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Three Women, Three Spiritual Paths

City of Norwich


Petition for Anchoress

Margery Kempe

Marguerite de Porete

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Illustration of Julian of Norwich

Greetings and Welcome! I am Julian of Norwich. Some people call me Juliana. My name is taken from the church where I lived as an anchoress. That church was the church of St. Julian.

When I was in my thirty-first year, I became desperately ill. But then God blessed me. God came to me on May 13, 1373 with “showings” or “revelations” that brought with them complete healing. There were 16 showings from God. All of them came in the course of a few hours. The showings taught me of the immense love of God for creation, and in particular, for the human race. This I saw especially in the first ten showings where I saw the love God has for us through the cross and passion of Christ.

I wrote down the showings in a short version at first. Around 1393, however, I was just at the point of writing the conclusion for a longer version of the showings. You may wonder why there are short and long versions. Let me quote to you what I wrote at the very end of the long text:

For truly I saw and understood in our Lord’s meaning that he revealed it because he wants to have it better known than it is. In which knowledge he wants to give us grace to love him and to cleave to him, for he beholds his heavenly treasure with so great love on earth that he will give us more light and solace in heavenly joy, by drawing our hearts from the sorrow and the darkness which we are in. And from the time that it was revealed, I desired many times to know in what was our Lord’s meaning. And fifteen years after and more, I was answered in spiritual understanding, and it was said: What, do you wish to know your Lord’s meaning in this thing?

In other words, by the time it came to 1388 I finally came to understand the sum of the revelations given to me in 1373. This led me to write the longer version. To best understand what I learned from God, you need to read the first revelation from which all the other showings flow.

Let me read to you what I learned:

At the same time that I saw the head [Christ’s] bleeding, our good Lord showed a spiritual sight of his familiar love. I saw that he is to us everything which is good and comforting for our help. He is our clothing, who wraps and enfolds us for love, embraces us and shelters us, surrounds us for his love, which is so tender that he many never desert us. And so in this sight I saw that he is everything which is good, as I understand. And in this he showed me something small, no bigger than a hazelnut, lying in the palm of my hand, as it seemed to me, and it was as round as a ball. I looked at it with the eye of my understanding and thought: What can this be? I was amazed that it could last, for I thought that because of its littleness it would suddenly have fallen into nothing. And I was answered in my understanding: It lasts and always will, because God loves it; and thus everything has being through the love of God.

As you move through this area, you will find more about women and spirituality in the Middle Ages. That time was hard on some of us, especially for Marguerite de Porete.


Virtual Medieval Church and Its Writings
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Julian of Norwich