t gives me joy to commend the first translation into Russian of the Revelations of Divine Love by Mother Julian of Norwich. Here is a book of exceptional wisdom and spiritual insight. Julian explores many of the deepest mysteries of our life in Christ, and yet she speaks in a simple and direct way that is practical and full of common sense. Each time I read her Revelations, I am struck afresh by the warmth of her personal feeling and the vividness of her love for your Saviour.

It is of course true that Julian, who received her ‘showings’ in the year 1373, was living at a time long after the schism between East and West; and so, from a narrowly canonical point of view, she cannot be considered an Orthodox writer. The schism, however, was not accomplished all at once, as a single, clear-cut event. It was, on the contrary, a complex, disjoined and gradual process, whose roots extend back long before the exchange of anathemas at Constantinople in 1054, and whose final consummation did not come to pass until long after the middle of the eleventh century. Despite the outward breach of communication between the Papacy and the Orthodox Church, the Latin West did not cease to preserve much that was authentically Orthodox in its spiritual life.

In this way Orthodoxy continued to exist in the late medieval West as a secret fountain or an underground stream; and to this hidden yet enduring Orthodoxy Julian of Norwich is a notable witness. With good reason, then, we may regard her Revelations as a fundamentally Orthodox work.

Alongside Julian, there are other spiritual writers in fourteenth-century England from whose teaching we Orthodox have much to gain. Two obvious examples are Richard Rolle, the hermit of Hampole, with his ardent devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus, and the anonymous author of the Cloud of Unknowing, with its insistence upon the divine mystery that is incomprehensible to the reasoning brain yet approachable through love: “By love He may be gotten and holden, but by thought never.”[1] It would be good if these two authors could also be translated into Russian (there already exists a translation of the Cloud of Unknowing in modern Greek).

Admittedly, there are moments when Julian’s Revelations reflect the outlook of the Latin Christendom rather than the Orthodox tradition. She places great emphasis, for instance, upon Christ’s Cross and Passion, while making little reference to His Transfiguration or His Resurrection. Yet at no point does she deny the power and glory of the risen Lord. She may be at times one-sided and highly distinctive in her manner of speaking; but nowhere as an Orthodox do I find her misguided or heretical.

Indeed, Julian’s Revelations frequently recall the words of Eastern Orthodox saints. When she states, for instance, that the Saviour’s death upon the Cross involved all three persons of the Holy Trinity,[2] at once this brings to my mind the well-known words of St Philaret, Metropolitan of Moscow, in his sermon of Great Friday: “See, there is nothing here except the holy and blessed love of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit towards a sinful and despairing mankind: the love of the Father in the act of crucifying, the love of the Son crucified, the love of the Spirit triumphing by the power of the Cross.”[3] Again, when Julian says of the Holy Virgin, as she stood at the foot of Christ’s Cross, “For as much as she loved Him more than all others, her pains surpassed that of all others; for always the higher, the mightier, the sweeter the love is, the more sorrow it is to the lover”,[4] this is exactly what is affirmed by St Silouan the Athonite: “Just as the love of the Mother of God is boundless and passes our understanding, so is her grief boundless and beyond our understanding… The greater the love, the greater the sufferings of the soul.”[5]

When, moreover, Julian insists that in Christ’s Passion suffering is combined with joy[6] – when, indeed, throughout the Revelations of Divine Love she speaks of the element of rejoicing in our Christian experience – this resembles the teaching of St Maximus the Confessor, who declares that God created the world for the sake of mutual joy: “God, full beyond all fullness, brought creatures into being not because He had need in anything, but so that they might participate in Him in proportion to their capacity and that He Himself might rejoice in His works through seeing them joyful.”[7]

One of the more surprising features on Julian’s Revelations – surprising for Western as well as Eastern Orthodox readers – is her emphasis upon the mothering of God and, more particularly, of Christ. Yet here also there are parallels in the Greek Patristic tradition. Doubtless Julian was influenced at this point chiefly by Anselm of Canterbury; but similar ideas are to be found in Eastern Christian writers of whom she certainly knew nothing. St Gregory of Nissa[8] and the Macarian Homilies,[9] among others, refer to the Holy Spirit as Mother; the Odes of Solomon go so far as to speak of “milk from the two breasts” of God the Father;[10] “You are Father you are Mother”, writes Synesius of Cyrena in his Hymns[11]; St Irenaeus applies maternal imagery to Christ,[12] and Clement of Alexandria explicitly terms Christ our Mother.[13] Whether she was aware of it or not, Julian stands here in a long and honourable tradition.

For myself personally, the most impressive aspect of Julian’s Revelations is her sense of the overwhelming love of God: a love that is intimate and gentle – characteristically she terms it ‘homely’ and ‘courteous’ – and yet at the same time all-embracing and all-powerful. It is love that led God to create the world: as she says in her vision of the Universe as a hazel-nut, ‘Thus everything has being through the love of God.’[14] Love is the one and only foundation of our human existence: ‘Our life is all grounded and rooted in love, and without love we cannot live.’[15] This creative love is eternal and unchanging: ‘In our creation we had beginning; but the love wherein He created us was in Him without beginning: in which love we have our beginning.’[16] It is this belief in eternal and unchanging love that enables Julian to assert with firm confidence, despite the fact of sin, ‘All shall be well, and all shell be well, and all manner of things shall be well.’ [17]

May our Lord Jesus Christ bless Juliana Dresvina for undertaking this Russian translation of the Revelations of Divine Love. My own spiritual life has been greatly enriched by Mother Julian’s work, and I am truly happy to know that it will now be available to Russian Orthodox readers.

+ Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia




he Revelations of Divine Love is one of the greatest treasures of Christian writing in the English language. For many centuries, it was read only infrequently and with limited understanding; but in the last hundred years it has been the subject of more and more study. Because it was read, loved and quoted by T. S. Eliot, one of the foremost poets of the twentieth century, it has entered the consciousness of a wider public. For some readers, it foreshadows many distinctive concerns of modern Christian belief in the West: it is apparently affirming of the material creation, it is written by a woman who is capable of using female imagery to speak of the work of Christ, it is trustful about God’s capacity to bring the whole creation into harmony. As a result, it has sometimes been opposed to the ‘official’ theology of the Church in a way that does little justice to its depth and subtlety.

The hermit Julian is in fact a faithful though enormously creative interpreter of the common heritage of ecclesial theology in both East and West. She understands the suffering and death of the incarnate Son as the act and will of the undivided Trinity, undertaken to restore the obscured image of God in humanity. She is aware of the reality of diabolical temptation and its objective power, and has to resist the promptings of the devil to turn away from revealed truth. She believes that true prayer is the life of God the Son implanted in the believer by the Holy Spirit. She hopes and prays for a universal restoration of creation, but knows that there is a judgement to come.

But in her reflection on what is shown her, all these central themes of orthodox faith are touched with new life and clarity. She can say that Jesus is her ‘heaven’
that the state of bliss to which believers are called is simply that of incorporation into the glorified humanity of Jesus, and we are not to look beyond or outside that for any higher heaven. When we enter into the mystery of his Passion, we do so in virtue of the glorified humanity in which we stand as baptised Christians; we share his suffering not by a distant mediation designed to arouse human emotion (as some later Western devotions might seem to suggest at times), but because we are already in Christ, eternally sacrificed, eternally victorious. And Julian wonderfully describes the human creation Christ comes to save as the gift of the Father to the Son, a gift so beautiful that all Christ’s suffering seems as nothing to him.

Like all the Fathers of the Church, she believes that the substance of our inner being is grounded in God, in such a way that we are unknowable to ourselves until we come to see ourselves in the light of God. It is not that our nature is in any way part of God’s. God is (and here she echoes the Dionysian books) ‘goodness’ by nature, and thus is eternally engaged in giving life
sharing the Trinitarian life, and then by free generosity creating a world to receive that life in its outworking and outpouring. We creatures are always receivers of that divine action and gift, existing by God’s free sharing of himself; we are not ‘natural’ parts of God. Yet the energy and motion and will and love of our own existence is sustained by God’s constant loving action, without which it would not exist for a moment. Our nature is related to God, ‘akin’ to God, analogous to God’s life, but it is always dependent on his free love. And although its nature is reflective of God, its condition is far from God; the image is obscured. It is prayer in the name and power of Jesus that will restore the image in fullness and give us a share in the will and act of God.

She is often bold and surprising in her language, yet again and again we discover the great leading themes of historic faith permeating everything she writes. Her visions are not ‘private revelations’ in the sense of claiming to communicate mysteries otherwise unknown. They are ways in which she herself enters more deeply into the faith and invites others to follow her there. Many of her images and metaphors have had a deep impact on recent spiritual and theological writing in England and elsewhere
her great parable of the Lord and the servant, in which the sin of Adam is seen as not just arbitrary rebellion, but an ignorant and too-hasty attempt to do the will of the Creator; her description of the whole created universe as a small thing the size of a hazelnut in the hand of God; her comparison of Christ’s love with the love of a mother, bringing new life to birth in a costly way and offering intimate and immediate support and consolation. And there is the mysterious but powerful phrase which she loves, that God ‘will make all things well’ that in a way no-one can understand, by some great final act, God will heal the entire universe; she is not a universalist, she accepts the Church’s teaching that it is possible for souls to be lost, yet she trusts and prays that, whatever may happen in particular, somehow the creation will all be held in final reconciliation. In this she stands with St Gregory of Nyssa and St Silouan the Athonite faithful to the teaching of the Church, yet hopeful that God will still reach and save all.

Her work is always moving, always touching us in our depths. For many, it has been one of the first Christian texts really to convey in living form the truth of the Christian revelation. It is wonderful to know that it will now be available to Russian readers, and I pray that many of them also will find here the living reality of the ‘courteous Lord’ who showed himself to the blessed Julian of Norwich six centuries ago.

+ Rowan,  Archbishop of Canterbury






ost of the abundant medieval devotional literature written or translated into the English language before the protestant reformation was aimed at women. The earliest surviving devotional treatise in English, Ancrenne Wisse, was composed in the early thirteenth century somewhere in northwestern England by an unknown male religious, and was intended to instruct and inspire a group of holy women living the life of devout recluses. Over the next three hundred years the growing numbers of such recluses (known as “anchoresses”), together with communities of nuns, and a more extended readership of pious wives and widows unable to read Latin, would provide a growing audience hungry for instruction and edification in the vernacular, which male religious writers laboured to cater for. A good deal of the literature produced for this constituency perished during the reformation, and most of what remains is of interest only to scholars. But one work out of all that flood of edifying verbiage survives as a living religious text, deservedly read for its own sake far more widely and more eagerly now than at any time since it was first set down in writing during the last quarter of England’s turbulent fourteenth century.

Julian of Norwich’s Revelation of Love is the first devotional treatise known to have been written (or perhaps dictated) by an Englishwoman. It is also beyond any dispute the most profound devotional text of the English Middle Ages. Julian’s book is however no mere work of “soft-centred” piety. It is informed by a Trinitarian and incarnational theology which is both deeply traditional and daringly original, and which will stand comparison with that of any other theologian of the medieval Latin West.  The Revelation of Love is an extended meditation on the meaning of a visionary experience of the Passion, triggered when her parish priest, who came to attend her on what was believed to be her death-bed, held a crucifix before her eyes. The crucifix seemed to Julian to bleed, and that bleeding becomes her point of entry into a moving exploration of God’s will and purpose for human salvation.  Such visionary experiences were common in the devotional writing of the period, but Julian is distinctive in her insistence on God’s utter benignity towards mankind, and her conviction that even sin itself will one day be understood not as a calamity which alienates us from our creator, but as part of God’s saving purpose to enhance the blessedness of his children. She accepts the Church’s teaching on the reality of sin,  the devil and of hell, but unlike other great women visionaries of the period like St Bridget of Sweden or St Catherine of Siena, she herself was unable to see Hell or anyone in it. Damnation simply has no part in her understanding of a God who is our nurturing Mother as well as our creating Father, and who wills that all his children shall be saved.

Julian formulated her deepening understanding of this revelatory experience during a period of immense turbulence for English culture generally and the English church in particular. When she first set down her vision in the 1370s, the greatest religious poet of the English Middle Ages, William Langland, was writing his savage religious satire, Piers Plowman. Twenty years on, she reworked, expanded and deepened her book, while the great comic poet Geoffrey Chaucer was composing his Canterbury Tales. But in the meantime, the English Church had entered a period of theological crisis.  A brilliant but controversial Oxford theologian and philosopher, John Wycliffe, challenged both the Church’s authority, and in particular its teaching on the Eucharist. He was eventually solemnly condemned as heretical both at home and by the papacy, but his teaching was carried into the English parishes by ardent young University-trained disciples, and as a result of their preaching, many “unlettered” laymen and women rejected the reality of Christ’s presence in the Mass and the other sacraments, demanded access to the scriptures in English unmediated by the Church’s interpretation, and denied the right of the clergy to teach the Gospel with authority.

In reaction to all this, the English Church became increasingly nervous about independent lay religiousity, not least about the religiousity of women. There was a clamp-down on the reading and writing of devotional books in English, from 1409 the Bible could be read in English only by special Episcopal license, and any apparent departures from tried and tested orthodoxy were viewed with growing suspicion. Recent scholarship has perhaps exaggerated the deadening impact of all this on lay religion, but there is no doubt that the fifteenth century saw a slackening of religious creativity in England, and nothing written then matches the intensity or grandeur of  either Langland or Julian’s writings. 

Julian herself was clearly aware of these developments, and she was careful to emphasise her submission to the Church, and to disclaim any pretensions to learning or ambition to teach others. Her denials were artful enough to confuse even specialist readers. Modern scholars cannot agree about whether or not Julian really was a simple and “unlettered” woman, writing primarily out of her own lived experience, or whether her writing was in fact also informed by a deep acquaintance with the major theological and devotional resources of the Latin West. The Jesuit editors of her writings thought they detected more than a thousand recognisable allusions to other theological and devotional texts, and seven hundred biblical references. Other scholars have been sceptical of these claims to orthodox learning, and have emphasised instead the indebtedness of Julian’s text to the oral devotional world of lay people and of women in particular. 

Whatever view one takes of Julian’s background and theological learning, there can be no doubt of her rootedness in the shared religion of ordinary men and women. Her visionary insights took their beginning from the simple gesture of a parish priest comforting a dying parishioner with the image of her saviour, and Julian herself refers to the influence on her of hearing the life of St Cecilia read aloud in church, and comments affectionately on the cult of the Yorkshire saint John of Beverley, describing the saint as “a kind neighbour, and of our knowing”. And whatever the ecclesiastical authorities thought of unauthorised lay initiatives in religion, Julian enjoyed among her own neighbours the reputation of a holy woman, wise in the ways of God. The citizens of Norwich were proud of her: priests and laity, men and women, left bequests for her support in their wills. The Norfolk housewife, pilgrim and aspirant visionary, Margery Kempe, knew Julian to be “expert in such things and able to give good counsel”, and left a grateful record of Julian’s kindly and supportive spiritual guidance. In an age dominated by male authority, the wisest and best spiritual guide was a woman. And the sublimity and insight of Julian’s wonderful book was, in the end, the distillation of all that was best in the religion in which she herself had been nurtured: the continuing power and relevance of her writing is a testimony to the abiding presence of the word and wisdom of God among his own little ones.

Eamon Duffy, Professor of the History of Christianity at the University of Cambridge




 minimum twenty-year ban on Julian studies in the Anglo-Saxon academia, half-jokingly suggested in informal chats by some Western medievalists (‘Give the woman a rest!’), is unlikely to apply to Russia, where very little is known about the anchoress of Norwich. Since 1966, when Julian’s name appeared for the first time in Russian in an obscure immigrant publication[18], only three rather lame articles have been added to the list: two by Alexandra Supriyanivich, based on a dated late 1970s gender approach,[19] and one by my humble self,[20] which is hardly more than a very basic introduction. Julian also features extensively in my more recent essay on late medieval vernacular mysticism and Margery Kempe.[21] In addition to that, Julian’s text is occasionally taught by my former tutor as part of an optional curriculum at the Philology Faculty of the Moscow State University; I also know of a BA dissertation on Julian completed this year in Moscow and based on my draft translation of the Revelations. Julian’s name is perhaps familiar to some scrupulous readers of C. S. Lewis[22] and Charles Williams[23], as well as to specialists on T. S. Eliot[24].     

Despite numerous volumes written on the Revelations in English, we still know painfully little about the work and its author. All the information we have comes from Julian herself and can be contained in one sentence: in early May 1373, when thirty and a half years old, she fell gravely ill and was about to die, and at the point of death she suddenly saw that the Crucifix set at her bed came to life and started bleeding, initiating a series of visions (shewings or revelaciones) of Christ, the Trinity and the Virgin, which subsequently led to the restoration of her health two days later. Scholars still argue whether she was lay or monastic, illiterate or educated, and even whether Julian was her real name or just the name she adopted after the church where she spent later years as an anchoress. It is equally unclear which version of her book was composed first: was the so-called Short Text an immediate account of the 1373 visions or abbreviated/redesigned version of the Long Text in the aftermath of Archbishop Arundel’s measures against lollardy? To complicate the matter, no manuscripts contemporary to Julian are extant: the earliest one, a theological compilation containing the only copy of Julian’s Short Text, the Amherst Manuscript (British Library MS Add. 37,790) gives the date as 1413 in the colophon, but both the handwriting and the later items rather suggest the date of the late 1430s, making 1413 the date of its lost exemplar. Another oddity (amongst many) of this particular text is that it suddenly resumes after the seemingly final ‘Amen’[25] and goes on for another four pages. The Long Text, in turn, survives in its compete form in three manuscripts, all from late 16th – mid-17th centuries, each preserving different aspects of their medieval exemplars. Finally, there is the Westminster manuscript (Westminster cathedral treasury MS 4), compiled around 1500 and containing what seems to be a pastiche or summary of the Long Text – or is it something more than that?   

The Revelations are idiosyncratic from the point of view of the genre as well. What do we define it as: a mystical treatise? a spiritual autobiography? a dream-vision? Julian’s writings ostensibly escape any further pigeonholing: how do we classify their subject – literature, theology, history, psychology? Having failed to find a more comfortable way of sitting on this fence other than through the convenient padding of ‘interdisciplinarity’, I went down the easiest road and simply turned to editing and then translating the text into my mother tongue. After all, many professional translators argue that the best way to understand the most complicated narrative is to translate it into a different language. 

One may ask at this point: does Russia need Julian? An answer to this question has several dimensions. Pragmatically, the forthcoming edition of the Revelations introduces an interesting new text into the orbit of Russian researchers: theologians, linguists, historians; its layout with facing Middle English text and its Russian translation provides a useful tool for teachers and students, too. Indeed, anyone with a sound knowledge of modern English may wish to try reading the original text, aided by the accompanying translation on the facing page. From the theological point of view, Julian’s text, although produced in a different environment, is an important witness to how much we as Christian share.[26] Besides, only few realise that Julian, with her distinctly Trinitarian discourse, was a contemporary of one of the most significant Russian saints, a visionary himself, St Sergius of Radonezh, the founder of the great Holy Trinity Lavra, and of the icon-painter Andrey Rublev, the author of the most famous piece of medieval Russian art, the (Old Testament) Trinity. Finally, the annotated and illustrated edition, supplied with a lengthy introduction explaining the significance of the text and outlining the historical circumstances of its creation, is aimed at nurturing a cultural interest of those who are attracted to medieval history and literature.  

But then there are other, more personal, reasons to publish a text, whose existence is so closely intertwined with my own life. I would not dare to bore the benevolent reader with the details of my so far unremarkable biography (note the compulsory medieval modesty topos) lest they highlight many circumstances of the occurrence and survival of the Revelations. First of all, both books, the original and its translation, took a while to produce: it took Julian twenty years to write it and it took me half as much to translate it; and yet, I totally share her conviction that ‘this book is begun by God’s gift and His grace, but it is not yet performed as to my sight’.[27] The writing and living of the book (what Julian apparently means by ‘performing’) becomes a personal pilgrimage. Julian’s journey took her from her status of a devout (lay) woman, susceptible to the newest patterns of devotion offered by the church, to an anchoress and renowned spiritual authority[28], firmly embedded in the Catholic orthodoxy of her time, but also granted insights so strikingly pioneering that their in-depth comprehension began only recently. My personal journey has been much less significant spiritually thus far – from a lost and disorientated teenager to an Orthodox Christian with strong ecumenical connections – yet geographically impressive: from Moscow to East Anglia; and in both cases Julian was the main vehicle for my progress.  

Moving on from geographic locations to historic circumstances, it is worth raising the issue of possible censorship in the composition of the Revelations. Despite multiple important works discussing the developments of religious literature in English in the late fourteenth and the first half of the fifteenth century by a number of outstanding scholars such as Nicholas Watson and Vincent Gillespie, the degree of impact of the 1381 great peasant revolt and particularly of 1409 Arundel’s Constitutions on late-medieval vernacular theology is still to be established.[29] It is, however, not impossible that Julian, although she never experienced open persecution and hostility from the church authorities, was still watched closely by them for the whole length of her ‘theological’ career. The reflection of the same concern for potential deviations from the mainstream doctrine produced six centuries later a rather ludicrous result: a humble undergraduate studying some never-heard-of foreign mystic was for some time seriously regarded as a potential Catholic spy by over-zealous members of security services, causing the ‘spy’ herself as well as the University authorities much grief (unfortunately the constraints of Russian academic hierarchy bars me from reminding my former superiors of that exciting period of my life, but perhaps we can still have a good laugh together at some point in the future).

Further reasons for potential cultural misunderstanding lie in the difference of the Russian and English vocabularies. Whilst I had no problems translating words like sorrow, travail, and pain, it was difficult to find adequate equivalents of such positive terms as joy, blessedness, bliss, and so on, without the risk of sounding either anachronistic, or over-sentimental, or ultra-orthodox. This is perhaps a wrong place to speculate on the reflection of a national character through the language; I should simply acknowledge the difficulty of finding a right stylistic register.   

Speaking of the uneasy choices of words, I must not forget how much I owe to my anonymous editor. In the Soviet times the informal guild of professional editors, who had no subject specialisation and therefore grew to be ‘experts on everything’ – ruthless, unfulfilled and underpaid – was vast, and many of them survived to the present day. The editor’s remarks to my rendering of Julian were enormously revealing: apart from over-pious capitalising of Everything Which Remotely Refers to The Deity and The Most Blessed and All Pure Mother of God The Virgin Mary, as well as deliberate archaisation of the translation, the margins were generously peppered with commentaries such as: ‘style of a Baptist pamphlet’, ‘Internet style’, or even ‘criminal slang’, reflecting the old-school professional’s/arcane knowledge keeper’s irritation with my insufficiently reverent approach. It made me realise how annoyed educated medieval clerics must have been with Julian’s seemingly awkward vernacular, with her consistent use of English equivalents of Latinate terms (e.g. ‘onening’ instead of ‘unity’, ‘without end’ instead of ‘infinite’), with her breaking the rules of the exclusive genre of a theological treatise by striving to make it widely accessible. The relationship between vernacular Julian and her formally educated scribe came to be re-enacted between the translator and her editor.

Presentation of such a complicated and multilayered narrative is another problem encountered both by Julian, her scribes/copyists, and editors, including myself. Apart from the obvious and numerous difficulties arising from the diverse nature of the surviving versions and manuscripts, there is also an extra complication of introducing the additional language into this already complicated construction, saturated with cross-references. For the purpose of faithfulness the Middle English text and its Russian translation are situated in our edition on the facing pages, with contextual and textual commentaries in the corresponding footnotes.

Final complication, faced by Julian as well, is orthodoxy in a broad sense. Although she was writing within the framework of only one denomination, her Catholicism was not as homogenous, dogmatised and concrete as anyone with the expertise outside late-medieval ecclesiastic history would imagine. It allowed for the great flexibility, greater perhaps than anxious hierarchs like Arundel were prepared to tolerate, fearing the destructive results of the unruly fantasies of ‘the little ones’. Whilst working on the Revelations, I grew to sympathise with both Julian and her superiors: hoping to publish such a book in a country with a most idiosyncratic religious background (dozens of religions with millions of adepts) yet with painful reaction to public challenges, real or imaginary, aimed at Russian Orthodox church, at times I had to tread as carefully as Julian would have in her times. Sure enough, unlike my medieval namesake I incur no risk of being burnt (other than with a word, quoting Pushkin[30]), but with the reputation of such a universally important text at stake, especially given its novelty for the Russian audience, one would have to plan a well-thought introduction. In the same way as in the Middle Ages Julian’s text had to be ‘published’ accompanied by the writings of contemporary spiritual classics such as Richard Rolle and Water Hilton[31], the 21st-century Julian would appear in the company of no less significant authorities. The design was to have three prominent Christian scholars introducing the new edition of the Revelations: Orthodox, Protestant and Catholic. Fortunately if not providentially all three people initially desired for this task gave their consent to write for the edition: Metropolitan Kallistos Ware, Archbishop Rowan Williams and Professor Eamon Duffy.      

A comparison between these introductions and a discussion of their approaches and agendas would be an extremely interesting exercise in itself and perhaps even a subject of a separate article. It is sufficient to point out for our purposes here that the contributions of Metropolitan Kallistos and Archbishop Rowan complement each other, whilst remaining very different in their tone. In a sense, one is an exemplary Orthodox text and the other is an exemplary Anglican one. Metropolitan Kallistos assertively claims Julian for Orthodoxy; Archbishop Rowan generously acknowledges her universality; both spin their narratives with great skill and mutual respect. Eamon Duffy, in turn, outlines some historical background of Julian’s writings and emphasises her close connection with the English popular religion of the late Middle Ages.

It must have been his great sense of tact that stopped Professor Duffy from emphasising the adaptability of the Catholic doctrine – particularly in England – in his foreword. Indeed, the steady joy and the ‘optimistic theology’ of Julian – a result of her healthy relationship with God – entail the absence of some features typical of contemporary mystics: her text contains no ecstatic neuroticism or morbid religious eroticism present in the writings of her continental counterparts, such as St Catherine of Siena or Blessed Angela of Folignio. It is also quite striking that despite the uniqueness of the Revelation granted to her, Julian is capable of framing it as a dogmatically flawless work. This is characteristic of both her as a medieval believer and of the flexibility of the doctrine itself, the flexibility inherent in doctrine originally and perfected throughout the years. However, it is the immediate, direct contact with the Godhead granted to Julian that enables her to rise above the contemporary dogma without leaving it completely and to create a work applicable and useful to all Christians. Its universality is already reflected in the book’s title, whose key word is Love – something which is always listed as one of the most important human values and aspirations. 

This same universal, pan-Christian aspect of Julian’s book is curiously reflected in the 19th – early 20th century editions of her text. The first was published in 1843 by George Parker, an Anglican priest and a zealous anti-Catholic propagandist.[32] He envisaged Julian as a proto-Protestant ahead of her own time, and whilst acknowledging that her book did contain a certain number of statements alien to a sober Protestant ear he still claimed her text to be a solid example of Anglicanism. Three decades later, in 1877, a new edition of the Revelations was prepared for publication by Henry Collins, a former Anglican and a recent convert to Catholicism, who, as many proselytes, was jealously protecting the tradition of his newly discovered Mother Church. It is easy to guess that he read Julian as an apology for the good old Catholic faith.[33] Thirty more years on, in 1902, the Revelations appeared in print again, this time through the efforts of Jesuit George Tyrrell, one of the leading Catholic modernists of that time.[34] Needless to say that under Tyrrell’s pen Julian turned into the first Catholic modernist. All those editors, arriving from different denominational perspectives, took Julian very seriously – as did the three famous Christian scholars who contributed their writings to the first Russian edition of the Revelations. Indeed, Julian, like Paul, has become all things to all men.

The history of the transmission of the Revelations, through manuscripts and early printed codices, once again confirms the amazing endurance of the ideas enclosed and embodied in such material artefacts as books and buildings. Julian’s medieval text was preserved and carried through the centuries, not only in its content but also in its form: the Paris manuscript of 1580 retained the script and the layout of the extinct protograph[35], the Sloan manuscript of 1660s kept its Middle English orthography.[36]

The same endurance of human memory is reflected through the history of the church in which Julian spent so many years. During the Reformation, in mid-16th century her cell must have been demolished, with only its foundations remaining visible until the 18th century; local tradition, however, preserved the name of its medieval dweller, carefully recorded by antiquarian Francis Blomefield in his multivolume history of Norfolk.[37] In the nineteenth century the impoverished congregation was not able to maintain the church and keep up with all the necessary repairs, causing the collapse of the top of the tower and of the chancel – both of which were soon restored through the efforts of the parishioners in the style of Victorian Gothic. The final blow came in 1942, when after the Nazi air raid the building was left in ruins. But once again the church refused to die, and in the early 1950s it was decided to rebuild both the church and the cell. In spite of the limited budget the building was restored almost completely: the money ran out in the middle of the tower and it was left unfinished till the better day – which will perhaps come in the 21st century.

Just as the manuscripts of Julian’s Revelations, her church is idiosyncratic, demonstrating a medley of details inherited from various centuries, periods and styles. But, as in the case with the manuscripts, this mixture of the exterior elements preserves for the future generations the timeless unity of its inner content. On the folios of the 17th-century manuscripts and on the pages of the 21st-century editions, within the walls of the 20th-century buildings raised on medieval foundations live and dwell the Word and the Spirit, speaking to every one of us ‘in the point’, here and how – ‘without end’.

I first encountered the book by Julian as an undergraduate at the History Faculty of Moscow State University, and since then I often turn to her words both ‘in well and woe’. Ten years from then, it is my duty and my joy to introduce Julian to my Cambridge students as a part of the late-medieval literature paper, trying to reveal for them the wisdom and the beauty of the first ever English woman writer. To be fair, I need not try very hard, as even the most convinced sceptics and atheists acknowledge the power of those short unforgettable phrases spoken to Julian by Christ, scattered generously throughout her text: ‘You shall not be overcome’, ‘know it well – love was His meaning’, and, of course, ‘all shall be well, all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well’. 



Juliana Dresvina, Idiosyncratic Revelations: Translating Julian of Norwich into Russian (published in Humanitas, 9:2, April 2008, pp. 157-166)

[1] The Cloud of Unknowing, 6.

[2] Revelations, Long Text, 23.

[3] Quoted in Georges Florovsky, Ways of Russian Theology, Part One, tr. Robert. L. Nichols (Belmont, MA: Nordland, 1979), p. 217.

[4] Revelations 18.

[5] Archimandrite Sophrony (Sakharov), Saint Silouan the Athonite (Tolleshunt Knights, Essex: Monastery of St John the Baptist, 1991), pp. 390, 365.

[6] Revelations 22.

[7] Centuries in Love 3:46.

[8] On the Song of Songs 15 (ed. Langerbeck, p. 468).

[9] Homilies 28:4 (ed. Dörries, Klostermann and Kroeger, p. 233, lines 47-48); New Homilies 27:1 (ed. Klostermann and Berthold, p. 151, lines 14-15).

[10] Odes of Solomon 19:1-4.

[11] Hymn 5 [2]: 63.

[12] Against the Heresies 4:38:1.

[13] The Pedagogue 1:6 [42:3]. Compare The Rich Man’s Salvation 37.

[14] Revelations 5.

[15] Revelations 49.

[16] Revelations 86.

[17] Revelations 27.

[18] Nikolai S. Arseniev, ‘“Otkroveniia Bozhestvennoi Liubvi” Yulianii iz Norwicha’, in O Zhizni Preizbytochestvuiuschei (Brussels, 1966) (‘“Revelations of Divine Love” by Julian of Norwich’, in On Life Superabundant), pp. 183-198.

[19] Alexandra G. Supriianovich, ‘Kogda Mat’ – ne Zhenschina: “Otkroveniia Bozhestvennoi Liubvi” Yulii iz Norwicha (14-15 vek)’, Dialog so Vremenem (2000), vol. 3 (‘When Mother is not Female: “Revelations of Divine Love” by Julia (sic) from Norwich’, in Dialogue with Time) pp. 149-162.; eadem, ‘Mir i Predstavlemiia o Nem Angliiskoi Zatvornicy Yulii iz Norwicha’, Adam i Eva (2001), vol. 1 (‘The World and Its Understanding of the English Anchoress Julia (sic) from Norwich’, in Adam and Eve) pp. 148 - 164.

[20] Juliana Dresvina, ‘Lichnost’ Srednevekovoi Religioznoi Zhenschiny: Teologiia kaka Biografiia v Proizvedenii Yuliany Norwichskoi’,  Social'naja istorija: Ezhegodnik, 2003 (‘Personality of a Medieval Woman: Theology as Autobiography in the Book of Julian of Norwich’, in Social History Yearbook) pp. 57 - 79.

[21] Juliana Dresvina, ‘Zhenskoe Bogoslovie v Pozdnesrednevekovoi Anglii i Ego Chestnyi Sluchai – Kniga Margery Kempe’, Srednie Veka (2007), vol. 68:2-3 (‘Late Medieval Vernacular Theology: a case of Margery Kempe’, in Middle Ages), pp. 33-44, 119-138.

[22] Lewis mentioned Julian at least twice: in the final part of his Great Divorce and in one of his later letters, calling the Revelations ‘a dangerous book’.

[23] In his novel War in Heaven the main character, the Archdeacon, is reading Julian’s book before his most dreadful ordeal.

[24] Eliot quoted Christ’s words to Julian – “And all shall be well and/ All manner of thing shall be well” – in his Little Gidding (1942).

[25] The Writings of Julian of Norwich, ed. Nicholas Watson and Jaquelline Jenkins (The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2006), p. 115; Showing of Love: Extant Texts and Translation, ed. Sister Anna Maria Reynolds, C.P. and Julia Bolton Holloway (SISMEL, Firenze, Edizioni del Galluzzo, 2001), p. 774.

[26] The ‘Orthodox’ features of Julian were best described by Metropolitan Kallistos Ware in his introduction to the Russian edition, available for English audience as ‘A Russian translation of Julian of Norwich: a foreword’, Sobornost (2007), vol. 29, no. 1, pp. 83-86.

[27] The Long Text, ch. 86, see Julian of Norwich, Showing of Love, translated by Julia Bolton Holloway (London: Darton, Longmann, and Todd, 2003), p. 124.

[28] Margery Kempe (1373 – circa 1440), another East Anglian mystic, was sent to Julian by her priest in [King’s] Lynn in c. 1413 to discuss her own visions and mystical experiences, ‘for the anchoress was expert in such things and could give good advice’, The Book of Margery Kempe, translated by B. A. Windeatt (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1985), p. 77 (ch. 18).

[29] To this purpose an international conference After Arundel: Religious Writing in Fifteenth-Century England will be held at the University of Oxford on 16-18 April 2009, marking the 600th anniversary of the publication of Arundel’s Constitutions.

[30] Viz. Alexander Pushkin, The Prophet (1827).

[31] In the Amherst and the Westminster manuscripts.

[32] Revelations of Divine Love. Ed., with preface by George Hargreave Parker (London, 1843).

[33] Revelations of Divine Love, shewed to a devout Anchoress, by name Mother Julian of Norwich, with a preface by Henry Collins (London, 1877).

[34] XVI Revelations of Divine Love shewed to Mother Juliana of Norwich 1373 with a preface by George Tyrrell S.J., (London, 1902).

[35] Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, Fond anglais MS 40.

[36] London, British Library, MS Sloane 2499.

[37] F. P. S. Blomefield, An Essay Towards a Topographical History of the Country of Norfolk (London, 1805-10).

Julian of Norwich's Showing of Love elsewhere on the Web can be found at

http://www.ccel.org/ccel/julian/revelations.toc.html§ Sloane Manuscript
http://www.lib.rochester.edu/camelot/teams/crampton.htm§ Sloane Manuscript
http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Julian_of_Norwich§ Translation
while the University of Exeter edition by Marion Glasscoe has been sadly removed from the Web


Indices to Umiltà Website's Essays on Julian:


Influences on Julian
Her Self
Her Contemporaries
Her Manuscript Texts
with recorded readings of them
About Her Manuscript Texts
After Julian, Her Editors
Julian in our Day

Our publications related to Julian:


Saint Bride and Her Book: Birgitta of Sweden's Revelations Translated from Latin and Middle English with Introduction, Notes and Interpretative Essay. Focus Library of Medieval Women. Series Editor, Jane Chance. xv + 164 pp. Revised, republished,  Boydell and Brewer, 1997. Republished, Boydell and Brewer, 2000. ISBN 0-941051-18-8

To see an example of a page inside with parallel text in Middle English and Modern English, variants and explanatory notes, click here. Index to this book at http://www.umilta.net/julsismelindex.html

Julian of Norwich. Showing of Love: Extant Texts and Translation. Edited. Sister Anna Maria Reynolds, C.P. and Julia Bolton Holloway. Florence: SISMEL Edizioni del Galluzzo (Click on British flag, enter 'Julian of Norwich' in search box), 2001. Biblioteche e Archivi 8. XIV + 848 pp. ISBN 88-8450-095-8.

To see inside this book, where God's words are in red, Julian's in black, her editor's in grey, click here. 

Julian of Norwich. Showing of Love. Translated, Julia Bolton Holloway. Collegeville: Liturgical Press; London; Darton, Longman and Todd, 2003. Amazon ISBN 0-8146-5169-0/ ISBN 023252503X. xxxiv + 133 pp. Index.

To view sample copies, actual size, click here.

Julian of Norwich, Showing of Love, Westminster Text, translated into Modern English, set in William Morris typefont, hand bound with marbled paper end papers within vellum or marbled paper covers, in limited, signed edition. A similar version available in Italian translation. To order, click here.

'Colections' by an English Nun in Exile: Bibliothèque Mazarine 1202. Ed. Julia Bolton Holloway, Hermit of the Holy Family. Analecta Cartusiana 119:26. Eds. James Hogg, Alain Girard, Daniel Le Blévec. Salzburg: Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik Universität Salzburg, 2006.

Anchoress and Cardinal: Julian of Norwich and Adam Easton OSB. Analecta Cartusiana 35:20 Spiritualität Heute und Gestern. Salzburg: Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik Universität Salzburg, 2008. ISBN 978-3-902649-01-0. ix + 399 pp. Index. Plates.

Teresa Morris. Julian of Norwich: A Comprehensive Bibliography and Handbook. Preface, Julia Bolton Holloway. Lewiston: Edwin Mellen Press, 2010. x + 310 pp.  ISBN-13: 978-0-7734-3678-7; ISBN-10: 0-7734-3678-2. Maps. Index.

Fr Brendan Pelphrey. Lo, How I Love Thee: Divine Love in Julian of Norwich. Ed. Julia Bolton Holloway. Amazon, 2013. ISBN 978-1470198299


Julian among the Books: Julian of Norwich's Theological Library. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2016. xxi + 328 pp. VII Plates, 59 Figures. ISBN (10): 1-4438-8894-X, ISBN (13) 978-1-4438-8894-3.

Mary's Dowry; An Anthology of Pilgrim and Contemplative Writings/ La Dote di Maria:Antologie di Testi di Pellegrine e Contemplativi. Traduzione di Gabriella Del Lungo Camiciotto. Testo a fronte, inglese/italiano. Analecta Cartusiana 35:21 Spiritualität Heute und Gestern. Salzburg: Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik Universität Salzburg, 2017. ISBN 978-3-903185-07-4. ix + 484 pp.

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