Julian of Norwich: Summary & Quotes

Julian of Norwich: Summary & Quotes
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  • 0:04 Julian of Norwich
  • 0:48 Julian the Anchoress
  • 1:36 Julian's Revelation
  • 2:21 The Message
  • 3:56 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Adrienne Maher
In this lesson, you'll learn about Julian of Norwich, the first published English woman writer. Her book, 'Revelations of Divine Love,' published in about 1393, was based on visions she received from God upon her recovery from a near-fatal illness.

Julian of Norwich

Julian of Norwich, born in about 1342, was the first English woman to ever publish a book. It was a religious book called Revelations of Divine Love, which she wrote in about 1393. A contemporary of Chaucer, she was one of the foremost writers of prose in medieval literature.

She is also one of the world's famous mystics. A mystic is someone who spends a great deal of his or her life in prayer and meditation and who believes he or she has received revelations from the Divine, which are passed on to other people through their writings and teachings. In the Middle Ages, a special kind of mystic was an anchorite, or anchoress if the person was a female.

Julian the Anchoress

An anchoress detached herself from the world to live a life of prayer, contemplation, and ministry to those who sought spiritual advice. She lived in a small room, or a cell, attached to the church, which, according to a 13th century rule, had three windows: one that opened into the Church, so she could hear Mass and receive the Blessed Sacrament; one to speak with her servant, who met her daily domestic needs; and one to give spiritual advice to people who came to her. Sometimes an anchoress moved among the parish, but she lived and spent most of her time in her cell. She was not considered to be detached from the world, but an anchor in the world. Julian took her name from the church where she was the anchor, the Church of St. Julian, in Norwich, England (about 100 miles Northeast of London).

Julian's Revelation

Julian of Norwich was not a nun, nor did she have a lifetime calling into her religious vocation. It is believed that she was a widow who had lost both a husband and child to the Black Plague. She became deathly ill at the age of 30, and this was the turning point in her life that made her a famous mystic and author for all time. She was so near death that a priest came to say last rites, but she had a miraculous recovery. During the few days after her illness suddenly left her, she received 16 revelations from God, which she later wrote down in her well-known book of mystical prose, Revelations of Divine Love. After receiving these revelations, she dedicated herself to a life of devotion to God.

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