzburg, 2008. Ed. James Hogg.

Colections by an English Nun in Exile, Bibliothèque Mazarine 1202. Ed. Julia Bolton Holloway. Analecta Cartusiana 119:26. Salzburg: Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik, Universität Salzburg, 2001. James Hogg, Salzburg, 2006.

In a Great Tradition: Tribute to Dame Laurentia McLachlan, Abbess of Stanbrook by the Benedictines of Stanbrook. London: John Murray, 1956.

Julian Jaynes. The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1976.

Julian of Norwich. 
Showing of Love: Extant Texts and Translation. Ed. Sister Anna Maria Reynolds, C.P. and Julia Bolton Holloway. Florence: SISMEL Edizioni del Galluzzo, 2001. Biblioteche e Archivi 8.

Showing of Love. Trans. Julia Bolton Holloway. Collegeville: Liturgical Press; London; Darton, Longman and Todd, 2003.

Kennicott Bible, with RADAK (Rabbi David Kimhi), Sepher Mikhlol. Facsimile, Linda and Michael Falter.

Jean Leclercq. The Love of Learning and the Desire for God: A Study of Monastic Culture. Trans. Catherine Misrahi. London: SPCK, 1978.

Andrew Lee. The Most Ungrateful Englishman: The Life and Times of Adam Easton. Gloucestershire: Andrew Lee, 2006.

Maria R. Lichtmann, '"I desyred a bodylye syght": Julian of Norwich and the Body', Mystics Quarterly 17 (1991), 12-19.
V.D. Lipman. The Jews of Medieval Norwich. London: Jewish Historical Society, 1967.

John MacFarlane, 'The Life and Writings of Adam Easton, O.S.B.' University of London Ph.D. Thesis, 1955.

Margery Kempe.
The Book of Margery Kempe. Ed. Hope Emily Allen. London: Oxford University Press,   . EETS 212.

Teresa Morris. Julian of Norwich: A Comprehensive Bibliography and Handbook. Lewiston: Mellen, 2012.

Norfolk Record Office. King's Lynn and the Hanse.

Veronica M. O'Mara. A Study and Edition of Selected Middle English Sermons. Leeds: Leeds Texts and Monographs N.S.13, 1998

Brendan Pelphrey. Lo, How I Love Thee! Shreveport: Spring Deer Studio, 2013.

Pseudo-Dionysius. The Complete Works. Trans. Colm Luibheid. New York: Paulist Press, 1987. Classics of Western Spirituality.

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger.
'L'attualità di Santa Brigida di Svezia/ The relevance of Saint Bridget for our times', Atti dell'incontro internazionale di studio, Roma, 3-7 ottobre 1991/ Proceedings of the International Study Meeting, Rome, October 5-7, 1991. Prefaced: John Paul II. Roma: Casa Generalizia Suore Santa Brigida, 1991. Pp. 71-92.

Gershom Scholem. Origins of the Kabbalah. Ed. R.J. Werblowsky, trans. Allan Arkush. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990.
Jill Bolte Taylor. My Stroke of Insight. London: Hodder, 2009.

Rosalynn Voaden. God's Words, Women's Voices: The Discernment of Spirits in the Writing of Late-Medieval Women Visionaries. York: York Medieval Press, 1999.

_______, Ed. Prophets Abroad: The Reception of Continental Holy Women in Late-Medieval England. Cambridge: Brewer, 1996.

David Wallace. 'Margery in Dansk'.

Nancy Bradley Warren.
The Embodied Word: Female Spiritualities, Contested Orthodoxies, and English Religious Cultures, 1350-1700. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame, 2013.

Nicholas Watson.
'The Composition of Julian of Norwich's Revelation of Love'. Speculum 68 (1993), 637-683;

______. 'Censorship and Cultural Change in Late-Medieval England: Vernacular Theology, the Oxford Translation Debate, and Arundel's Constitutions of 1409'. Speculum 70 (1995), 822-864

Diane Watt. Secretaries of God: Women Prophets in Late Medieval and Early Modern England. Cambridge: Boydell, 1997.




iturgy, in the sense of prayer that was both public and communal, remained central to Catholic practice throughout the medieval period. The Mass, or eucharist, in which Christ’s saving work was celebrated and realized anew, lay at the heart of the liturgy. The same mystery was celebrated even while the rites (the precise wording and other observances) varied somewhat: Gallican rite in France, Mozarabic rite in Spain, Ambrosian rite in Milan and Lombardy, Sarum and some other rites in England, Dominican rite for the Order of Preachers, Carthusian rite for Charterhouses, and other variations. The “Roman rite” became more widespread in the course of the Middle Ages, helped by its adoption by the Franciscan order. The other six sacraments – baptism, confirmation, penance or confession, marriage, orders, and last anointing – remained integral to the liturgy. Here too there was both continuity with the first millennium and some development and regional variation. The divine office, with its eight “hours” of matins, lauds, prime, terce, sext, none, vespers and compline, remained fundamental for religious orders, especially the monastic orders, and in the later Middle Ages an increasing number of laity were praying some or all of the hours.  
A near-contemporary account of the life of Cicely, duchess of York, mother of kings Edward IV and Richard III of England, provides a vivid description of the daily order of this devout woman in the late fifteenth century. The details of liturgy, prayer and spiritual reading are revealing of late medieval lay piety, though the arrangements partly depended upon lady Cicely’s aristocratic status. The account reads as follows: 
Me seemeth it is requisite to understand the order of her own person concerning God and the world.  She used to arise as seven of the clock, and had ready her chaplain to say with her Matins of the day and Matins of our Lady. And when she is full ready, she has a low Mass in her chamber. And after Mass she taketh somewhat to recreate nature; and so goes to the chapel, hearing the divine service and two low Masses. From thence to dinner, during the time whereof she has a reading of holy matter, either (Walter) Hilton of Active and Contemplative Life, Bonaventure De infancia Salvatoris (Infancy of our Saviour), the Golden Legend, St Maud, St Katherine of Siena, or the Revelations of St Brigit.
After dinner she gives audience to all such as have any matter to show unto her, by the space of one hour. And then she sleeps one quarter of an hour. And after she has slept, she continues in prayer unto the first peal of Evensong. Then she drinks wine or ale at her pleasure. Forthwith her chaplain is ready to say with her both evensongs, and after that she goes to the chapel and hears Evensong by note (sung). From thence to supper, and in the time of supper she recites the reading that was had at dinner to those that be in her presence.
After supper she disposes herself to be familiar with her gentle women, to the following of honest mirth. And one hour before her going to bed, she takes a cup of wine, and after that goes to her private closet and takes her leave of God for all night, making an end of her prayers for that day; and by eight of the clock is in bed. I trust to our Lord’s mercy that this noble princess thus divides the hours to his high pleasure (W.A. Pantin, The English Church in the Fourteenth Century, 1955, p. 254)  
. . .
[Norman Tanner in New Short History of the Catholic Church (Continuum/Bloomsbury, 2011), Chapter 3: Central and Late Middle Ages: vi. Liturgy, Prayer and Mysticism, next discusses the mystics, Hildegard of Bingen, Francis of Assisi, Mechtild of Magdeburg, Mechtild of Hackeborn, Gertrude “the Great”, Mary of Oignies, Juliana of Liege, Hadewijch, Angela of Foligno, Meister Eckhart, Henry Suso, Johann Tauler; Walter Hilton, Richard Rolle, the Cloud of Unknowing author, Catherine of Siena, Catherine of Genoa, Margarete Porete, Jeanne d’Arc.

He concludes with:]

For England, Julian of Norwich, who lived as an anchoress in the city, recorded her visions in Revelations of Divine Love, and The Book of Margery Kempe provides lively descriptions of the mystical experiences of this citizen of Lynn. Julian’s emphasis on the love of God, her description of the motherhood and feminine nature of God and her optimistic tone, epitomized in the words revealed to her, “All shall be well and all manner of things shall be well”, which seem to offer the hope of salvation for all people, accord well with modern concerns. She suggests, too, how heaven is becoming our true selves, how our deficiencies are transformed into good rather than destroyed, how there is an element of the playful lover in God, how people living amidst the difficulties and dangers of life can come close to God. In her lifetime Julian had a local reputation for holiness but her Revelations became well known only in the twentieth century. Today the work, translated into modern English and many other languages, is perhaps the most widely read of all medieval mystical treatises.  



n his work Julian of Norwich, Theologian,1 Denys Turner makes the speculative argument that aspects of Julian’s work display ostensible contradictions, as well as enduring paradoxes, because she is a woman contextually divided between two worlds. Her monastic cell places her outside Church and city, yet she is also deeply attached to Church and living in a bustling metropolis. She adheres to orthodoxy, yet she is also devoted to the enigmatic authority of her visions. And she is a woman writing in a male world, where women have paid for their theological indiscretions. As Turner says, “…an anchorhold embodies a paradox.”2 Most dramatically, Julian’s life and manner of doing theology situates her at a threshold between life and death, where all her visions emerge. This paper will speculate on the theological ramifications of these liminal spaces. More specifically, the outer framework of her visionary narrative, which is too often neglected, will be carefully analyzed. The context in which she situates her own work is instrumental for appreciating the precise paradoxical balance she achieves in her Christology. Julian’s Christology undergoes a paradigm shift when the curate enters her room and redirects her vision. Because the curate bids her to concentrate on the cross, instead of looking heavenward, Julian’s Christology achieves the most paradoxical extremes: she teaches one how to engage Christ in his transcendence amidst the cruel physical sufferings he undergoes.

1 Denys Turner, Julian of Norwich, Theologian (New Haven, Yale University Press, 2011), p. 10.
2 Ibid, p. 14

Julian of Norwich: A Woman Between Worlds
“…an anchorhold embodies a paradox,” according to Denys Turner. In Turner’s work on Julian he briefly speculates about some of the effects this paradoxical positioning of her life might have had for her theology. She lives at once in the solitude of a monastic cell, in the greater context of a bustling metropolis. She is a woman writing in a male world, where women have paid for their theological indiscretions. These liminalities also extend to the stress she felt between her orthodoxy and the transgressive authority of her visions. And, existentially, her writing occurs in the binary between life and death, writing always on the verge of eternity. This paper will briefly examine how these contextual antinomies affect her theology. Specifically, examining how the events in the outer narrative of Julian’s treatise affected her Christology. Additionally, a brief analysis will be offered of her uniquely stressed paradoxical Christology.

The Shifting Narrative:
A close treatment of Julian’s “outer-narrative” reveals the transformation at the outset of her experience, which shifted her theological reflection to a more seminally paradoxical space, with greater focus on the particularity of the environment out of which she was writing. Specifically, the tension of opposites, between Father and Son, Cross and Heaven, particular and universal, becomes more pronounced at the outset of her work. This growing tension, which we witness at the beginning of her treatise, refuses the proliferation of either the presentation of Christ or the Idea of the Father. A dialectical middle is engaged. Most of Julian’s treatises are concentrated on her visions and her exegesis of those visions. Initially, however, the framework to her visionary narrative defines the ‘concrete’ catalyst out of which her theology will be constructed. Here we see a tapestry, of sorts, between her disparate surroundings and her restlessly speculative and visually rich treatises. The outer narratives serve as a rich vein for appreciating the energizing source of her subsequent visions.

Our first encounter with Julian is one of her lying prostrate in bed, staring fixedly upward, expecting to die. Her visions proper have not yet begun:

The persone sette the crosse before my face, and saide: ‘Doughter, I have brought the image of thy savioure. Loke thereupon, and comforthe the therewith in reverence of him that diede for the and me.’ Me thought than that I was welle, for mine eyen ware sette upward into hevene, whether I trustede for to come. Botte neverthelesse (my italics) I assended to sette mine eyen in the face of the crucifixe…
(The person set the cross before my face, and said: “Daughter, I have brought the image of your savior. Look upon it, and comfort yourself with it, in reverence for him that died for you and me”. I thought that I was well, for my eyes looked up to heaven, where I trusted help to come. But nevertheless (my italics) I agreed to place my eyes before the face of the crucifix… (Watson and Jenkins 2006, 68).
The curate then lowers Julian’s eyes and her attention to the Cross, the fountain from which her visions will pour forth. Initially, her attention is not demonstrably fixed upon the Cross. She is gazing upward to the heavens. The external cross had not yet catalyzed her ever-expanding visions of the Passion. Her own vertical priorities are subverted at the priest’s bidding. She lowers her eyes upon the Cross. In the modern taxonomy, she was more fixated upon an Idea, of Christ or Divinity or Heaven. Her meditation was supersensible, lacking the intensifying mediation of particularity. The priest paradigmatically redirects Julian’s eyes to an object, redirecting the ‘nature’ of her Christology. The isolated Category, or Idea, in Kantian terms, receives a viable form of particularity, which proves to intensify the Idea itself.

In the merest “botte nevertheless”, which begins the final sentence above, Julian expresses the most consequential disjunction in her mystical treatise. Her decision to follow the advice of the priest refocuses her attention to the suffering Christ. At this early moment, a spirituality that might be engulfed in divinity, dispensing with all images and body, is suddenly particularized by the humanity of Christ. The Idea no longer hovers indefinitely, without interacting with a quasi-concrete reality. If left to her own inclinations on her sickbed, however, as the clauses preceding the “botte” suggest, she would have continued to look vertically, ideationally: “Me thought than that I was welle.” (“I thought that I was well”). No clause intervenes that would make the reader believe she was unsatisfied with her upwardly fixed stare. Although at this point, the Julian we all know is still visionless. Despite her quickly dissipating life, her strongly apophatic experience, with no kataphatic pressures, is more tolerable, less stressed, and certainly visionless, compared with what will follow. The kataphatic onslaught of images, the approximating particularity, are what stress. For Julian, the creation-oriented stare more abrasively violates her autonomy than her fixity toward heaven.

At the suggestion of her parish priest, she “assends” (assents) to his wishes and directs her gaze to the cross before her face. From that moment, the visions themselves unreel. At this moment in her narrative, she adopts a regimen for the most demanding mystic Christology. The axiomatic shift in her Christology is definite:
…my sight begane to faile, and it was alle dyrke aboute me in the chaumber, and mirke as it hadde bene night, save in the image of the crosse there helde a common light, and I wiste nevere howe. Alle that was beside the crosse was huglye to me, as if it hadde bene mekille occupied with fendes.

…my sight began to fail, and it was all dark around me in the chamber, and much had happened in the night, but in the image of the cross was a common light, and I never knew how. Everything besides the cross was ugly to me, as if it had been covered in demons (Watson and Jenkins 2006, 67).
Once her eyes are trained upon the cross, the cross exerts a blend of ideas and unstinting flesh. Her escalating concentration on the figure of Christ always wrests her concentration from a clearly ideational resting place, neither divinity nor humanity predominate. From that moment her eyes do not waver. All other sights become dreadful. From the standpoint of the onlookers, at the foot of Julian’s bed, the reel of visions seem to spring from her intent gaze upon the cross.

Eight sections later in A Vision, after an involved reel of visions, but still at the outset of her treatise, Julian returns us for one of the last times to the outer narrative of her text. At this time, Julian’s experience becomes more distinctly Trinitarian. Here is the first explicit encounter with the fully human and fully divine status of Christ. She reiterates to her reader the safety she feels in the Cross, besides which were, “botte uglinesse of feendes” (only the ugliness of fiends). She expresses overwhelming confidence in the visions. All else becomes blighted in ugliness. At this time she receives a decisive “proposition” in her reason. “That hadde I a profer in my resone, as if it hadde beene frendeyly, it saide to me: ‘Luke uppe to heven to his fadere’” (“Then I had a proposition in my reason, as if it had been friendly, it said to me: ‘Look up to heaven to the father’” (Watson and Jenkins 2006, 85)). By means of this proposition, Julian recalls to the reader the beginning of her treatise. We are returned to the contrasting theological import of Julian on a sickbed before the curate entered, with her eyes fixed upward. Eight sections later her intellect manifests another proposition, which returns the reader to the paradigmatic question of her Christology: whether the focus of her vision will be upwardly inclined or horizontal, whether the accent will be on Idea or instantiation. She is again faced with the decision. This time the invocation has the allure of “Father”, seemingly commending her toward greater divinity.

The sentences following the proposition return to the outer circumstances at the beginning of the text and suggest new considerations: “Than sawe I wele, with the faithe that I feled, that thare ware nathinge betwyx the crosse and heven that might hafe desesed me” (“Then I saw well with the faith I felt that there was nothing between the cross and heaven that might have given me trouble”(Watson and Jenkins 2006, 85)). The “feendes” she has so recently referred to are provisionally stayed. The problematic bifurcation created at the beginning between “heven” and the cross is neutralized. Nothing, now, about a bodily dwelling or a heavenly ascent appear incompatible, according to this line. The final clause of the sentence runs thus: “and othere me behoved loke upppe or els answere” (“I must either look up or else answer”(Watson and Jenkins 2006, 85)). The emergent proposition in her psyche is not idle. According to Julian. “Luke uppe to heven to his fadere,” expects an answer of some kind, which thusly takes shape in Julian’s mind: “I answered and saide: ‘Naye, I may nought! For thowe erte mine heven.’”  (“I answered and said: ‘No, I may not! For you are my heaven’”(Watson and Jenkins 2006, 85)). With this response, her Christology assumes the perfect consanguinity between Father and Son, Idea and instantiation, which will remain throughout her work. She has opted for the Son, which proves to be a decision that does not preclude the Father. After being fully absorbed into the Son, a Trinitarian dynamic emerges, which allows her to join Son and Father, humanity and divinity.

Her “balanced” Christology supplies her with the fruits of simultaneously affirming divinity and humanity, visibility and invisibility. Each is affirmed in tandem. If the Father had not descended upon the Son and she had not become cognizant of their unanimity, an asymmetry would have occurred. She may have submerged herself in the humanity and particularity of Christ, forgetting his fuller identity. The transcendence of Christ may have been abridged and Christ’s visibility may have satisfied Julian. Instead, she perceives the compatibility between Father and Son, realizing that no amount of suffering need compromise the divinity. Julian may indulge the most upbraiding depictions of Christ’s Passion precisely because of the equipollent Christology she has realized.

By illustrating the unity of the Son and Father, she has deepened the Son without domesticating the Father. By realizing their compatibility, she has problematized the divinity of Christ, without eradicating any of his humanity. The humanity, for Julian, becomes imbued with the aspects of God’s ineffability usually assigned solely to his Divinity. In finitude and visibility lies a scope that can only be denoted by divinity. She’s adamant about attributing the transcendent reach of divinity within corporal things themselves, and especially within suffering. By swelling the images of Christ’s Passion, she has sharpened the locus theologicus of all theologizing to the visible realm.

The fruition of her desires make the difference between life and death very thin for Julian. From that place she gives us her visions and theological understanding:
If there is in any sense a boundary line dividing the theological from the ultimate vision of God, then, at every point, Julian’s Revelation straddles it. Indeed, its character as theology consists in its precarious positioning on the cusp formed by theological knowing and mystical unknowing, and so it is in its entirety mystical theology (xii).
Her work abides at the boundary line of light and dark, life and death. She is theological insofar as she attempts, again and again, to speak of a content that lies beyond the ken of words. Her mystical unknowing is her ongoing testament to the ultimate ineffability that tinges all of her writing and experience.

Christological Speculations:
The Cross  commits her to a paradox that remains, in her case, restlessly fecund: In Dennis Turner’s words: “It is paradoxical that the Cross’s demolition of the intellectually mediating space that explanations seek to occupy is exactly where our salvation is to be found.”3  The visible Cross is at once a mode of salvation and a place that thwarts explanation. Julian places her salvation, and her explanations, precisely in the place where explanations stall out. The Cross that spurs her theologizing commits it to paradoxical incompletion.

Paul Mommaers, in the Riddle of Christian Mystical Experience, stresses the dialectical nature of the suffering, divine image, for Julian, and in general: this agonistic image is simultaneously and unstintingly visible but at the same time does not hinder the invisible portions of Christ’s divinity. The image can become mistaken for the un-presentable reality in golden-calf idolatry. The image may also obsolesce, smoldering the intensity it hopes to create. Also, as Mommaers points out, the image or concept may only be a provisional stepping stone, en route to higher ranks of divinity that compromise visibility. For Mommaers, in order to remain theologically balanced, a mystic needs to articulate a space for a visibility that is in itself a prism for the invisibility:
Significantly, those who witness the crucifixion are looking at something quite visible – it is a ‘spectacle’ – even as they appear to respond to an invisible event. As it comes into contact with the image, the human gaze at once sees, falters, and opens onto what cannot be seen.
Mommaers terms this particular balance the “downward ecstasy”. A dialectic occurs in an ordinate Christology in which the visible and invisible are inseparable, divulging a polyphony of moments in which the visible and invisible aspects of Christ appear, in which the humanity and divinity are twined. The suffering transmogrifies the visible aspects of divinity into an increasingly unpalatable aesthetic. The grotesque aspects of this visible divinity challenge a further deepening for the mystic that at the same time refuses strict invisibility. Like the sight of a disgusting image that both repels and allures, the provocation of this divine suffering keeps the observer glued, because the visibility of divine suffering is inexhaustible. The visible portions of this divine spectacle always reveal latencies the visionary has not unearthed. The conveyance of divinity by means of suffering images roots the observer in the earth while simultaneously buoying her forward.

William Desmond conveys this harrowing balance between the visible that does not cease from being visible no matter how much the visible is stressed. Desmond, like Mommaers, expresses the visible that baffles and opens onto what cannot be seen and ultimately redounds upon itself, always preserving the show of the aesthetic. Desmond offers an account of the Christological dialectic Mommaers wishes to capture, which is also embodied in Julian:
For one is not dissolving in formless night but seeing the day itself enshrouded with the most extraordinary mystery. Everything is as it is, yet it is not as it is; or it is as it is, and it is not as it is; it is itself and also the showing of more. It is doubled into an icon of what itself is beyond showing in showing, and that resists idolization; a showing that entrances without bewitching, for one is falling into a love that holds one fast, yet lightens one. Nothing is as it seems to be, or it is as it seems to be; but in what seems, one sees something shown. 
Desmond captures the balance an adequate Christology must contain if it is to ward off idolization. The mode of awareness moves between a disintegrative formlessness and a virginal light cast over objects. The experience of the objects contains a deeply equivocal veneer, in which the weight of ambiguity cannot be shirked. Desmond’s descriptions add cogency to the potency of this balance between the visible and invisible. His words enrich the uniqueness of the kind of Christology Julian gives us, which is able to entrance, bringing one into profounder layers of visibility, without becoming lost in a nebulous divinity.
3 Turner, Julian of Norwich, Theologian, p. 20.



ulian of Norwich received her Showings at a time of personal illness. This paper will show that an understanding of illness is part of the lens through which Julian sees and interprets the content of her Showings. The Body of Christ is read according to various extreme physical states expressed in an exaggeration of the bodily humours of wet, dry, hot and cold. Julian's portrayal of Christ's Passion is influenced by late medieval understanding of what constitutes illness. This also has implications for the meaning she derives from what she sees. All possible human suffering is taken on in the Passion so that, as Jesus says; 'if I could have suffered more I would have suffered more'. Medieval medical theory helps explain how Julian sees Christ's body as a complete somatic expression of his identification with and compassion for the human condition. By studying the way Julian sees the transmogrifications in Christ’s body in the light of medieval attitudes to the humours of the body it is possible to get a clearer picture of the relation between suffering and theological meaning in the Showings.


In this paper my concern is with two interrelated areas of Julian’s thought in her Showings: 1) the relation of interior experience to the exterior of the body, and 2) the use of the spiritual senses to bridge the gap between interior and exterior. For Julian - both in terms of rapture and in mortification - the bodily components of mystical experience manifest a physiological and often literal conformity to Christ’s humanity. In this Julian was part of the general religious sensibility of her time. Richard Rolle, writing before the middle of the fourteenth century, had expressed his experience of God in psycho-physical terms through leitmotif descriptions of ‘heat’, ‘sweetness’ and ‘song’. For Rolle however the corporeal aspect of his participation in the Passion of Christ retains a metaphorical and symbolic distance while Julian shows a more realistic concern with the embodiment of spiritual practice.

In their descriptions of the experience of prayer and encounter with the body of Christ both Rolle and Julian use language that evoked the medieval understanding of the four ‘humours’. The relation and relevance of medieval medical theory to mystical writing has received inadequate scholarly attention and it is this I would like to address in this paper. I will be using Rolle - who was a highly influential spiritual writer for those of Julian’s generation - to show how Julian develops and expands his use of the language of bodily humours for spiritual experience. This opens up issues of gender in medieval mysticism which has been much debated. At the end of this paper I will offer tentative reflections on how gender, as an embodied fact, was important to Rolle and Julian whereas outside the experience of embodiment, neither made a distinction between male and female approaches to God. the soul for them is not gendered. Even the bodily encounter with Christ described by Rolle and Julian is much more complex and can be fitted simply into distinct male and female gender ‘spiritualities’.

According to the medieval theories of materialism, all of creation was formed from the four universal elements of fire, air, water and earth. These were arranged in a hierarchy with the more immaterial elements (first fire and then air) taking priority over the grosser substances (water and, lastly, earth). Regardless of gender, all four elements were present in the composition of the human body, though in varying proportions. In medical terms, the four universal elements were said to be carried by the four humours, or physiological fluids: yellow bile (in which the element of fire was dominant), blood (dominated by air), phlegm (primarily water), and black bile (mostly earth). The balance of the four humours within the body was determined partly by sex, with males usually being dominated by yellow bile and blood; women characterized by a high admixture of phlegm and black bile.1

Each bodily humour or fluid was aligned, not only with a particular element in the chain of universal matter, but also with a set of four physical qualities: hot, cold, moist and dry. Thus yellow bile, containing fire, was primarily hot and secondarily dry. Blood, dominated by air, was primarily moist and secondarily hot. Phlegm, which was mostly water, was primarily cold and secondarily moist. Lastly, black bile, containing earth, was primarily dry and secondarily cold. The balance of the four humours resulted in a particular combination of the four qualities, and the resulting admixture was known as a person’s complexion. Thus the masculine complexion was primarily hot and dry, while the feminine complexion was primarily cold and moist: they are opposites.2

Richard Rolle

The use of the word ‘heat’ by Rolle to describe warmth of devotion, and the bodily realism with which he uses the term, therefore carries a meaning that is related in popular physiological understanding to gender difference. In this understanding the quality of temperature was of singular importance because it differentiated the masculine complexion, dominated by two ‘hot’ humours, from the feminine, dominated by two cold.3 ‘Heat’ was physiologically desirable for both sexes but, as a female had less of it, her need for it was perceived to be greater than that of the male. This, as Robertson observes, is the physical root of the medieval belief in the insatiability of women’s desire.4

In medieval medicine heat was regarded as essential for conception, either the heat of the male seed or the warmth of the uterine environment.5 Rolle evokes this in that ‘ardour’ is both the experience and object of devotion and expresses itself (‘exoptaret’) outwardly in ways reminiscent of sexual passion:
Deficere denique oporteret pre dulcedine et magnitudine superferuidi affectus et inestimabilis utique ardoris, et nimirum hoc auide amplecteretur atque ardentissimo exoptaret anhelitu.6
If ‘heat’ is described in terms of conception then ‘song’, coming nine months later, has parallels with giving birth:
Sedebam quipped in quadam capella, et dum suauitate oracionis uel meditaciones multum delectarer, subito sentiui in me ardorem insolitum et iocundum. Sed cum prius dubitando a quo esset, per longum tempus expertus sum non a creatura sed a Creatore esse, quia feruenciorem et iocundiorem inueni. Flagrente autem sensibiliter calore illo inestimabiliter suaui usque ad infusionem et percepcionem soni celestas uel spiritualis, [...] dimidius annus et tres menses et aliquot ebdomade effluxerunt.7
‘Coldness’ was associated with women and perceived as a predictive sign of moral instability and sloth which led, in a corresponding way, to greater sensual attachments. In psycho-physical theory ‘frigidus’ represents a proclivity towards ‘the flesh’.8 Likewise in Rolle’s writings:
Sordes carnis [obrepunt] et temptant tranquillos. Necessitas quoque corporalis atque affections humanitus impresse, erumpuosique exilii anguscie ardorem ipsum interpolant [...] Et ego quasi frigidus remanens donec redeat mihi, uideor desolates, dum sensum illum ignis interni, cui cuncta corporis et spiritus applaudunt [...] Evigilans uero animam meam tanquam frigiditate tenebratam calefacere conor.9
From this we see that ‘heat’, for Rolle, is not an aspect of natural constitution but is a grace increased through the effort of devotion. We also see that although it comes from within the human person it affects the ‘exterior’ as well as ‘interior’ senses.

The other dominant characteristic of feminine complexion was wetness. In devotional writing cold is seen as a negative state but wetness was associated with tears, blood, saliva and wounds. The gift of tears was closely related to the wounds of Christ in the later Middle Ages and the spittle of contempt he received in his Passion. Bernard said that Christ wept with every part of his body not just his eyes.10 In the later Middle Ages this gift was a particular domain of women.11[11] In Rolle’s ‘Meditation on Christ’s Passion’ in Ego Dormio the skin of Christ is rendered porous and moist:

   My keyng, that water grette and blode swete;
   Sythen ful sare bette, so that hys blode hym wette,
   When their scowrges mette.
   Ful fast thai gan hym dyng and at the pyler swyng,
   And his fayre face defowlyng with spittyng.
   Naked es his whit breste, and rede es his blody side;
   Wan was his fayre hew, his wowndes depe and wyde.
   In five steeds of his fesch the blode gan downe glyde
   Als stremes of the strande; hys pyne es noght to hyde.12[i]

This is connected to medieval medical theory where it was believed that the purgation of excess moisture was beneficial for physical health. Such imagery, maybe through the influence of Rolle, was used in Middle English devotional writing in the later fourteenth century. The Chastening of God’s Children, a highly popular guide to the spiritual life (written probably soon after 1382 by an anonymous author) writes:
 In [God’s] absence we bein al cold and drie, swetnesse haue we noon [...] thanne drawith the the sunne the humours vp into the eir, of the whiche cometh dew and reyn [...] In the same maner, whanne the cliere sonne, oure lord iesu, is lift in oure hertis aboue al other thinge [...] if uertues, whiche I call goostli humours, then cometh a swete reyn and an heuenli dew of swetnesse of the godhede.13
The sensual concrete language notable in the writings of Rolle show a fusion of carnal and spiritual meanings. The body of Christ has a healing effect, first on the soul but then also on the body of those who contemplate it. Rolle prays that he ‘myyte turne thorow that swet [of Christ] owt of al sekenesse of soule into lyf of hele of body’.14[ii] Robertson points out that the dominant image in Incendium Amoris  is ‘heat’ whereas in the passion writings it is moisture. She asks whether this can be explained by a gendered audience, the English writings which use moisture being specifically written for women.15 She writes that “given the fact that heat is more important physiologically to men than moisture, it is not surprising that the work of Rolle’s that is probably most clearly intended for male readers, Incendium, should focus primarily on the heat of desire rather than on moisture”.16

In both cases, the same process is at work whereby an exaggeration of a particular bodily complexion becomes anagogic for spiritual transformation. Scholarly commentary on Rolle has given inadequate attention to the physiological root of his language about mystical experience. This emphasis of the bodily component is in some ways a reflection of the influence of the imagery of the biblical Song of Songs.17 However both the eroticism of ‘heat’ and the fluid porosity of the Passion Mediations can be seen as driven by Rolle’s concern that contemplation is a lifting of the soul together with the body to God. There is a physiological need for the redemption of the flesh: contemplation for Rolle is an invitation to participate here on earth in the wholeness of the resurrected body.

In Incendium the contemplative orientation is from coldness to heat, whereas in the passion narratives it is from dryness of heart to the moisture of devotion. Both, however, are an encounter with the body of Christ. The catalytic effect of Christ’s body engages the complexions of both genders. The predominantly male ‘heat’ drives out feminine ‘coldness’ but feminine ‘moisture’ counteracts the masculine preponderance to dryness. The first - as recorded in Incendium - is an ecstatic experience, the second, for Rolle, is a deeply painful one. This may not be surprising for according to medieval physiology the male mystic has an advantage in the quest for ‘heat’ since he is by nature already in possession of it. However there is also a feminine dynamic to Rolle’s mysticism which, as Anne Astell observes, “bears eloquent testimony to the inner marriage that has taken place within him, reconciling him to his own feminine otherness”.18 This otherness, accepted by Christ, is ‘unworthyest of alle mennys haldyng’ and is therefore painful for Rolle.[iii] It is a pain however that Rolle recognises will moisten his soul:

Woundys of reuthe is al my desyr, peyne and compassyoun of my Lord Jhesu Cryst. Werste and unworthyest of alle mennys haldyng, I have appetyte to peyne, to beseke my Lorde a drope of hys reed blod to make blody my soule, a drope of that watur, whiche he swet at hys scourging, to washen it with.19][iv]

Julian of Norwich

It must have been a passage such as the above which Julian had been reading when she desired from God the gift of three wounds: contrition, compassion and genuine (wylfulle) longing for God.20[20] Rolle’s influence on devotion in the later fourteenth century is clear. As in Rolle’s description Julian describes Jesus’ whole body as porous and wet:
I saw, beholding the body, plenteous bledyng in semyng of the scoregyng as thus. The feyer skynne was broken full depe in to the tendyr flessch with sharpe smytynges all a bout the sweete body. The hote blode ranne out so plentuously that ther was neyther seen skynne ne wounde, but as it were all blode.21[v]
However we can see here that Julian manages to bind together the two strands of Rolle’s use of the complexions in her visions of Christ; the blood is ‘hote’ and ‘plentuous’. The same two terms are used together by Julian to describe the bleeding of Christ’s head in her first Showing.22 Christ’s body in the Crucifixion is seen as combining simultaneously the dominant masculine and feminine complexions of medieval medical theory. Rolle’s use of them, in describing Christ and the mystical experience, had been divided between his different genres, his Latin works emphasising ‘heat’, his English ‘moisture’. Julian combines them as unified in the description of her experience.

Also, unlike Rolle, Julian does not contrast the positive effect of heat and moisture with their negations, ‘coldness’ and ‘dryness’. No commentary on Julian’s Showings have read her descriptions of Christ in the light of medieval medical theory. If one does so it is clear that the four humours, or physiological fluids, are all present in Julian’s description of the crucified Christ. In Julian’s eighth vision, the body of Christ takes on the complexions of the lower humours - phlegm, which was primarily cold and secondarily moist and black bile which was primarily dry and secondarily cold: 
And the swete body waxed browne and blacke, alle chaungyd and turned oute of the feyer, fressch, and lyvely coloure of hym selfe in to drye dyeng. For that same tyme that oure blessyd Savyour dyed upon the rode it was a dry, sharp wynd, wonder coldde as to my sight. And what tyme that the precious blode was bled out of the swete body that might passe ther fro [...] Blodlessehed and payne dryed with in and blowing of the wynde and colde coming from with out mett to geder in the swete body of Christ.23[vi]
Julian’s Christ therefore contains the extremes of all four complexions. There is surely a link here between Christ’s redemptive work on the cross and the purging of the humours common in medical healing. According to medieval medical understanding, health of the body lay in the balance of the bodily humours. Though gender and other conditions caused one or the other to predominate, if there was an excess, illness would follow. Hence the medieval practice of blood-letting, cold baths, treatment with oils and hot presses. Frederick Bauerschmidt and Elizabeth Robertson both see the release of excess moisture as the dominant purgative metaphor in Julian’s vision. Both see it as evocative of menstrual flow. However, where Robertson sees this purgation of moisture as redemptive Bauerschmidt interprets it as not leading to physical healing (as a symbol of salvation) but to a further purgation. The body of Christ become medically ‘a failed body’ that has gone to the other extreme of dryness.24 However for Julian this ‘thirst of Christ’ was also part of the process of redemption. Bauerschmidt sees this movement from plenitude to privation in the body of Christ as an apophatic image that points not to a physical but to a spiritual healing: “It is an image of a nowted body, a body which has been transmogrified by suffering into an icon of God’s compassion.”25

If we look at this motif of dryness we see a close correlation between the physical symptoms and the spiritual meaning. Julian reads a double sense in Christ’s thirst, ‘oon bodely and a nother gostly’. The ‘bodely’ thirst arises from a lack of ‘blode and moyster in the swete flessche’.26 For Christ’s ‘gostly’ thirst the full analysis is deferred until the thirteenth revelation where it is defined as his ‘love longyng of us all to geder here in hym to oure endlesse blysse’.27 As Sarah Alison Miller has pointed out - like its bodily counterpart - this is a desiring thirst that arises from lack, namely from the incompleteness of Christ’s body which thirsts for the unification in him of his corporeal members.28 As Miller puts it: “While the pain of ‘bodely thirst’ generates a ‘great onyng’ between Christ and his children through corporeal compassion, full communion, imagined here as enclosure within Christ’s body, awaits fulfillment of his ‘gostly thirst’ [...] Here, Julian locates Christ’s ‘gostly’ thirst in the lacking portions of his flesh, so that even the non-bodily sense of thirst is inextricable from Christ’s corporeality.”

As Caroline Walker Bynum has shown the ability of the physical to express a spiritual meaning was particularly charged when it came to the signification of blood for life and death in the late Middle Ages.29 Certainly Julian described the haemorrhaging body of Christ as both ‘hydows [hideous] and dredfulle’ and ‘swete and lovely’.30 The outward flow of his blood shows Julian both his vitality and the draining of his life-force. Bynum has identified the expression of “this paradoxical sense of continuity in discontinuity” in a “curious motif of late medieval piety: the devotion to Christ’s complete exsanguination in the crucifixion”.31 As Miller points out although Bynum does not consider the function of this motif in Showings, Julian’s vision of the transformation of Christ’s supple body into a desiccated corpse is a clear example of how devotion to Christ’s blood because of its redemptive meaning, finds its fullest expression in devotion to his bloodless body.32 In this sense the desiccated body is both an apophatic image and an icon of God’s compassion, as Bauershmidt puts it. However, as Miller argues, both the bleeding and the drying of Christ’s body in the Showings serve the same role - underscoring its ‘permeability’. The ultimate purpose of this permeability becomes clear in Revelation thirteen when Christ’s ‘gostly’ thirst transforms these points of egress into points of entry.33 This permeability (we shall see in the following Section) was seen as an inherently female trait.

As ‘heat’ and ‘moisture’ go together, so do ‘dry’ and ‘cold’. There is a move toward a full corporeal kenesis in Julian’s vision. Speaking of ‘the skynne and the flesshe that semyd (appeared) of the face and the body’, Julian writes:
I saw iiii manner of drying. The furst was blodlesse; the secunde payne folowyng after; the thurde is that he was hangyng uppe in the eyer as men hang a cloth for to drye; the fowyrth , that the bodily kynde asked lycoure, and ther was no maner of comfort mynystryd to hym. A, hard and grievous was that payne, but moch more harder and grievous it was when the moystur fayled and all began to drye, thus clyngyng. Theyse were ii paynes that shewed in the bleyssed hed. The furst wrought to the drying whyle it was moyst; and that other, slow, with clyngyng and drying, with blowing of wynde fro without that dryed hym more and payned with colde than my hart can thingke.34[vii]
The key point is that Julian relates the bodily humours in a way that subverts conventional gendered associations. Neither Robertson or Bauerschmidt see that these ‘two’ pains - dryness and coldness - are not divided along gender lines. Commonly the masculine complexion was primarily hot and dry, while the feminine complexion was primarily cold and moist.  In Julian’s description of the kenosis of Christ the first purgation was of ‘hote blod (moyst)’ and the second of ‘dry, colde’. Also to favour either the ‘cataphatic’ moment of purgation, as Robertson does, or its ‘apophatic’ conclusion, as Bauerschmidt does, is to fail to notice both the integral nature of the Showing and its ultimate purpose. Surely what Julian is trying to express is that all the humours of Christ’s body suffered, that he took on the full human condition without any predominance of one or the other. Julian says that ‘tho paynes of Cristes passion passé all payne’, or, as Jesus puts it to her; ‘yf I might have sufferyd more, I wolde a sufferyd more’.35 The will is there, but the four elements that make up the human body are fully engaged in Christ’s passion. They are brought to their extremes. As a somatic expression there is nothing lacking.

It was understood in the Middle Ages that the more perfect flesh is the more it experiences. For Jesus – the Word made flesh – every sense was acute on the cross.36 The catalytic effect of Christ’s body engages the dominant complexions of both genders. For Rolle both were positive even if they were experienced differently; ‘Heat’ is ecstatic, ‘moisture’ is painful. For Julian these humours were combined simultaneously. Nor were they used in contrast to the secondary complexions of ‘cold’ and ‘dry’ as in Rolle’s use. All complexions are included in the encounter with Christ.

Christ’s body is a place of meeting of all the bodily humours to an exaggerated degree. This would explain Christ’s bodily mutability in Julian’s visions. However, the important thing for Julian is that the reader moves on from there to recognise what the Passion expresses. By studying the way Julian sees the transmogrifications in Christ’s body in the light of medieval attitudes to the humours of the body, a clearer picture of the relation between suffering and theological meaning emerges in the Showings. It is not the suffering itself but the love revealed in the suffering which saves. The full implications of Christ’s kenosis are made clear in a final change from pain to joy. This ‘change of countenance’ shows that, though sickness takes its natural course to death, this is not the ultimate meaning of the event. This death heals. Julian writes:

The chaungyng of hys blessyd chere chaungyd myne, and I was as glad and as mery as it was possible. Then brought oure Lorde meryly to mynd, ‘Wher is now any poynt of thy payne or of thy anguysse?’ And I was fulle mery.37[viii]
   Where the analogy with medieval medical practice ends is that for Julian this is not a natural healing but a foretaste of Resurrection. This heavenly state however shows itself in bodily terms as a miracle. Christ does die, Julian in her illness mirrors completely the one she contemplates, and yet she lives. In Julian’s Showings there is a continuous interaction between the real physical body, its perceptions and that which is signified, that which is ‘shown’. Bodily experience and interpretation are thus very closely linked for Julian, and yet distinct, as passion is the premise of compassion. It is the sharing of suffering with Christ which gives meaning to bodily pain, and can also give actual physical healing.

It is not new to read Julian’s account of her physical sensations through a medical lens, as a narrative of illness.38 To try to ‘diagnose’ Julian may be helpful (though hypothetical) in so far as illness highlights the body as the catalyst and expressive context of her Showings, although to explain the bodily symptoms does not explain the way Julian constitutes meaning from them. Julian herself attests that her sickness was of divine origin and yet was a bodily sickness. As Paul Molinari observes, sickness is mysterious enough to make these not incompatible, the meaning lies in the way she interprets what is happening to her.39 As Colledge and Walsh explain, this is also the case with her ‘cure’ which she describes as miraculous.40 The interpretation of her illness, as Denise N. Baker shows, was shaped within the context of the medieval tradition of affective spirituality and visualisation mediations on the Passion of Christ.41 However, by favouring devotional practice over illness as the formative influence of Julian’s visions, Baker does not give, in my opinion, adequate attention to how Julian’s narrative is a record of bodily healing. Baker favours the ‘constructed’ nature of Julian’s Showings. Though she shows clearly that Julian’s descriptions occur within a specific religio-cultural context, she says nothing with regard to Julian’s bodily perceptions which, I believe, were the primary formative influence.

Rolle and Julian are witness to a continuous interaction between the real physical body and the theological meanings it expresses. This is because, in both Rolle and Julian’s writings, the body of Christ is not just an image but a real encounter that involves physical perception. Their form of visionary mysticism did not displace sense experience but expands it beyond the inevitable limitations of individual identity. Spiritual sensation, as the activity of the body of Christ within the contemplative’s sensibility, was not therefore gender specific. It expressed the anthropological implications of the Communicatio Idiomatum of Christ’s two natures in opening up a predication of what was constitutive of one gender to another. Masculine and feminine characteristics were applicable to all people because all bodies - not just those of women - could manifest the wholeness (and therefore holiness) of the complete human being. All corporeal experience was contained in the Logos Ensarkos. Imitation of Christ made the bodily humours of both genders fully accessible, with no need for one gender’s bodily experience to be tamed, rendered insentient, or transfigured, beyond that of another.

Julian understood her own bodily sickness as not just purgative but imitative of Christ: for her Christ’s Passion was not just a somatic kenosis but a ‘showing of love’. For both Julian and Rolle, Christ’s body - because it is human - is a meeting place of the four bodily humours and because it is redemptive, it integrates the masculine and feminine complexions by suffering in all of them. The meeting of the four humours is the new Adam, the full undivided human being, healing the division and disorder of sin. However the very wholeness of Christ means that when his body suffers all human suffering is taken on. God suffering in the flesh is the ultimate ‘showing’ of compassion.


Both Rolle and Julian affirm the body in its porosity and fluidity with the soul, in its very fleshiness, as a way of encountering God in Christ. In particular they use the language of bodily humours but they subvert their gender associations. They resist any ‘essentialising’ of gender types falling neither in the sexist position of ‘one sex more suited’, or the dualist position of ‘separate gender spiritualities’. They do this by reading gender in terms of the body, particularly the bodily humours, and emphasising ‘embodiment’ as a common ground between the sexes. Therefore the gendered body is not irrelevant to spiritual matters, but this does not mean it shapes distinct spiritualities, nor that one sex is more suited to the spiritual quest. The relevance of gender in fourteenth-century English mysticism seems to lie in the use of the bodily humours as metaphors and expressions of the spiritual life. But more than metaphor for both Rolle and Julian, God, being incarnate, is experienced through the physical constitution of the body which was understood then in gendered terms.

The meaning of gender in the late Middle Ages was not limited to the difference between men and women. The physical body of both sexes was understood to share varied ‘gendered’ constitutions. Mystical writers, in particular, understood gender more in terms of the body than the different sexes. Hence men could share - even physiologically - feminine characteristics, and women, masculine ones. The cultural understanding of gender overlapped with the medical one. In terms of religious practice a gendered reading expected that women would do ‘external practice’ in that their ascesis was predominantly in the arena of the flesh. Men were not expected to evidence bodily signs of redemption as their practice was understood to be more ‘internal’, although the mystical writers I study challenge this stereotype. Rolle, for example, witnessed mystical experiences with physical manifestations, while Julian constantly pushed through from the corporeal and imagistic content of her visions to the inner meaning they expressed.



There is some debate as to when her short and long text were completed. Nicholas Watson posits a later date for the Short Text, between 1382 and 1388, and Long Text completed in the early 1400s. He even proposes that the Short Text may have been composed after the Long Text even as late as 1410 as a version to placate heresy hunters at the time of the Lollard investigations in Norwich.42[42] For me, so far, this latter theory does not convince as the Long Text seems very much like an elaboration of the Short Text  - which in turn does not read like an abridgment. One thing we know is that Julian received her revelations in 1373. Julian says that she meditated on her revelations for nearly twenty years before writing the Long Text. To me it seems clear that the Short Text was part of that preliminary meditation.43 Either way I stand with Colledge and Walsh’s now maybe old fashioned proposal that the Short Text was written soon after the ‘revelation’, the Long Text completed in the mid 1390‘s.44 I am looking forward to this conference to be corrected on this!


1 Danielle Jacquart and Claude Thomasset, Sexuality and Medicine in the Middle Ages, tr. Mathew Adamson (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1988),  pp. 20-32.
2 Nancy Caciola, Discerning Spirits: Divine and Demonic Possession in the Middle Ages (London: Cornell University Press, 2003), p. 143.
3 Jacquart and Thomasset,  p. 59.
4 Feminist Approaches to the Body in Medieval Literature, eds. Linda Lomperis & Sarah Stanbury (Philadelphia: University of Philadelphia Press, 1993), pp. 146-147.
5 Joan Cadden, Meanings of Sex Differences in the Middle Ages: Medicine, Science and Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), pp. 117-134. AlsoThomas Laqueur, ‘Orgasm, Generation and the Politics of Reproductive Biology’, Representations 14 (1986), 4, 5, 9.
6 The Incendium Amoris of Richard Rolle of Hampole, ed. Margaret Deanesly (London, NY: Manchester University Press, 1915), Prologue, p. 146: ‘In the end he must collapse under [heat’s] very sweetness, the huge extent of its desire and its pressing external expression. Yet despite this, a person must embrace it. He must eagerly long for it with a very hot desire.’
7 Incendium, Ch.15, p.189. ‘I was sitting in a particular chapel, delighting in meditation and prayers sweetness, when suddenly I felt within an unusual and pleasant heat. At first I wondered where it had come from. Yet I soon realised that it had not come from any created thing, but from the creator himself. I was, I found, more strong in my love and more happy than I had ever been. Yet it was another nine months before a conscious and incredible sweet warmth came alight in me. Then I knew the infusion and understanding of heavenly spiritual sounds.’
8 Caciola, Discerning Spirits, pp. 144-145.
9 Incendium, Prologue, p. 146: ‘The filth of the flesh flows in to tempt slothful minds. And bodily need, and the weak desires of man, and the anguish of this wretched exile sometimes lessen this heat... but I, stone cold and desolate, await its return. When I have it not, I once more experience that feeling of fire deep inside, permeating my whole being body and soul [...] I busy myself warming up my soul, pierced with icicles as it is.’
10 ‘Sermon 3’, Opera Omnia, 5, ed. Jean LeClercq (Rome: Editiones Cistercienses, 1968), p. 55.
11 See Kimberley-Joy Knight, ‘The Importance of the Gift of Tears for Thirteenth Century Religious Women and their Hagiographers’, Crying in the Middle Ages, ed. Elina Gertsman (NY & London: Routledge, 2012), pp. 136-155.
12 ‘Ego Dormio’, English Writings of Richard Rolle, ed. Hope Emily Allen (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963), pp.  67-68, lines 218-222, 227-230.
13 ed. Joyce Bazire & Eric Colledge (Oxford: Blackwell, 1957), pp. 98, line 11, p. 102, lines 7-17.
14 ‘Meditations on the Passion’, English Writings, p.  20, lines 15-16.
15 Feminist Approaches to the Body in Medieval Literature, eds. Lomperis & Stanbury,  p. 149.
16 Ibid, p. 165, note 36.
17 See Ann W. Astell, The Song of Song in the Middle Ages (Ithaca NY: Cornel University Press, 1995),  p. 108.
18 Ibid, p. 118. See also P. P. Fite, ‘To Sytt-And-Sing-Of-Luf-Langyng: The Feminine Dynamic of Richard Rolle’s Mysticism’, Studia Mystica 14 (1991), 13-29. Neither Astell nor Fite draw out the physiological implications of Rolle’s gender inclusivity.
19 ‘Meditations on the Passion’, English Writings, p. 23.
20 Short Text (Amherst MS Additional 37790, circa 1450), A Book of Showings to the Ancress Julian of Norwich, Part 1, ed. Edmund College and James Walsh, (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 1978), p. 206, lines 52-53.
21 Long Text, Ch. 12, The Showings of Julian of Norwich, ed. Denise N. Baker (NY, London: Norton & Co., 2005), p. 22. (Also Short Text, eds. College & Walsh, p. 227, lines, 14-19). It is the ‘plenteousness’ of this precious blood which allows it to flow abundantly into hell, freeing chosen souls there, to wash away sins on earth and to intercede in heaven.
I have used Baker’s edition of  the ‘Paris Manuscript’ Bibliothèque nationale anglais MS 40. Based as it is on a manuscript readied for printing in the 1530s  it is much earlier than the two seventeenth century ‘Sloane manuscripts’ used in Walsh & Colledge’s critical edition of the Long Text. In their modern English translation College and Walsh themselves agree that ‘Paris’ is ‘the most important long-text manuscript’, ‘Introduction‘, Julian of Norwich Showings (NY: Paulist Press, 1978), p. 21. Baker supplies an edition of ‘Paris’ though slightly modernized.
22 Long Text, Ch. 4, ed. Baker, p. 8. Short Text, eds. College & Walsh, p. 210, line 12.
23 Long Text, Ch. 16, ed. Baker, p. 27.  Also Short Text, eds. College & Walsh, p. 233, lines 1-13.
24 Robertson, Feminist Approaches to the Body in Medieval Literature, eds. Lomperis & Stanbury, pp. 154-155. Bauerschmidt, Julian of Norwich and the Mystical Body Politic of Christ (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press,1999), pp. 84-89.
25 Bauerschmidt, p. 106.
26 Long Text, Ch. 17, ed. Baker, p. 27.
27 Long Text, Ch. 31, ed. Baker,  p. 43.
28 Medieval Monstrosity and the Female Body (NY: Routledge, 2010), Ch. 3; ‘Monstrous Love: The permeable body of Christ in Julian of Norwich’s Showings’, p. 118.
29 Wonderful Blood: Theology and Practice in Late Medieval Northern Germany and Beyond (Philadelphia: Pennsylvania University Press, 2007), pp. 1-5.
30 Long Text, Ch. 7, ed. Baker, p. 13.
31 Wonderful Blood, p. 163.
32 See Miller, pp. 116-117.
33 Ibid, p. 119.
34 Long Text, Ch. 17, ed. Baker, pp. 28-29.
35 Long Text,Chs. 20 & 22, ed. Baker, pp. 32 & 34.
36 Bynum, Resurrection of the Body in Western Christianity, 200-1336 (NY: Columbia University Press, 1995), pp. 251, 333.
37 Long Text, Ch. 21, ed Baker, p. 33.
38 See James T. McIlwain, ‘The Bodelye syeknes of Julian of Norwich’, Journal of Medieval History 10 (1984), 167-180. McIlwain concluded that Julian’s sickness was botulism.
39 Julian of Norwich: The Teaching of a 14th Century English Mystic (New York: Longmans, Green & Co, 1958), pp. 21-31.
40 College & Walsh, ‘Introduction’,  A Book of Showings, Part 1, pp. 68-70.
41 Julian of Norwich’s Showings: From Vision to Book, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994), pp. 15-51.
42 ‘The Composition of Julian of Norwich’s Revelations of Love’, Speculum, 68, (1993), 637-683.
43 Bernard McGinn also believes that the Long Text is cumulative to the Short Text. The Varieties of Vernacular Mysticism 1350-1550, (NY: Crossroads, 2012), p. 438.
44 ‘Introduction’,  A Book of Showings, Part 1,  pp. 1-25.



n Ch. 51 of the Long Text, Julian comments, concerning the complete sequence of her visions, that ‘oure lorde god of his goodness bryngyth [it] oftymes freely to the sight of my vnderstondyng’, and, when perplexed by the Parable of the Lord and the Servant, she is directed to scrutinise its images more closely.  She is not asked to look at any previous written versions of the visions that she might have produced, or reflect on any words used. Our print culture privileges the written word, and assumes that verbal discourse is for the sophisticated, while the visual is for the illiterate, who are assumed to be unsophisticated. We see the beginnings of this assumption in the late 15th Century text Dives and Pauper, where Pauper’s presumed too literal response to holy images is a point of debate. In Julian, however, we see reflected a culture where the verbal and the visual are equally complex and many-layered methods of reflection, including reflection on quite abstract concepts. This would account for the lack of realism in some of the great visions of the medieval period, such as Bridget of Sweden’s vision of the birth of Christ: it is the meaning of the event that is being visualised, not the event itself. The visionary tradition of the late Middle Ages arises in a culture which deliberately cultivates the ‘imagination’, the capacity of the mind to make pictures. These pictures can be a way of representing and thinking through profouncly abstract discussions. This is what we see Julian doing in ch. 51, her longest, most daring, and most multi-layered chapter. This paper seeks to re-alert modern scholars to the verbal and the visual as absolutely equal partners in late medieval theologising.



etween Santha Bhattacharji's paper and Hurst/Haselock's presentation I would like to further assess the visual nature of some of Julian's revelations. I do believe that they 
suggest the influence of an artistic medium, which allows close - and repeated - examination: an illustrated book. The most likely codex a 14th century reasonably well-off
woman may have possessed, or at least had access to, would be a Psalter. Psalters were perhaps the most popular books for lay devotions until the late 14th century, when
they were superseded in this function by Books of Hours. Ancrene Wisse contains numerous references to the Psalter, with which the anchoresses were expected to be familiar;
they were also employed as learning means, even containing ABCs (to which Julian herself refers). There was a very strong tradition of 14th-century  illustrated East Anglian
Psalters, with a plethora of richly illuminated books for (presumably) aristocratic patrons, of which the most famous are perhaps the recently published facsimiles of the Luttrell
and the Macclesfield Psalters. I am hoping to demonstrate that some of the perplexing imagery appearing in Julian's revelations may come directly with such illustrated books.



aul Hurst and Jeremy Haselock have visited twenty-four selected Norfolk churches to discover, study and photograph their medieval rood screens for this book. This number represents only a quarter of the churches where screens with painted figures or scenes survive.

Yet more have extensive remains of bright colour, floral patterns and stencilled decoration. Hurst has developed new techniques with his photographic knowledge and experience to capture the screens in a way that provides a unique record.  These images have had very little post processing so they convey accurately the colours on the panels and the delicate brush strokes that model the figures. Haselock has carefully examined the screens themselves and all the available literature to provide a brief and accessible account of their subject matter, style and date.Norfolk is blessed with an abundance of wonder-filled medieval churches. With this book the authors hope to encourage people to visit them and experience the outstanding quality and splendour of the works of art within. Visiting these churches helps keep them open and alive and supports the dedicated people who love them, maintain them and ensure their future as places of worship and of encounter with our heritage.

Photograph of Despenser Retable, Paul Hurst



Cardinal Adam Easton's Pseudo-Dionysios

t has long been remarked that Julian of Norwich seems to share certain stylistic and theological elements with works of Pseudo-Dionysius, to whom Julian refers as “St Dyonisi.” More recently, Julia Bolton Holloway has pointed out that Julian may have known a manuscript owned by her contemporary, Cardinal Adam Easton, which contained Pseudo-Dionysios’ works. But is Julian’s theology “Dionysian”?

This paper proposes that neither Julian, nor Pseudo-Dionysios (whom the author identifies with Peter the Iberian) was “Dionysian” as Dionysios was, and often still is, understood in the West. Rather, as understood in the Eastern Church, his works use Neoplatonic language to explain Orthodox Christianity. Notably, however, Julian does not borrow either the primary arguments nor the puzzling and technical language of Pseudo-Dionysios’ works, although her theology is strongly reminiscent of Eastern Orthodox mysticism. The author concludes that whatever Julian may have known of Dionysios’s works, the two writers were describing similar experiences of near-death and of God’s all-encompassing Love, which they struggled to explain theologically to their contemporaries.


y task today is to examine Julian of Norwich with relation the theology of Dionysios the Areopagite, who is known in academic circles as Pseudo-Dionysius. We shall approach the topic in terms of major themes and with regard to the milieu in which the Dionysian corpus was produced.
In this kind of exercise, we must always remember that we are in fact talking about two people whose names we do not actually know, who lived centuries apart in different parts of the world, and whose churches were very different. Though this brief study is hardly definitive, it is nevertheless interesting to speculate about what Julian may have known about Dionysios, and how his writings may have influenced her.
Readers know that Julian’s Showing of Love refers briefly to “St. Dyonisi,” or “Denis of France,” who is meant to be Dionysios the Areopagite mentioned in Acts 17:34. Modern scholars agree that the person referred to by Julian would not have been the actual individual known to St. Paul, but a much later writer—possibly a Syrian, almost certainly a monk, possibly of the fifth century—who produced a number of spiritual reflections that became known in Europe several centuries later in Latin translation. These later gave rise, by Julian’s time, to English paraphrases such as the Hid Divinity, attributed at the time to the Areopagite mentioned in Acts; and The Cloud of Unknowing, which attempts to summarize Dionysian concepts.
There is no doubt that the Dionysian corpus as it was known in Latin influenced many western mystics, including Thomas Aquinas, Birgitta of Sweden and Julian’s contemporary Walter Hilton; as well as the author of the Ancrene Riwle. Elements of Dionysian ideas can be seen, for example, in the common medieval assumption that contemplative life consists of three major steps on the way towards union with God, known in English theology as “Purgation, Illumination, Union” or as Beginner, Proficient, and Perfect; or as “Dowell (Do-well), Dobet (Do better), Dobest.”[i]
By Julian’s day it was assumed that the biblical figure, Dionysios the Areopagite, had travelled to Gaul (hence, “St Denis of France”) and that he was buried at the abbey church of St-Denys. Indeed, there seem to be several figures called “Dionysius” whose identities were muddled in legend. These included not only the Greek philosopher mentioned in Acts—who, in Eastern Church tradition, became Bishop of Athens (his feast-day is October 3)—but a martyr whose head was cut off and who carried it around with him for several days before expiring.
Julian’s mention of Denis raises several interesting questions. Was she familiar with his works directly? Or, did she know of him through English paraphrases or translations of his works? But even if she did read his theology, how did she understand it? Are there elements of Dionysian thought in Julian’s Showing which we can identify?
I am unqualified to answer the question whether or how Julian knew the actual works of Dionysios. Julia Bolton Holloway has pointed out the possibility, perhaps even probability, that Julian knew a manuscript owned by the Cardinal Adam Easton, her contemporary.[ii] Cardinal Easton lived close to Julian’s cell in Norwich, was multilingual, and his manuscript included portions of Pseudo-Dionysios’ works both in Latin and in Greek. If Julian did not read these directly, she could easily have known about them and known of their content through discussions with the Cardinal or others who were familiar with Dionysian works. She almost certainly would have been familiar with Dionysian ideas as they were translated or paraphrased in English. Dionysios was in the air, and had been for a long time.
It is a different question, however, whether in fact Julian’s theology is Dionysian. She does have certain stylistic elements in common with Dionysios’ works, as was pointed out many years ago by Sr. Anna Marie Reynolds.[iii] On the other hand, as I wrote nearly forty years ago, Julian’s theology itself does not represent Dionysian thought as it was understood in England. This point must be made carefully. It is not that Julian is not Dionysian; rather, that she does not duplicate Dionysian thought as it was understood by her English contemporaries, or even by scholars in the West today.[iv]
To analyze Julian on this score is to enter a theological minefield. First there is the question whether Dionysios was correctly understood in England in Julian’s day, at least as Pseudo-Dionysios is viewed from the standpoint of Eastern Christian tradition. Even today, Orthodox theologians would say that Dionysios is a saint (leaving aside the issue of the actual identity of the writer) who draws out some of the deepest aspects of Orthodox spirituality; but that his work was misunderstood in the West to represent a form of Neoplatonism or Originism, variously embraced or rejected by Western mystics.
I must admit that this analysis is not universal among Orthodox, at least in America. Only last summer I spoke with a Greek-American academic who casually remarked that, of course, early Orthodox Christian theology is Neoplatonic. He not only did not see Neoplatonism as any sort of obstacle to Christian theology, but seemed to refer to it reverentially. However on this point I think nearly all Orthodox theologians would disagree. In general the Eastern perspective is that early Christian theology was not only not Neoplatonic, but that it was deliberately anti-Platonic in certain respects, even where Platonic language was adopted by Christian theologians and even where certain aspects of Platonic thought (including elements of Plato’s dialogues) were seen as pointing towards the incarnate Christ. Furthermore, to grasp this point is to grasp Orthodoxy as opposed to Augustinianism, Thomism and much of Western mysticism in general.
Second, it is important to evaluate whether Julian’s theology is “Platonic” or not. I have written about this at some length previously and will only touch on it here. My conclusion is that in essential matters Julian is not Platonic at all, even though she mentions Dionysios and even though she duplicates some of his thought.
Finally, once we have arrived at some understanding of Dionysios as he is understood in the East, we can look for points of similarity in Julian’s theological framework. I will argue here that Julian does not simply pass on phrases here and there which sound Dionysian, but rather that she puts forward an Orthodox mysticism which is profoundly Dionysian and profoundly Orthodox; while neither she, nor the original Dionysios, is a Neoplatonist.
Our task today is not to prove the identity of the actual author of the Dionysian corpus, nor to trace the transmission of the texts to medieval England by way of the court of Charles the Bald. Over the last century, and up to the present time, volumes have been written about these topics.  I would suggest, however, that we should not dismiss the tradition in the East that Dionysios was…well, Dionysios. In Orthodox tradition, the Dionysian corpus is understood as stemming from the teachings of the original Dionysios, even if redacted a number of times over several centuries. This is the tradition summarized in 1895 by the Rev. John Parker and resurrected each year on October 3 by John Sanidopoulos on his blog site, Mystagogy.[v]
I personally find compelling the argument that the identity of Dionysios the writer, however, was Peter the Iberian. Peter was a fourth-century monastic from Georgia (d. 492) who lived in the court of the Empress Evdokia (“Eudocia” or “Eudoxia”) in Constantinople, and who probably composed the original work in the 460’s—the corpus seeing some revision later on, perhaps in the 490’s.
The tradition that “Dionysios” is Peter the Iberian is very strong, to the point of certainty, in the Church of Georgia. According to ancient Georgian tradition, Peter/Dionysios was a “peace child,” originally known as Naburnagus (Naburnagos or Naburnagios), who was brought up in the Byzantine court and educated there. He eventually became a missionary to the “Arab Camp” near the lavra of St. Evthymios and the cenobium of St. Theoctistis. He was monastically trained in the desert tradition as embodied in contemporary saints such as Melania the Younger—a close friend of the Empress Evdokia—Evthymios, Sabbas, and others. Naburnagus had a mentor named John, a eunuch who experienced near-death and a marvellous vision of Paradise.
According to tradition, at some point Peter left the court of the Empress to accompany his mentor to Damascus, where the two lived as monks. Thus, Peter—the writer of the Dionysian corpus—was well educated in the Byzantine court and knew Platonic philosophy well, along with the very important Syrian monastic and liturgical tradition. This Syrian tradition notably includes the work of great and influential contemporary hymnographers such as Ephrem the Syrian, whose liturgical hymns are nothing less than profound Orthodox theology and prayer set to music. Ephrem, moreover, is known to us today as the author of the wonderful description of a vision of after-life known as the Hymns on Paradise.[vi]
Basil Lourié has recently revived the argument that Peter the Iberian was indeed the author of the Dionysian corpus.[vii] This argument was put forward in modern times by Shalva Nusybidze (1942) and Ernst Honigmann (1952), and revisited by Michel van Esbroeck in the 1990’s. Although, in Lourie’s words, van Esbroeck’s work was “largely ignored,” Lourie makes the case in considerable detail.
Lourié notes that only a few candidates could possibly fit the numerous criteria required for the “real” Dionyisios, the writer. These include the close relationship to a mentor, a eunuch, who had experienced near-death and a vision of Paradise; the particular style of language used in the Dionysian corpus; the author’s intimate knowledge of so many things, including the monastic life, the liturgies of the Eastern Church, the Syrian milieu, Platonic philosophy, the writings of the Empress Evdokia, contemporary controversies (especially the Trisagion Controversy and Dionysios’ “theopaschite” convictions), and so on. In this scheme, Peter/Dionysios is writing as an apologetic to pagan philosophy, but also to counter heresy, relying in part on Clement of Alexandria; and additionally to pass on the monastic tradition he had learned, as well as the visions of afterlife recalled by his mentor.
Following Honigmann, Lourié points out that John the Eunuch is surely the mentor who had the vision of Paradise. Furthermore, the Empress Evdokia’s father was a pagan Platonic philosopher. According to Nicephorus Callistus, Evdokia herself is credited with formulating an apologetic to Platonists using their own beautifully poetic linguistic style, being much influenced by Melania the Younger. There is some thought that Melania may also have composed some of the Dionysian corpus. In any case, the Dionysian author relies directly upon Evdokia’s ideas if not her actual words.
Whomever we find most likely to be the author of the Dionysian corpus, there are several characteristics of these works which we may underscore here:

 ·  First, the Dionysian works possess a peculiar vocabulary which would presumably have been understood in its own milieu, but which would not be typical anywhere else. Specifically, this is the language of monasticism and more specifically the school of Melania the Younger. The Dionysian works also reflect the peculiarities of the so-called Trisagion Controversy, being argued toward the end of the fifth century; and a Syrian Christian setting. Furthermore, there are references in Dionysios to liturgical phrases and elements (such as what are apparently the “deacon’s doors” in the iconostasis, through which the deacons enter and exit the Holy of Holies in an Orthodox Church) which would not likely have been recognized as such in the West.

·   Second, the themes which are important to the Dionysian works are not especially compelling to us in the West today, because (once again) they belong to a particular milieu which is not well understood outside the Eastern Orthodox tradition. These themes were, however, fascinating to medieval Western writers who first encountered them, precisely because they seemed “foreign” and exotic. They quickly became highly influential in western myscial literature, especially for writers like John Scotus Eriugena (who translated these works from Greek into Latin), who were already familiar with elements of Eastern Christian tradition.

·   Major themes in the Dionysian works include the idea that there is a celestial hierarchy which is replicated in the hierarchical structure of the Church and in its liturgies; the idea that the essence of God cannot be known, even though the “energies” or works of God are known; that it is possible to encounter angelic beings in prayer; that all that exists participates in some way in the goodness or positive existence which is God and which is God-given; and that, therefore, pure evil has no positive existence (since evil is what is not-God).        
At the risk of encountering objections from some quarters, I am going to argue that the Pseudo-Dionysius who is so well known in the West and who was so influential was therefore not the “real” Dionysios at all. In other words, once Dionysios’ works reached the West and were put into Latin, then later loosely rendered into English, they were seriously misinterpreted, even though highly influential. In essence, the Dionysian works were understood in a Neoplatonic way which was acceptable, and even compelling, in the West, but which would have been rejected in the Orthodox East.[viii]
This western “neoplatonism” appears chiefly in the idea that it is possible to know the essence of God, but only through various means of rising above, or escaping, the sensual life—that is, the physical, observable life of this world. Thus, as we noted earlier, the works of “St. Denis” gave rise in the West to several ideas which became commonplace among the mystics: that the material world is an impediment to knowing God, because the nature of God is spiritual (or supremely Rational) and not material; that, therefore, it is necessary to rise above the material world through prayer and certain spiritual exercises; and that the contemplative must pass through “stages” of experience, as mentioned earlier, in a sort of hierarchy of mystical knowledge.
All these are Neoplatonic concepts. In Western Christian mysticism the means of acquiring knowledge of the divine essence varies from writer to writer: it may be through reason (Aquinas), love (Bernard and many of the western mystics), an act of the will (Duns Scotus), and so on. This ascent is possible, if difficult, the emphasis being not so much on the grace and gift of God as on the process and effort of the aspirant. The divine Knowledge, in any case, is not for “ordinary” Christians.
I believe that a long-standing tendency in western Christian theology, from Augustine and Boethius onward, was to platonize Christian theology and contemplative prayer. This tendency naturally invited a Platonic reading of Dionysios.  However, the “real” Dionysios was actually saying something quite different. To understand this, we must return to the milieu in which Dionysios wrote.
Earlier, we noted that if Peter the Iberian were indeed the author of (most or all of) the Dionysian corpus, an important part of the milieu in which he wrote was Syrian: and specifically, the tradition of Syrian hymnography, in which theology is developed as part of the sung Liturgy of the Eastern Church. If so, “Dionysios’ ” primary personal orientation was not Neoplatonic philosophy but the Divine Liturgy and the context of the monastic services that are observed throughout the day and night.
Moreover, Dionysios/Peter was not chiefly concerned with philosophical speculation about the nature of God (as Reason, Love, Prime Mover, etc.) or even about the contemplative life. Rather, the language of the Dionysian corpus is that of experiential prayer, and specifically, Desert monastic contemplative prayer, hymnography and exposition of the Scriptures, in the context of the liturgical celebrations of the Eastern Church. We have to read his account of progression in the spiritual life in the context of other similar works from the same time—most famously, The Ladder of Divine Ascent by John Climacus (“Of the Ladder”) who lived at Mt. Sinai and who composed his work at about the same time (St. John reposed in 603).
The Syrian milieu of the Dionysian writer is partially available to us today in English translation, for example in some of the paradigmatic hymns of St. Ephrem the Syrian.[ix] Here we see precisely the themes which are addressed in the Dionysian corpus. These include the ideas that, ultimately, the essence of God is unknowable to human beings; that in Paradise there are realms or “hierarchies” about which we know very little in this life, but which are iconically portrayed in the Church; that the energies of God are at work around us in all that exists, even though we cannot know the Essence of God at all; and that everything that exists is good, insofar as it exists at all. These hymnographers also point out that therefore, evil is a kind of non-being, though evil things participate in God’s goodness by virtue of their existence.
These concepts are not specifically Syrian but permeate the work of Eastern theologians as early as the second century but certainly from the fourth century onward. They are part of a tradition which is seen in the work of monastic theologians such as SS Athanasios, Gregory of Nyssa, Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, Maximos the Confessor, and eventually, Gregory Palamas, who was contemporary with Julian.
Where did these important Dionysian ideas originate? Many writers today continue to attribute Pseudo-Dionysius’ ideas to philosophers such as Plotinus or Origen. However, we observed that Dionysian language reflects the actual experience of monastic prayer, Trinitarian teaching, the Divine Liturgy, and Syrian hymnography. We also noted the tradition that the Dionysian corpus was in part a theological reflection upon the near-death experience of the author’s mentor.    This mentor, like Ephrem the Syrian himself, had “seen” the after-life, and struggled to describe these extraordinary visions and to understand them theologically.  We should not simply ignore these elements of the tradition about the author.
Thus Peter/Dionysios, writing in a poetic style similar to that of St Ephrem, speaks of heavenly realms and heavenly bodies, Paradise, and the fact that human beings have no idea of the transcendent reality of the Divine Nature—things which were revealed to certain saints but which can cannot be understood by the rational mind. Rather than being a “Neoplatonist with a tinge of Christianity”[x], Dionysios/Peter was in fact a Christian apologist to Neoplatonists as well as a poet reflecting on the Liturgies and theology of the Eastern Church. We can even say that he would have rejected the most important premises of Neoplatonism that we see in later Western mysticism. Hence:

·   Dionysios is not arguing that God cannot be known unless we rise above this material existence. Rather, he is saying that the essence of God cannot be known at all because we are creatures, not the Creator. This point was mistaken in the West, and gave rise to a different kind of apophaticism in western mysticism. In the West, one can rise to the knowledge of God through various means (understood differently by different writers, based upon their grasp of the divine attributes such as Divine Love, or pure Reason, and so on).  But in the East, knowledge of the essence of God is simply and eternally impossible to the creature.

·   Dionysios is not arguing that only contemplatives can know God, by passing through certain hierarchical levels of experience. Rather, he is saying that through the workings of God, any person of prayer can experience God directly, that is, energetically, even though we cannot know the divine Essence. However, this intimacy with God, the Trinity, requires a cleansing of our lives from sin and the passions, which is iconically depicted and experienced in the Liturgies and sacraments of the Church.

·   Dionysios is not saying that there is a super-essential “godhead” or divine Essence (like the Hindu brahman) that transcends the personhood of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Rather, he is arguing (perhaps to a non-Christian audience) that the Essence of God is to be found in the union of the Three Persons, who are mysteriously One—something which the human mind cannot comprehend. This triadic unity must have been fascinating to Platonists to whom Dionysios’ writing is addressed, but it was first of all significant for theological hymns which he would have heard in the Divine Liturgy and the accompanying services of Great Vespers, Orthros (“Matins”) and the Hours. Furthermore, his reflections upon the nature of the Incarnation were important to a contemporary controversy over additions to the Trisagion hymn (“Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us”) which is repeated constantly in the Eastern Liturgies and personal prayers. This addition (which became known as the theopaschal position) was: “Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, crucified for us in the flesh...” The real question was whether God could somehow suffer. The author says “yes.”

·  Dionysios is saying that Christ is ‘o ōn,  “He Who Is” (as is traditionally inscribed in the nimbus around the head of Christ in all Orthodox iconography). These are the words which God uses to describe Himself to Moses (Exodus 3:14). Thus, if true Being is Christ, then nothing else that exists, exists in itself, but has being only insofar as there is the empowering, immediate, presence of God. Therefore the lover of God meets Christ in all things.        
Now let us compare Julian with Peter/Dionysios. Like Peter’s mentor John, Julian experienced visions of Paradise in her own near-death experience. Here she saw such things as Christ enthroned (which, interestingly, recalls the Eastern icon of Christ enthroned in Judgment); of a soul ascending into Heaven like a small child (again, recalling the Orthodox icon of the soul of Mary the Theotokos, in the arms of Christ at the time of her falling-asleep); of the divine revelation of the Father and the Spirit, in and through the incarnate Son; and so on. In developing these themes, however, Julian seems at first glance to be very different from the Dionysian writer on key points:
· Unlike Dionysios, Julian speaks repeatedly of the individual Persons of the Holy Trinity, and the salvific work which is peculiar to each of the Persons individually—even though all Three are always at work together in everything.

· Apparently unlike Dionysios, Julian wants to stress that the Persons of the Trinity were known to her specifically in Christ: that in Christ, we see the Father and the Spirit, for in Christ she “understood” the Trinity.

· Unlike Dionysios, Julian insists that she received her revelations, not from angels or any intermediaries but from God Himself—the Trinity, revealed through the Incarnate and crucified Son of God.

· Unlike Dionysios, Julian refers constantly to her “even-Christians,” and in this sense she seems opposed to the idea that there is any sort of hierarchy in the Christian life.

· Unlike Dionysios, who mentions Jesus occasionally, Julian speaks constantly of Jesus as her dearly beloved Lord and Savior.       
In all these points, Julian seems very nearly opposite Dionysios, though both share an emphasis on the Trinity. Thus at first glance it is nearly impossible to see how Dionysios might have directly influenced Julian—the two writers seem to have little in common. Certainly Julian was not a Syrian monk writing to other contemplatives who were already highly experienced in the practice of silence and psalmody.
However, another argument can be made: that in fact Julian’s theological outlook is profoundly Eastern, and for that reason highly reminiscent of Dionysian theology.  To appreciate this, we have to be aware of the Eastern Christian mystical tradition as a whole. A broad view, commonly assumed in the West, is that Dionysios was highly influential upon the works of later Eastern writers.  An even more broad view, however, is the Eastern perspective that there is an Apostolic tradition of mystical, supernatural prayer—attributable even to Dionysios the Areopagite who was known to St. Paul—which is adhered to consistently in the East. It is not derived from speculative philosophy but from the actual experience of the ascetics. This tradition is seen particularly in the Desert Fathers and Mothers of the 3rd-5th centuries, precisely the time in which the Dionysian corpus was produced. It was never abandoned in the East and is still very important today.
If Julian’s Showing of Love is read in light of Byzantine theology and mysticism, as presented for example in the 18th- and 19th-century collections of spiritual works known as the Philokalia, it becomes clear that her theology is remarkably similar on a number of key points. Frequently, these stand in contradiction to the arguments of her contemporaries. Some themes which demonstrate Julian’s “Orthodoxy” (with a capital “O”) are as follows :
· Emphasis on the Trinity: In Julian’s scheme, as in Eastern Orthodoxy in general, everything must be expressed in trinitarian ways because God is Trinity and cannot be known in any other way. Prayer itself is always trinitarian.

· Apophaticism: Although Julian does not labor the concept of “divine darkness,” she does clearly develop the idea of two “secrets” or “mysteries” in God. One of these mysteries is known to us through the revelation of Jesus Christ and is taught in the Church. However, the other we do not know; and this “secret” is the nature of God, the Trinity, within Himself, as well as the manner in which God will judge all things. Therefore we do not know, nor can we grasp, how divine Love will ultimately make “all things well.”

· Essence and Energies: As part of her apophatic theology, Julian makes the Dionysian distinction between the Being of God (the divine Essence) and the Energies of God (which she calls “workings,” an exact translation from the Greek energeia); and therefore between apophatic and cataphatic theology. Her explanation of apophatic theology is Eastern, not Western: she argues that it is impossible for the creature to know the Essence of God at all, because we are creatures and not Creator. And this is true, even though the contemplative can be fully immersed in God and (in Julian’s words), might not be able to distinguish between herself and God, while experiencing prayer and the “touching” of God.

· Glory: Julian continuously refers to the glory of Christ, as in the Transfiguration, as opposed to the emphasis in the West upon the immense suffering of Christ on the cross. Julian does clearly see the blood of Christ in the crucifixion itself; but she emphasizes the joy which the Son of God felt in suffering on our behalf. For Julian, the cross is surrounded by light.

· Theosis:  Julian’s understanding of salvation is of a process of growth into the divine likeness, in which we are glorified and share in the glory, beauty and joy of the transfigured Christ (the concept called theosis in Orthodoxy).

· Cleansing: The blood which fell down from the cross in profusion, like “scales on a herring,” is cleansing and life-giving blood. It washes clean from sin, even into Hades. This is very different from the general western emphasis (after Anselm) on the crucifixion as a payment for sin; but Julian’s understanding is depicted even today in Orthodox icons of the crucifixion, in which the blood flows down to Hades onto the skull of Adam.

· Redemption through the Incarnation: For Julian, the whole of the Trinity is revealed in Christ; and salvation is due to the “knitting” of humanity with divinity in His person. While this theme is found in the West as well as the East (for example, in the hymns that were chanted in the West at Easter midnight) Julian develops this theme theologically in a way which is not typical in the West—where the cross becomes the central, or even only, event which saves humankind. For Julian, it is the Incarnation which saves. Interestingly, this theme was important in the “theopaschism” of Peter the Iberian and his contemporaries, in which it is emphasized that on the cross it was the eternal Son of God who suffered in the flesh.

· Joy: Julian’s is not the fearful theology of an Anselm but the joyful and glorious theology of St. Symeon the New Theologian.

· Love: Julian does not see the Judgment of an angry God, but the joyful Love of God which is in Christ and which permeates all that exists. “There is no wrath in God.”

· Prayer: Julian has a balanced approach to contemplative prayer and asceticism, laboring to prove that her “even-Christians” (laypersons, not simply monks or contemplatives) can experience divine grace and even the vision of God. This is a theme we see in Eastern writers like Gregory the Theologian, Symeon the New Theologian, and Maximos the Confessor, but which we do not see in most of Julian’s contemporaries.

· A cosmic theology: Julian sees the inclusion of all the cosmos in the redemptive and re-creative acts of God, a theme which underlies Dionysian theology. Further, she sees the Divine Presence in everything that exists, at its center; and hence, that all that exists is good, by virtue of its participation in Being—a Dionysian argument which is pervasive in Orthodox tradition.

· The community of the Church: Julian emphasizes the community of believers rather than the individual in relationship to God, as in many Western writers.

· “No time”: Julian understands space/time with regard to creation, incarnation and resurrection in an Orthodox way—in which all space/time come together in Christ. This is depicted frequently in icons of Christ, such as the “Descent into Hades” (or “Resurrection”), which depicts before and after in terms of saints arranged on the left- and right-hand sides of the risen Christ.[xi]

· Christ as Mother: Julian exactly replicates an Orthodox idea of Christ as our divine Mother (described, for example, by Maximos the Confessor), in which we, ourselves, become “bearers of Christ.”      
The nature of sin and evil: For Julian, as in the Eastern fathers, evil has “no manner of being” (it is mē ōn); and sin is therefore “no-deed,” a malevolent negation of what is good. We note that Julian, like Dionysios, refers to evil deeds or evil things in the world as being a mixture of this non-being, or negativity, with goodness (insofar as all things that exist are good, and God is present in all things); hence, in the language of the Eastern fathers, sin is ouk ōn, a sort of malevolent or chaotic negativity.
In these and other respects, Julian’s theology converges with that of Dionysios, but need not be derived directly from it. In a short paper it is impossible to treat these points at any length. I hope to do so eventually in a book dedicated entirely to the subject of Julian and Eastern Orthodox monastic tradition. However, in this brief reflection I want to suggest that Julian is unique for her time and place in this very Eastern approach to theology and revelation, as well as to contemplative prayer itself. I would moreover argue that her theology is strikingly similar to that of St Gregory Palamas, the celebrated Archbishop of Thessaloniki, in all of these points.[xii]
It will be remembered that exactly contemporary with Julian, a controversy was taking place in the Orthodox world over the vision of the divine Light as described by hesychastic monks in the East. The champions of the two opposing sides were St. Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessaloniki, and the Italian monk Barlaam. I cannot account for whether Julian was familiar with the controversy; nor, if she were, how she might have found out about it; perhaps it was through Cardinal Easton, or while on her own pilgrimage to Italy.[xiii]  However, what can be said with some certainty is that Julian would not have taken Barlaam’s side if she had known about it.
Julian’s own experience is one of seeing divine Light, which she is quite sure is not a delusion nor a fantasy nor an evil imitation of the divine glory. Spending the remainder of her life in silent reflection and prayer, she would have smiled at Barlaam’s famous accusation that the Hesychasts were dizzy from staring at their own navels. And, like Palamas, she argues that while the contemplative can see the divine Light, no one can see or comprehend the Essential divine Being. Taken as a whole, her theology seems to spring much more from the pages of St. Gregory’s reflections, or from the Philokalia, than from the arguments of her peer Walter Hilton or the meditations of Anselm.
As to her own contemplative outlook, Julian could easily have been familiar with a strand of Eastern practical theology originating in the deserts of Egypt and passed down through the Latin Sayings and Lives of the Desert Fathers and Mothers. This desert tradition, which we see behind the works of all the later Hesychasts, was well known in the West as reported faithfully by John Cassian centuries before. It was faithfully incarnated into Irish monasticism, which sprang directly from the great lavras in Egypt and North Africa. This is the Irish tradition which produced Eriugena, who translated Dionysios’ works. It may be that in Julian’s Norwich, remnants of this Irish/Desert tradition were known and even practiced.
If Julian replicates many of the underlying themes of Dionysian theology, as we see them in the East—but not necessarily as Dionysios was understood in the West—why has this point not been recognized more consistently in modern commentaries about Julian? Perhaps it is because readers continue to stumble on the stone of Dionysios’ name in the Shewings, and consequently fall headlong into the usual (false) assumptions about Dionysios which have prevailed for so long in the West—namely, that the Dionysian corpus is Neoplatonic and that (consequently) Julian shared a Platonic outlook in theology.
I conclude with the recommendation that to understand the real Julian, as well as the “real” Peter/Dionysios, it is helpful to read the two strands side-by-side. For the uninitiated, it may be best not to begin with the Dionysian corpus, which is difficult to grasp in our western milieu, but with the works of Eastern writers such as Gregory of Nyssa (especially The Life of Moses), Maximos the Confessor, Symeon the New Theologian, and Gregory Palamas; and the hymns of Ephrem the Syrian. Here we see the elements of traditions which were already strong in the fourth century, and which are reflected in the Dionysian corpus of Peter the Iberian. Then, in Julian, we encounter the same themes again, but this time in language more familiar to the West.
Finally, with regard to how Julian knew these things, I bow to the opinion of my own spiritual mentor, the hermit Roland Walls, who used to say: There is a realm of the Holy Spirit shared by all the great mystics who have experienced divine grace. Let us not waste too much time trying to figure out what Julian may have read. Rather, let us recognize that there is a spiritual reality known well to Julian and to many others like her—her “even-Christians”—to whom were shown the mysteries of divine Love and the glory of the afterlife in Paradise. This is the milieu of the Holy Spirit, the Court of Christ, the Realm of Heaven, where Love fills all and is in all, and is All.

[i] The characters, “Do-Well,” etc. were described by Julian’s near-contemporary, William Langland.

[ii] See Julia Bolton Holloway and Sr. Anna Marie Reynolds, Julian of Norwich: Showing of Love, diplomatic edition of all extant texts and translation, SISMEL Edizioni del Galluzzo, 2001, esp. pp. 13 ff.

[iii] Reynolds, Sr. A.M., “Some Literary Influences in the Revelations of Julian of Norwich,” Trinity and All Saints’ Colleges, Horsforth, Leeds, 1973.

[iv] My early work has recently been republished as Lo, How I Love Thee: Divine Love in Julian of Norwich, Spring Deer Studio, 2013. See esp. pp. 49 ff.

[v] See Mystagogy, the web blog of John Sanidopoulos, under “Dionyios the Areopagite.” He has published several articles on this topic; the most recent is, “Are the Writings of Dionysios the Areopagite Genuine?” published on October 3, 2012.

[vi] Ephrem’s Hymns on Paradise is available in English in several editions, of which the translation by Sebastian Brock may be the most attractive.

[vii] Basil Lourié, “Peter the Iberian and Dionysius the Areopagite: Honigmann-Van Esbroeck’s Thesis Revisited,” in Srinium VI (2010), Patrologia Pacifica Secunda.

[viii] C.E. Rolt, in his translator’s preface, praises what he supposes to be Pseudo-Dionyisus’ Neoplatonism which he believes subsequently influenced Julian of Norwich and other western mystics.

[ix] See also Ephraim the Syrian, A Spiritual Psalter Or Reflections on God (excerpted by Bishop Theophan the Recluse from the works of Ephraim the Syrian), tr. Br. Isaac Lambertsen, The St. John of Kronstadt Press, 1990.

[x] This phrase and the following argument was coined by Vladimir Lossky in The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, James Clarke and Co. Ltd, 1957, esp. pp. 99-100.

[xi] For this and the following see my article, “Leaving the Womb of Christ: Love, Doomsday, and Space/Time in Julian of Norwich and Eastern Orthodox Mysticism,” in McEntire, Sandra (ed.), Julian of Norwich: A Book of Essays, Garland Publishing, 1998.

[xii]  See Meyendorff, John, St. Gregory Palamas and Orthodox Spirituality, tr. Adele Fiske, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1974.

[xiii] It has been suggested by Sr Ritamary Bradley and Julia Bolton Holloway that Julian may have accompanied Adam Easton to Italy, perhaps for the canonization of St. Birgitta/Bridget of Sweden (to whom Julian refers as “Bride”). There is internal evidence in the Showing of Love for some knowledge on Julian’s part of things she would have seen in Rome, such as the display of the “Holy Vernicle” or Veronica’s Veil; St Birgitta’s board on which she wrote, ate, and died, displayed to pilgrims in the Holy City; contemporary Italian Church art, and so on.



he Book of Margery Kempe, often described as the first autobiography in English, was probably written in the late 1430s and presents an account of the visionary encounters and conversations with Christ experienced by a woman from a prosperous urban mercantile family, who lived in Lynn in Norfolk. This statement, which opens the preface to a recent Companion to the Book of Margery Kempe (Arnold and Lewis 2004: xvii), emphasises Margery’s attempts to follow a life of intense spirituality while living in the world, rather than withdrawing from it as an anchoress or nun. A no less important aspect of the Book is represented by the many contacts Margery established with spiritually-minded people; among these is Julian of Norwich, whose counsel Margery sought to validate her experience as religious and pious woman. My paper will focus on this aspect in the context of late medieval spirituality.


An examination of the texts by Margery and Julian has traditionally produced the fairly widespread view that these holy women illustrate different kinds of piety. This view is currently being revised (see for instance Warren 2010). Of course there are striking differences between the two holy women, but these seem to refer to their form of living and to the form and style of their texts rather than to the affective piety underlying their incarnational spirituality: both reach the union with the divinity through the visual and experiential engagement with Christ’s life and passion. It is in fact my contention that the spirituality of both holy women is characterised by corporeally-focused piety, which attributes an extraordinary spiritual power to holy bodies and to Christ’s body in particular. This is in line with late medieval devotional practices which were in no small part centred on the crucifix, images of saints and relics (Freeman 2011) and connected the crucial anxiety about sinfulness and salvation to the incarnate Christ (Warren 2010). The two pious women not only focus on the devotion to the suffering body of Christ but also on their own suffering bodies, a crucial aspect of both Margery’s and Julian’s way of experiencing the union with the divine. It is in fact a severe illness after the birth of Margery’s first child that causes her repentance and makes her desire to devote herself to a pious way of life. It is Julian’s express desire to receive from God a severe illness that opens her book of revelations. In short they both participate in the cultural context of late medieval religiosity. This is even more striking considering that their ways of life differ dramatically as does their textual ways of expressing their meditations on the Passion.
In this paper, I will focus on the spiritual encounter between Margery and Julian to illustrate points of convergence as well as different ways of perceiving their visions of the crucified Christ. In my presentation I’ll focus on three main issues. After briefly summarising the main differences between the two holy women and their texts, I will examine the mode in which meditations on the passion in The Book are textualised overlaps with Julian’s way of reporting similar experiences especially those involving imagination and visualization in order to show how embodied piety and body language plays a central role in the spiritual and textual life of both women.

Devout ways of life in late medieval Anglia: two different forms of living

Margery and Julian were near contemporary women living not far apart in East Anglia, where they conducted utterly different ways of life. While much is known about Margery social and biographical background, which has been reconstructed from the information contained in The Book and local documents (Goodman 2002), not much of Julian’s social and biographical background can be inferred from her work, though links with the Norwich Benedictine milieu and Cardinal Adam Easton have been highlighted by Julia Bolton Holloway.
As is well known, Julian was a contemplative, lived as an anchoress in a cell attached to the church of Saint Julian  in Conisford, Norwich. She had stability of place and gave advice to people seeking spiritual counsel. She was certainly apt to exercise such a role as she had written a treatise, which differently form The Book of Margery does not contain many biographical references, but focuses on the explanation of the meaning of her visions and thus constitutes a vernacular theology.
Margery’s Book, on the other hand, is so rich in biographical elements that it has often been defined as the first autobiography in English. It does not has the theological sophistication of Julian’s Showing of Love but presents, in addition to external events, a narrative of her spiritual development over a period of about forty years (Bhattacharji 1997), in short an exemplary life, a mirror for sinners who want to repent and convert to a religious way of life. It depicts a form of living which differs greatly from that of Julian. Margery’s spirituality  has two crucial components in that her life is characterised not only by visions and colloquies with Christ and para-mystical experiences, but it is also characterised by pilgrimages and repeated encounters with spiritually-minded people whom she seeks in order to discern her spirits and validate her form of living as that of a saintly woman. She is restless, always on the move to visit shrines or to meet confessors, counsellors and prelates. The number of her journeys is not small and ranges from trips to English shrines accompanied by her husband to visits to continental holy places and a voyage to Holy Land. Also the number of her encounters with spiritual advisors is not small ranging from spiritual directors and confessors in England and abroad to Church dignitaries such as bishops and archbishops. To sum up, there are conspicuous differences in the form of living of the two English mystic women.

Margery and Julian: a spiritual encounter expressed by different textual styles

Also their works show striking differences, both of content, aim and style. It is, however, my contention that Margery and Julian share a similar spirituality, though they express it differently in their works. To prove this point I’ll focus on their meditations on the Passion, a crucial focus of late medieval devotion and an important component of both women’s piety.
Before dealing with their Christocentric visionary experiences let me introduce this topic by exploring the motives of Margery’s visit to Dame Julian. Margery’s spiritual life is marked by her belonging to a network of spiritual friendships. Her visits to the noted anchoress Julian is certainly motivated by Margery’s desire to test her spirits (Bhattacharji 1997), but may also be due to her wish to seek support by encountering similarly-minded spiritual friends. We know from The Book that they had several days of conversation together discussing many topics (Bolton Holloway b), which seems to indicate that a companionable relationship was established between the two devout women.
Judging from their works it seems that striking parallels exist in the Christocentric experiences of Margery and Julian. Both focus on the corpus of Christ on the crucifix and his experience of suffering. Their knowledge of Christ is gained both textually and experientially: they come to know Christ through the discourse of affective piety and by identifying themselves with his sufferings. Julian’s and Margery’s spirituality is informed by the late medieval piety centring on visual and experiential engagement with Christ’s passion and by contemporary devotional writings. Both have meditations based on complex relations of bodily and spiritual sight and show a detailed attention to the suffering body of Christ. Beyond their different lifestyles, the striking parallels existing in the Christocentric experiences of Margery and Julian blur the fairly widespread view that there is a distinction between the piety of Margery and that of Julian.
However there are important differences in their reporting their visionary experience; these are primarily stylistic, but may also be due to their different cultural backgrounds. While the style of Margery’s meditation on the crucified Christ resonates with echoes of contemporary popular Franciscan and Cistercian meditative manuals inspiring devotees actively to participate in the events of the life of Christ, Julian’s contemplation on the crucifix has been linked to the tradition of the more sophisticated Benedictine Lectio Divina (Bolton Holloway a).
In the context of the recent re-evaluation of the Book within the genre of devotional literature (Yoshikawa 2007,) The Book is now considered not just a discursive reconstruction of a recollected life by a pious laywoman, but also the reporting of a spiritual growth centred on meditative experience. Within this framework, the contemplation on the Passion is one of the major meditational experiences recounted in The Book. Margery focuses on this event twice: first during the Jerusalem pilgrimage (chs 28-30) and later in the context of the Easter liturgy (chs 78-81). Both accounts are intensively emotional and highly visual. While in the first case her response to the Passion is triggered by the sight of the holy places, in the second it is influenced by the dramatic performance of the Easter ritual. Margery is both an observer and a participant through her senses.
In chapter 28 of The Book the inner vision of Christ recalls to Margery the vivid memory of the passion and reminds her of the love between humankind and God according to the meditational process recommended in contemporary treatises1, such as, for instance, The Mirror by Nicholas Love. A detailed stylistic analysis of this passage compared to a similar passage in The Revelation of Love is contained in Del Lungo Camiciotti (2008). There is no time here to recall it. So I will only point to crucial stylistic differences revealing their belonging to different contemplative traditions reflecting dissimilar cultural backgrounds.
The passage reporting Margery’s meditation begins with a description of what she sees, the wounded body of Christ, for the benefit of the scribe and the implied audience. Yet what is foregrounded in end-position of the passage is Margery's visceral response triggered by the sight of the suffering body of Christ. In short, after describing the mental image of Christ, she recounts what occurred to her, how she perceived the meaning of the Passion. The language is intimately bound up with devotional practices; Margery, in fact, uses the typical imagery and vocabulary employed in innumerable late medieval texts, but the organisation of the passage is very personal. The language contributes to building up a spatial perspective, where details and actions are observed from a detached point of view, without any causal connection.
The specificity of Margery's meditation is better understood if compared to one by Julian of Norwich with similar content. In the eighth meditation in chapter 16 (Glasscoe 1993: 24-25) Christ reveals to Julian a partie of his passion nere his deyeng. Julian observes from a fixed perspective the physical change occurring in Christ's body: the slow discolouring and the drying up of parts of his body in succession. The description is dynamic in the sense that Julian remains motionless while she watches the picture unfold before her eyes. The description of the slow changes occurring in Christ's body is interspersed with compassionate remarks on what she sees and phrases indicating her personal involvement (I saw, I said), and concludes with a comment interpreting the revelation.
As is apparent from this example, both mystics focus on the suffering body of Christ, albeit they do so from different perspectives. Julian is a serious and well-educated theologian and her book of revelations is both a spiritual autobiography and a theological treatise. In short, she is an intellectual using reasoning to explain her spiritual doctrine to his audience, while Margery uses the language of her senses to report her experience of the divinity as involved observer.
To sum up, Julian and Margery are the first women mystics in England to occupy the only public space allowed to women by authoring religious works of meditation and contemplation. Julian analyses her revelations and explains the meaning and the doctrinal content of her faith following the tradition of Lectio Divina. Margery, on the other hand, focuses on her spiritual experience expressing it in an emotive and sensory language inspired by the late medieval popular religiosity for the laity. In brief, they focus on the same evangelical events but adopt different perspectives in reporting them in their works: experiential in the case of Margery who tends to follow the Franciscan meditative tradition by participating in the recollected evangelical stories, while Julian meditates on the evangelical events by reflecting on their meaning and offering her audience a more systematised set of comments, a vernacular theology.

Concluding observations

In summary, it is easy to highlight the contrasting elements existing between the two mystical works authored by Margery and Julian, as many scholars have done, and certainly such contrasts exist. However, they should not be overemphasised. Despite the differences of cultural background and reporting style, the works share a genuine concern for inner life and the bodily nature of late medieval religious culture is common to both.

The visual quality of her meditation is stated in the Book, where it is said that she had the inner vision of Christ hanging before her bodily sight in his humanity (Windeatt 2000: 166, ll. 2265-6).

Arnold John H. and Lewis Katherine J. (2004). A Companion to the Book of Margery Kempe. Cambridge: D.S. Brewer.
Bhattacharji Santha (1997). God is an Earthquake. The Spirituality of Margery Kempe. London: Darton, Longman and Todd.
Bolton Holloway Julia a,
Bolton Holloway Julia b. The Soul a City: Margery and Julian.
Del Lungo Camiciotti Gabriella (2008). 'Margery Kempe as pilgrim and mystic writer: a reappraisal from a stylistic perspective'. In Iamartino G., Maggioni M. L., and Facchinetti R. (eds). Thou sittest at another boke…English Studies in Honour of Domenico Pezzini. Monza: Polimetrica, 289-303.
Freeman Charles (2011). Holy Bones, Holy Dust, How Relics Shaped the History of Medieval Europe. New Haven: Yale University press.
Goodman Anthony (2002). Margery Kempe and her World. London: Longman.
Julian of Norwich (2001). Showing of Love: Extant Texts and Translations. Edited by Sister Anna Maria Reynolds, C.P. and Julia Bolton Holloway. Florence: SISMEL Edizioni del Galluzzo.
Il Libro di Margery Kempe. Autobiografia spirituale di una laica del Quattrocento  (2002). Traduzione e introduzione a cura di Del Lungo Camiciotti Gabriella. Milano: Ancora.
Love Nicholas (2004). The Mirror of the Blessed Life of Jesus Christ. Edited by Michael G. Sargent. Exeter: University of Exeter Press.
The Book of Margery Kempe (2000). Edited by Windeatt Barry. Harlow, Essex: Longman.
Yoshikawa Naoë K. 2007, Margey Kempe' s Meditations: The context of medieval devotional literature, liturgy and iconography. University of Wales Press, Cardiff.
Warren Nancy Bradley (2010). The Embodied Word. Female Spiritualities, Contested Orthodoxies, and English Religious Cultures, 1350-1700.  Notre Dame, Indiana, University of Notre Dame Press.

She had so very contemplacyon in the syght of hyr s[owle] as yf Crist had hangyng befor hir bodily eye in hys manhode. And whan thorw dispensacyon of the hy mercy of owyr Sovereyn Savyowr, Crist Jhesu, it was grawntyd this creatur to beholdyn so verily hys precyows tendyr body - alto-rent and toryn wyth scorgys, mor ful of wowndys than evyr was duffehows of holys, hangyng upon the cros wyth the corown of thorn upon hys hevyd, hys blysful handys, hys tendyr fete nayled to the hard tre, the reverys of blood flowing owt plentevowsly of every membre, the gresly and grevows wownde in hys precyows syde schedyng owt blood and watyr for hys lofe and hyr salvacyon - than sche fel down and cryed wyth lowde voys, wondyrfully turnyng and wrestyng hir body on every side, spredyng hir armys abrode as yf sche schulde a deyd, and not cowde kepyn hir fro crying and these bodily mevyngys, for the fyer of lofe that brent so fervently in hir sowle wyth pur pyte and compassyon. (Windeatt 2000: 166-7, ll. 2265-80).

I saw hys swete face as it was drye and blodeles with pale deyeng; and sithen more pale, dede, langoring, and than turnid more dede into blew, and sithen more brown blew, as the flesh turnyd more depe dede; for his passion shewid to me most propirly in his blissid face, and namly in his lippis; there I saw these iiii colowres, tho that were aforn freshe, redy and likyng to my sigte. This was a swemful chonge to sene this depe deyeng, and also the nose clange and dryed, to my sigte, and the swete body was brown and blak, al turnyd oute of faire lifely colowr of hymselfe onto drye deyeng; for that eche tyme that our lord and blissid savior deyid upon the rode it was a dry, harre wynde and wond colde, as to my sigte; and what tyme the pretious blode was blede oute of the swete body that migte pass therfro, yet there dwellid a moysture in the swete flesh of Criste , as it was shewyd. Blodeleshede and peyne dryden within and blowyng of wynde and cold commyng fro withouten metten togeter in the swete body if Criste. And these iiii, tweyn withouten, and tweyn within, dryden the fleshe of Criste be process of tyme. And thow this peyne was bitter and sharpe, it was full longe lestyng, as to my sighte, and peynfully dreyden up all the lively spirits of Crists fleshe. Thus I saw the swete fleshe dey, in semyng be party after party, dryande with marvelous peynys. And as longe as any spirit has life in Crists fleshe, so longe sufferid he peyne. (Glasscoe 1993: 24)

A detailed stylistic analysis of these two passages is contained in Del Lungo Camiciotti (2008). 'Margery Kempe as pilgrim and mystic writer: a reappraisal from a stylistic perspective'. In Iamartino G., Maggioni M. L., and Facchinetti R. (eds). English Studies in Honour of Domenico Pezzini. Monza: Polimetrica, 289-303.

On the next page of the handout there are three extracts taken from this article reporting the linguistic analysis of the above passages.

The compositional style of the Book is of a simplicity usually associated with straightforward narrative: the sequencing of clauses and sentences is organised paratactically: a series of clauses of similar status are loosely linked by and and then; very few subordinate clauses or non temporal cohesive ties are used. Because most sentences are declarative, the clause elements occur most often in the order SVO, which is normally associated with the expression of actions in narrative. But Margery's recollections are not organised in plain, chronological sequencing of events; these are recorded according to a pattern which is predominantly associational, following her perceptual point of view, and interspersed with meditations. Her characteristic narrative mode is visual: in reading her book, we are not merely told what happens, we are invited to see things through her eyes. This is even more so in the report of meditations, which are either dramatic, that is, reporting dialogic scenes she participates in, or descriptive, that is, giving information, through description, as to what her senses perceive. A very complex and analytic description of a vision is that of the crucified Christ on Mount Calvary(Del Lungo Camiciotti 2008: 298)

The best place to start analysing this passage [from Margery’s Book] is with syntax since this leads straight to the heart of the passage. It is a long and complex period (16 lines), stretching from line 2265 to line 2280 (Windeatt 2000: 166-167) composed of two sentences. In the first, we are told that she experienced a true contemplation of Christ; in the second, we have a detailed description of the vision and Margery's reaction to it, which had already been anticipated at lines 2205-2211 (Windeatt 2000: 162-163). The second sentence is composed of two clauses: a temporal clause beginning with whan (line 2266) followed by the main clause beginning with than at line 2275. The temporal clause begins with an adverbial phrase followed by the main verb phrase (an agentless passive construction introduced by it) containing the object of meditation hys precyows tendyr body. This is followed by seven lines of piling up of details usually in couplets, sometimes linked by allitteration or echoing. It is only at line 2275 that we encounter the main clause, than sche fel down and cryed, which causes a shift of attention from the body of Christ to the reaction of Margery. The remainder of the passage consists in a sequence of phrases and clauses adding information about Margery's behaviour in an incremental way. As can be seen, the prevailing structure is right-branching; phrases and clauses are added to the right of each important element of the description -- the body of Christ and Margery's reaction -- one after the other without any hierarchical order. The two foci of attention constitute a balanced structure: the first is predominantly static as the description of the suffering body of Christ is constructed through past participles, while the second is all action as the bodily pain endured by Margery is mostly expressed through -ing forms. The first part of the meditation is pictorial, a piling up of visual and physical details, which are perceived by Margery one by one as they present themselves to her inner sight. The trailing, right-branching syntax leads us through this sequencing of impressions, which seem to follow the eye of the observer from the first pole of attention to the second one; no account of thoughts and feelings is given, just the report of the external effects of the piteous sight. To sum up, language contributes to building up a spatial perspective, where details and actions are observed from a detached point of view, without any causal connection.(Del Lungo Camiciotti 2008: 299)

The passage [by Julian’s Revelation of Love] consists in a series of sentences of equal status which flow till the end of the chapter so that the attention remains focused on Christ and the pains he endured. The participation of Julian is signalled by the use of clauses such as I saw, I said, which anchor the point of view, and causative connections such as for and thus, which foreground her role as interpreter of the revelation. Her vision is prompted by her compassion for the suffering of the dying Christ, but there is no explicit transfer of pain from Christ to Julian. She remains a detached observer and describer of the mental image. The stylistic analysis supports this interpretation. She does not use the bodily language employed by Margery; on the contrary, her report is characterised by the theological language of causation and the fixed perspective of an observer. Moreover, she very clearly points out that what she reports is seen from her point of view through the use of phrases such as as to my sigte and to my sigte. 



In this paper, I will synthesize the research I have done on the fifteenth-century manuscripts that contain the short version and fragments of the long version of Julian of Norwich’s Showings: London, British Library, MS Additional 37790 (Amherst) and London, Westminster Cathedral Treasury, MS 4 (Westminster). I will discuss how her texts have been contextualized within the manuscripts, and what we can learn about the dissemination of her texts from these witnesses. I will also comment on the questions that remain about her text, and how it came to form part of the Amherst anthology and the Westminster compilation.





om Augustine Baker, OSB (1575-1641), is known above all for Sancta Sophia (Holy Wisdom), distilled from his treatises written principally for the English Benedictine nuns of Cambrai (now at Stanbrook) by his confrère Dom Serenus Cressy, and first published at Douai in 1657. His unpublished treatises are now in process of publication in the series Analecta Cartusiana (Salzburg University), which makes for a more direct and intimate appreciation of Fr Baker himself./1 He was a boarder (supplementary priest) at the Cambrai convent from the end of 1624 to the summer of 1633, when he was moved to the Benedictine house at Douai; in 1638 he was sent on the English Mission. Though not the Vicar (official chaplain) to the nuns, he became confessor and spiritual director to very many of them. Dame Catherine Gascoigne, who became Abbess in 1629, was a life-long supporter of his teaching on the spiritual life.

Father Baker was very widely read in the classical writers on prayer and spirituality, from the Desert Fathers and John  Cassian (with Dorotheus of Gaza and John Climacus in Latin translation), through the principal Latin writers of his own day. He made many translations from Latin authors into English for the nuns. A significant part of his programme was to encourage the reading of significant pre-Reformation English texts, either from printed editions if these were available, or else from manuscript copies; if the nuns did not already have a copy in their library, he sought out copies for them. His reading-list for the nuns exists in various forms./2 In the fullest form known to survive, it includes Walter Hilton's Scale of Perfection, William Bond's Pilgrimage of Perfection, Remedies against Temptations (ascribed to Richard Rolle of Hampole, but actually the Augustinian Friar William Flete), The Twelve Fruits of the Holy Ghost, 'Hampolls Works in one volume', William Whitford's Tunne or Pipe of Perfection, and The Cloud of Unknowing./3

Julian's Revelations of Divine Love are not included in Fr Baker's reading-lists, nor does he himself directly refer to or quote from Julian in his own treatises giving directions for prayer.

However, there is clear evidence that Julian's Revelations were accessible to the Cambrai nuns, if not during Father Baker's residence at Cambrai, then at any rate very shortly after his departure. Dame Margaret Gascoigne, a younger sister of Abbess Catherine Gascoigne, died in 1637. Father Baker assembled Dame Margaret's devotional papers, and also wrote an account of her Life./4 Father Baker describes Dame Margaret's preparation for death:

Towards the said good preparation for death, and to hold her the more continuallie and efficaciouslie therein, she caused one that was the most conuersant and familiar with her, to place (written at and vnderneath the Crucifix, that remained there before her, and wch she regarded wth her eyes during her sicknes and till her death), thes holie wordes, that had sometimes ben spoken by God to the holie virgin Julian the clustresse of Norwich, as appeareth by the old manuscript booke of her Reuelations, and wth the wch wordes our Dame had euer formerlie ben much delighted: "Inteade (or attende) to me; I am inough for thee; reioice in me thy Sauiour and in thy saluation."/5
These words are taken from chapter 36 of the Long Text of Julian's Revelations. In chapter 42 of Margaret's Devotions there is a longer direct quotation from this same chapter of the Long Text where Father Baker adds a note to highlight the quotation from Julian:
Thou hast saide (O.L.), to a deare childe of thine: 'Let me alone, my deare-worthy childe, intend (or attend) to me, I am enough to thee: reioyce in thy Sauior & saluation'. (This was spoken to Julian ye ankresse of Norwch, as appeareth by ye Booke of Reuelations).
and more briefly in chapter 43: 'Attend to me, for I am enough to thee'.

One of the two extant copies of Dame Margaret's Devotions, now at Colwich Abbey/6, was made by Dame Bridget More, a descendant of St Thomas More, who was professed at Cambrai in 1630, and was sent with the colony of nuns to found the daughter house in Paris (now Colwich), where she was elected the first Prioress in 1652. Dame Bridget also copied an extract from Julian, found in another Colwich manuscript, which so far as I know has not been noticed:
Out of an old Einglish booke.                                                                                                                                       
Our good Lord shewed yt it is full great pleasure to him yt a seelie soule come to him naked, planly, & homely. For this is ye kind [naturall supra] dwelling of ye soule by ye touching of ye Holy Ghost, as by ye vnderstanding in this shewing. God of thy goodnes : giue me thy-self, for thou art inough to me, & I may aske nothing vnles yt may be full worship to thee; & if I aske any-thing yt is les, euer me wanteth; only in thee I haue all. And therefore I may aske of our louer wth reuerance all yt I will, for our kindly will is to haue God, & we may neuer cease of willing nor of longing till we haue him in fullness of love. And then we may no more will, for he will yt we be occupied in knowing & louing till ye time yt we shall be filled in heaven./7
The words 'Thou art inough to me' suggest the passage from Julian's Long Text associated with Dame Margaret's death-bed, but in fact this passage is a combination of two extracts from chapters 5 and 6 of the Long Text where it is Julian who addresses Christ in response to his revelation: 'Thou art Inough to me'./8

The form 'Thou art enough to mee' is also found in Dame Margaret's Devotions, chapters 17, 18, 28, 31, 49. In chapter 28 this is linked with the Franciscan motto, 'Deus meus et omnia, My God and my all', which is also found in chapter 48, looking forward to chapter 49.

A further witness to the continued access by the Cambrai nuns to a copy of Julian's Revelations has long been known: the Upholland Anthology/9 collection of extracts, principally from Father Baker's writings and translations, but also from some other sources, in four seventeenth-century hands, including that of Dame Barbara Constable (1617-84; professed at Cambrai 1649, died 1684), a devoted and accurate copyist of Father Baker's writings and of records of the Cambrai community. It has been suggested that another hand in this manuscript, may have been that of Dame Bridget More/10, but this has not been clearly made out.

The Upholland Anthology contains in Dame Barbara's hand a full transcription of Julian's twelfth revelation (Long Text, chapter 26), and a partial transcription of her thirteenth revelation (Long Text, part of chapter 27, all of chapter 28; part of chapter 30, part of chapter 32)./11 [Since these are available in the printed and on-line editions to which I refer in the notes, I do not reproduce them here.]

There are three extant manuscripts of the complete Long Text dating from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The first is Paris, Bibliothèque National, Fonds anglais 40, which Fathers Colledge and Walsh in their edition used as their base text. They dated the manuscript as circa 1650; however Sister Anna Maria Reynolds, C.P., in her Leeds University theses, 1947, 1956, dated it correctly to the sixteenth century, and more recently Dr A.I. Doyle has identified a watermark in the paper as circa 1580./12 The second, used by Marion Glasscoe for her edition/13, is British Library, Sloane 2499, which Fathers Colledge and Walsh also dated circa 1650; they note that the hand closely resembles that of Mother Clementia Cary (died 1671), foundress of the Paris English Benedictine convent, and daughter of Henry Cary, Viscount Falkland, Viceroy of Ireland, and Elizabeth, Lady Falkland. Father Cressy was confessor to the English Benedictine nuns in Paris for about a year from 1651. British Library, Sloane 3705, copies the same manuscript as does Sloane 2499, but modernises Julian's text, while Sloane 2499, though hastily written, takes great pains to replicate the original Norwich dialect of its exemplar.

The Julian extract in Colwich MS 22 must have been copied from a manuscript closely related to the Paris Julian manuscript. It has the reading 'ye kind dwelling of ye soule' in common with Paris where Sloane has, surely more correctly, 'the kinde yerninge of the soule' - a point noted by Colledge and Walsh in their edition. The Upholland extracts have some modernisations by comparison with the Paris text, but again they are compatible with it. Thus, in the extract from chapter 28, Upholland has 'right no thing alone' (fol. 115) where Paris has 'ryght nought aloone' (fol. 52v) and Sloane has 'not alone' (fol. 38)/

Father Baker makes references throughout his treatises to women religious, always in terms of high respect. It may therefore be asked, why has he no reference in his own teachings on prayer (as distinct from incidental notes to explain references in his presentation of Dame Margaret Gascoigne) to Julian?

On the knowledge that we have, a conceivable explanation might be that the manuscript of Julian at Cambrai - related to the extant Paris manuscript - reached the community only after Father Baker had drawn up his most complete reading list (or at any rate the most complete list known to us), or even after his departure from Cambrai.

Alternatively, the manuscript may have been present at Cambrai, and accessible to the nuns during Father Baker's ministry there. If this were the case, why should he have refrained from recommending it to the nuns for reading?

Julian emphasises strongly devotion to the Sacred Humanity of Christ, whereas Fr Baker repeatedly points to writers more or less influenced by the apophatic tradition. But in reality there is no conflict between the two ways: they are complementary the one in the other. Father Baker's devotion to the person of Christ, and to Our Lady, is evident in, for instance, the exercises in the Idiot's Devotions./15

Nor is there any reason why Father Baker should have felt any difficulty about Julian's visionary experiences; since Julian herself is clear that her visiions are not ends in themselves, but are points of departure for her deepening understanding of faith and growth in love of God and of her fellow Christians. A very comparable balanced approach to visionary experiences is found in Teresa of Avila, for whom (with Saint John of the Cross, and their fellow Carmelite John of Jesus and Mary), Father Baker had a very deep respect.

Could Julian's wrestlings with the problem of the reality of evil, and her hope for the salvation of all, have been a problem to Father Baker? Again, there would have been no reason for this. Julian never makes any dogmatic universalist statement. Rather, she says that Christians may and should hope for the salvation of all, and that what seems impossible to man is not impossible to God; from this point, she leaves the mystery of judgment and salvation in the hands of the God of love.

More problematic for Father Baker might perhaps have been Julian's application of the image of motherhood to God in Christ,. But again, the application of some female imagery to God, who in any case includes in himself all that is male and female, and infinitely more, has antecedents in Christian theology. Moreover, in Julian's profoundly balanced and fundamentally traditional (and very Augustinian) Trinitarian theology, it is to Christ, as the second Person of the Trinity, alone, that the image of motherhood is applied; in Christ, as God the Son, to whom Wisdom, Sapientia, represented as a female person in scripture, is applied.

                     Dame Bridget More, O.S.B.

       Dame Barbara Constable, O.S.B.

1 The series is published under the editorship of Professor James Hogg under the imprint of the University of Salzburg. Since 1997 nearly forty volumes devoted to Father Baker have been published (=AC). Earlier studies had been Memorials of Father Augustine Baker OSB, and Descriptive Catalogue of Manuscripts in English and Foreign Libraries from the Works and Life of Father Augustine Baker OSB and Other Documents Relating to the English Benedictines, ed. Justin McCann and Hugh Connolly, Catholic Record Society, 55 (1933); Placid Spearitt, OSB, 'The Survival of Mediaeval Spirituality among the Exiled English Black Monks', American Benedictine Review 25 (1974), 287-309. Most recent is Nancy Bradley Warren, The Embodied Word: Female Spiritualities, Contested Orthodoxies, and English Religious Cultures, 1350-1700, Notre Dame, 2010, particularly her second chapter on Julian of Norwich and the Benedictine nuns of Cambrai and Paris.
2 J.C. Rhodes, 'Dom Augustine Baker's Reading Lists', Downside Review 101 (1993), 157-193.
3 The most complete reading list is found in Baker, Directions for Contemplation, Book H, ed. J. Clark, AC 119:9, Salzburg 2000, Appendix p. 82-89.
4 The Life and Death of Dame Margaret Gascoigne, ed. J. Clark, AC 119:23, Salzburg, 2000; The Devotions of Dame Margaret Gascoigne, ed. J. Clark, AC 119:28, Salzburg, 2007. See also The Writings of Julian of Norwich, ed. N. Watson and J. Jenkins, Turnhout, 2006, Appendix D, pp. 437-448, using J.B. Holloway, The Julian Library Portfolio, Holmhurst, 1996, pamphlets:
[11] Margaret Gascoigne/Bridget More: Contemplating on Julian [12] Dame Barbara Constable, O.S.B., and the Upholland Julian Fragment, which diplomatically edit Colwich MS 18, Dame Margaret Gascoigne, Devotions; Stanbrook Abbey, photocopy of Upholland manuscript. I have edited Downside Abbey MS68370 (ex Gillow Library).
5 Life . . . of Margaret Gascoigne, AC 119:23, p. 66.
6 See note 4.
7 Colwich Abbey MS 22, p. 148.
8 A Book of Showings to the Anchoress Julian of Norwich, ed. E. Colledge and J. Walsh, Toronto, 1978, Part 2, pp. 301-302; 308-309;
Julian of Norwich, A Showing of Love, ed. Sister Anna Maria Reynolds, C.P., and Julia Bolton Holloway, Florence, 2001, I.v.10v, p. 162. Sister Anna Maria Reynolds and Julia Bolton Holloway's meticulously presented edition of Julian's Showing of Love provides diplomatic transcriptions of the Amherst Manuscript (BL Add. MS. 2779) Short Text; the Westminster MS (circa 1500) sections of the Long Text; the Paris MS and Sloane MS 2499 of the Long Text, with full lists of variants from other MSS, in the apparatus, and full glossary, indices, and appendices listing cross-references and scriptural references. There are excellent photographs of representative pages from the Amherst, Westminster, Paris and Sloane 2499 manuscripts and also from BL Sloane 3705 and the eighteenth-century Stowe 42 manuscript of the Long Text. Of particular importance is the abundant information relative to the place of Julian's Revelations in the context of the Recusant community, which provides a point of departure for further investigations, and opens up the perspectives in this area. See also Julia Bolton Holloway, Anchoress and Cardinal: Julian of Norwich and Adam Easton OSB, AC 35:20, Salzburg, 2008.
9 H.W. Owen, 'An Edition of the Upholland Anthology', University of Liverpool B.A. diss., 1962; 'Another Augustine Baker Manuscript', Dr. L. Reypens-Album,
ed. A. Ampe, Ruusbroec-Genootschap, Antwerp, 1963, pp 269-280; Hywel Wyn Owen and Luke Bell OSB, 'The Upholland Anthology: An Augustine Baker Manuscript', Downside Review, 107 (1989), 274-292;
'Extracts from the Upholland Anthology', 103 (1990), 49-61, 131-145; ed. Holloway,
10 Watson and Jenkins, pp. 439-440.
11 Ed. Owen, Downside Review 107 (1989), 286-289; ed. Holloway,; ed. Watson and Jenkins, pp. 446-448.
12 Reported in pp. 121, 136, n. 1, and confirmed by Dr Doyle.
13 Julian of Norwich
, A Revelation of Love, ed. Marion Glasscoe, revised edition, Exeter, 1986.
14 Upholland, 'right no thing alone', fol. 115; Paris: 'ryght nought aloone', Colledge and Walsh, p. 411, Reynolds and Holloway, XIII.xxviii.52v, p. 248; Sloane: 'not alone', Glasscoe, p. 40, Reynolds and Holloway, fol. 38, p. 550.
15 Baker, Idiot's Devotions - Directions: Parts One and Two, ed. J. Clark, AC 119:29, Salzburg, 2008.

16 On this point, see e.g. J.P.H. Clark, 'Nature, Grace and the Trinity', Downside Review 100 (1982), 203-220. There are many excellent treatments of Julian's theology, among which: Brant Pelphre
y, Love was his Meaning: The Theology and Mysticism of Julian of Norwich, Salzburg, 1982; Joan Nuth, Wisdom's Daughter: The Theology of Julian of Norwich, New York, 1991; Margaret Ann Palliser, Christ Our Mother of Mercy:
Divine Mercy and Compassion in the Theology of the Shewings of Julian of Norwich,Berlin, 1992; Denise Baker, Julian of Norwich's Showings: From Vision to Book, Princeton, 1993; Kerrie Hide, Gifted Origins of Graced Fulfillment: The Soteriology of Julian of Norwich, Collegeville, 2001; Denys Turner, Julian of Norwich, Theologian, New Haven, 2011. All deal with this last point.



n a 1673 contribution to the “Stillingfleet Controversy,” an extended textual exchange condemning and defending Julian of Norwich's Revelations, an anonymous Catholic writer excuses Julian from charges of fanaticism, saying, "If Mother Iulian's Revelations have many things new and strange, yet, if therin be nothing contrary to Faith or Good manners, nor words taken in a modern-improper sense will amount to Heresy, I hope this Author [that is, Stillingfleet] will not put her in the List of his Fanaticks…, or, that he can prove her old English to be Fanaticism, but then let Chaucer also look to himself."  In other words, if Julian is guilty of producing "Fanatick Revelations of distempered brains" as Stillingfleet insists, then so too is Chaucer. This joining of Chaucer and Julian of Norwich as exemplars of orthodox English religion likely seems, to twenty-first century readers, fairly odd. Critical considerations of Chaucer as a serious religious writer are not much in critical vogue, and the only place we tend to find Chaucer and Julian in neighborly proximity is on the syllabus of a medieval literature survey course or in the pages of the Norton Anthology. The anonymous writer's joining of the two provides, however, a glimpse into a largely unexplored literary history.

While much critical ink has been spilled on the development of the proto-Protestant figure of Chaucer in early modern textual culture, little attention has been given to a competing early modern tradition of the figure of Catholic Chaucer. Much as early modern Protestant polemicists like John Foxe invoke the figure of Chaucer the "right Wiclevvian" to argue for the reformed church as the authentic, legitimate English church, writers like this anonymous Catholic, and the writer's contemporary the Catholic convert John Dryden, find in the figure of Chaucer, Chaucer's writings, and Chaucer's era, ample material to craft alternative visions of English history as well as of the English literary canon. Through an analysis of Serenus Cressy's XVI Revelations of Divine Love (particularly its dedication to Lady Mary Blount), texts that participated in the "Stillingfleet Controversy" sparked by Cressy’s edition, and John Dryden's roughly contemporaneous dedicatory poems in his Fables Ancient and Modern, I analyze the dynamics of gender, lineage, and religion as these writers mobilize the English medieval past embodied by Julian of Norwich and Chaucer to negotiate the religious and political conflict that characterized post-Restoration England. Julian and Chaucer serve as foremother and forefather, giving authority and legitimacy to a Catholic counternarrative of English religious history in the eighteenth century.



ulian of Norwich became popular not only in academia, but also in non-scholarly readership. Because Julian’s integrity provides messages of hope, healing, and compassion, Julian’s spirituality fascinates not only scholars and theologians, but also ordinary readers. That is to say, Julian’s Showing of Love provides the source of spiritual care-giving and healing. In addition, her theological concepts of the “virtue of passion” and the “virtue of compassion” embody the wisdom of spiritual care-giving and healing.
This study presents hermeneutical dynamics by reading Julian’s text in terms of the "spirituality of suffering" and the "theology of remaining", of surviving. Especially, in Transfiguring Loss, Jane Frances Maynard explores Julian’s spirituality as well as theology in terms of “transfiguring loss.” Considering Julian of Norwich as a woman who lost her own family to the plague, Maynard discusses Julian’s contributions to theology and spirituality, which provide guidance for survivors of traumatic loss; such as September 11, the Tsunami, and AIDS. Thus, Julian’s text is a resource for trauma studies.
Concerning Julian’s participation in her historical context, Shelly Rambo, the author of Spirit and Trauma: A Theology of Remaining, highlighted one moment of Julian’s participation, focusing on the Despenser Crusade of 1383 in terms of “her engagement with issues of empire in her time.” This notion of balance between text and context as participation in worldly interaction is important in understanding Julian’s life as an anchoress, as well as her theological integrity, because her life in the anchorhold was not regarded as escaping from the secular life. Rambo described the importance of the context of Julian’s theology in terms of historical event of the Crusade of 1383, led disastrously by Julian's Bishop of Norwich, Henry le Despnser, who in 1281 had brutally suppressed the Peasants' Revolt. As we discuss Julian’s theological integrity from the perspective of balance between text and context, we have to consider the historical background; because without that context, we lose what we could see as the author’s intention and meaning. When we focus on peace and rest in the context of the wounded soldiers from the Crusade, we are able to say that God’s aim was to heal the city as well as souls.
In this sense, we, too, can find whom we should care for in terms of healing in the context of reading the text. In this particular paper, the context of trauma and healing of Korean comfort women will be presented.



 Report on Norwich's 2013 Julian Celebration



how me O anchoress, your anchor-hold
Deep in the love of God, and hold me fast,
Show me again in whose hands we are held
Speak to me from your window in the past,
Tell me again the tale of Love's compassion
For all of us who fall onto the mire
How he is wounded with us, how his passion
Quickens the love that haunted our desire.
Show me again the wonder of at-one-ment
Of Christ-in-us distinct and yet the same,
Who makes, and loves, and keeps us in each moment,
And looks on us with pity not with blame.
Keep telling me, for all my faith may waver,
Love is his meaning, only love, forever.

atimer’s pulpit, you can touch the wood,
Sound for yourself the syllables of grace
That sounded and resounded through this place;
A quickened word, a kindling for good
In evil times; when malice held the cards
And played them, in the play of politics,
When knaves with knives were taking all the tricks,
When Christendom was shivered into shards,
When King and Queen were pitched in different camps,
When burning books could stoke the fire for men,
When such were stacked against him –even then
Latimer knew that hearts alone are trumps.
He gave the King of Hearts his proper name,
He touched this wood, and kindled love to flame.


REVELATIONS OF DIVINE LOVE/SHOWING OF LOVE                                                                                                     


Edited from the MSS. by Dom Roger Hudleston, O.S.B., Monk of Downside Abbey:

‘For this is the cause why we be not all in ease of heart and soul: that we seek here rest in those things that be so little, wherein is no rest, and know not our God that is Almighty, All-wise, All-good.’  Chapter 5  

‘For some of us believe that God is Almighty and may do all, and that he is All-Wisdom and can do all; but that he is All-Love and will do all, there we stop short.’   Chapter 73

‘And from that time that it was shewed I desired oftentimes to witten what was our Lord’s meaning. And fifteen years after, and more, I was answered in ghostly understanding, saying thus: “Wouldst thou witten thy Lord’s meaning in this thing? Wit it well: Love was his meaning. Who shewed it thee?  Love. What shewed he thee?  Love. Wherefore shewed it he? For Love. Hold thee therein and thou shalt witten and know more in the same.  But thou shalt never know nor witten therein other thing without end.” Thus was I learned that Love was our Lord’s meaning.

And I saw full surely in this and in all, that ere God made us he loved us; which love was never slacked, not ever shall be. And in this love he hath done all his works; and in this love he hath made all things profitable to us; and in this love our life is everlasting. In our making we had beginning; but the love wherein he made us was in him from without beginning; in which love we have our Beginning. And all this shall we see in God, without end. Which may Jesus grant us. Amen.’  Chapter 86

Edited from the Paris Manuscript, Sr Anna Maria Reynolds, C.P., and Julia Bolton Holloway, H.F.

        ¶Of this nedeth vs to
haue knowledge. that vs lyketh nought
all thing that is made. for to loue 
and haue god that is vnmade, ffor this
is the cauʃe why we be not all in eaʃe of
hart and of sowle; for we ʃeeke heer reʃt
in this thing that is ʃo little wher no
reʃte is in, and we know not our god
that is almightie all wiʃe and all good
for he is verie reʃte,

And of this knowyng are we mo
blynde. ffor
ʃome of vs beleue that
god is allmyghty and may do alle. and
that he is alle wysdom and can do alle
But that he is alle loue and will do
alle there we fayle.

                      ¶And fro the tyme
þt it was shewde I deʃyerde oftyn tymes
to witt in what was our lords
menyng. And .xv. yere after.
and mor I was anʃweryd in goʃtly
underʃtondyng ʃeyeng thus. What
woldest thou wytt thy lordes menyng.
in this thyng witt it wele. loue
was his menyng. who ʃhewyth
it the. loue. Wherfore ʃhewyth he
it the. for loue. holde the therin.
thou ʃhalt wytt more in the ʃame
But thou ʃchalt nevyr witt ther//
in other wtouten ende. Thus
was I lernyd þt loue is oure lordes
menyng. And I ʃawe fulle ʃurely
in this. and in all // that or god made
vs he lovyd vs. Whych loue was nevyr
ʃlekyd ne nevyr ʃhalle, And in
this loue he hath done alle his werkes,
And in this loue he hath made alle
thynges profytable to vs. And in this
loue. oure lyfe is evyr laʃtyng. In
oure makyng we had begynnyng. but
the loue wher in he made vs. was in
hynm fro wtout begynnyng, In
whych loue. we haue oure begynnyng
And all this ʃhalle we see in god wt
outyn ende // Deo gracias.//
Explicit liber revelacionum
Julyane. anatorite norwyche
cuius anime propivieture deus.