Thursday 15 February 2024


 I am publishing this second post on Julian of Norwich Revelations of Divine Love a day after the first post in order to give more detail about the contents of this extraordinary work. I find it breathtaking to record that this medieval book of Christian mysticism containing 87 chapters of devotions is the earliest surviving example of a book in the English language known to have been written by a woman. 

MDCLXX = 1670. This is the year of the first publication of the book. 

Julian's book is centred on the sixteen mystical visions or "shewings" she received in 1373 when she was thirty years old. She had become seriously ill, probably from a form of plague, and was not expected to survive. The visions appeared to her for several hours in one night, with a final revelation occurring the following night. Later, fully recovered, she wrote in her vernacular language, Middle English, an account of each vision, producing a manuscript now referred to as the Short Text. She then developed her ideas for decades whilst living as an anchoress in a cell attached to St Julian's Church in Norwich and completed an extended version of her writings, now known as the Long Text

Her work remained very largely unread for the best part of three centuries. The first publication of the

book was a translation of the Long Text by an English monk in 1670. Little notice was taken of this book for over a century and a half. Then three versions of this translation were published in the 19th century, paving the way for many further publications in the 20th century and since. There is a measure of serendipity in the survival of Julian's writings. 

The sixteen revelations are:

  1. Julian sees "red blood trickling down from under the Crown of Thorns" on a crucifix. She grasps that the Holy Trinity is meant when Jesus appears [Mother Julian is always orthodox in her theological framework, even if there are elements in her mysticism that move her sharply away form the Pauline notion of Original Sin. I find it interesting that George Fox makes no reference to Original Sin in his teaching; neither does he make much use of the orthodoxy of the Trinity.] Jesus shows Julian "a little thing, the size of a hazelnut" as a sign of his love: "And I was answered in my understanding: 'It lasts and ever shall, for God loves it, and so everything has its beginning by the love of God'. In this little thing I saw three properties; the first is that God made it; the second is that God loves it; and the third is that God keeps it."
  2. Julian sees a part of the Passion of Jesus upon his face.
  3. Julian observes God and understands that he is present in all things, and does everything. 
  4. Julian sees Jesus's blood covering him as it flows from his wounds - and she writes that her sins are better washed away with his blood than with water.
  5. The devil is defeated by the death of Jesus on the cross. 
  6. God, reigning in his house in heaven, understands Julian's service and suffering. 
  7. Alternating experiences of joy and sorrow are revealed to Julian. 
  8. Julian contemplates the death and decay of Jesus and is shown "the essence of natural love and pain".
  9. Jesus declares his pleasure at having suffered for Julian and shows her the pleasure, the joy, and the delight of the Trinity. 
  10. Jesus is revealed to Julian as he gazes into his own wound.
  11. Jesus shows Julian his mother Mary, now "high and noble and glorious".
  12. Jesus show himself to Julian, and speaks words beyond her comprehension.
  13. A long revelation, comprising thirteen chapters, that include Jesus informing Julian that "sin is befitting [necessary]" but despite this fact "all shall [must] be well, and all shall [must] be well, and all manner of things shall [must] be well". [This is the expression that leapt out from the page when I first read it and it has guided me in my life ever since.] Man's atonement matters more to God than Man's Fall. 
  14. Within this other long revelation of 22 chapters, it is made clear that God is always merciful if he receives prayers.
  15. Jesus promises Julian that her suffering will stop and that she will go to heaven. She sees a body, from which a soul in the form of a child arises.
  16. God reassures Julian that her revelations are authentic. 

An imagination of the anchoress's cell 

I find this book an extraordinary tour de force. I am not shaped by medieval orthodox Christian assumptions about the nature of the universe and its Creator and His Son, Jesus. Julian of Norwich was so defined. But my goodness, what a breath of fresh air flows from her words. God is, above all, Love.   


  1. I'm an American and have been a friend of Rob's for several years, beginning with COVID pandemic discussions. His sincere dedication to helping make the world a better place is an attribute that I wish was as infectious as that virus, resulting in a pandemic of goodwill. I suspect Rob has more faith than I that such an outcome is possible, which is one of the reasons I keep reading his writings. He is a brilliant researcher and his works always contain a note of optimism. Finally, as an American I believe it must certainly give our friends in the UK a different perspective on just about everything when you can look at the history of your country back in the "1300s" (and earlier), and we across the pond consider a building in the US that's say, 150 years old, as being an "historical" work of architecture. Different perspectives but still friends. That's a good thing!

    1. Sorry to have taken so long to reply, Howard. I've had so much on my plate that I forgot about the reply link staring me in the face. This comment by you is such a lovely response. Yes, different perspectives but still friends -exactly right. We all need to believe in the power of hope - I resonate with your idea of a pandemic of goodwill.