Julian of Norwich (14th century)

Artist: 
Br. Robert Lentz, OFM

Artist's Narrative:
Very few details are known about the life of Julian of Norwich. She was an anchoress who lived in a special cell attached to the parish church of St. Julian, which may account for her name. She was the first woman to write a book in English. Some feel that she originally belonged to a community of Benedictine nuns because she had more formal learning than most women of her day. Others feel that because her writings show such a deep understanding of what it means to be a mother, she was a laywoman who may have lost her husband and children when the plague swept through Norwich in 1361.

When she was thirty years old she was intensely sick and came close to death. At this time she had a number of visions of Christ on the cross. She recovered and lived many more years, writing down what she had seen and learned from her visions. The themes which run most strongly through her writings are the motherhood of God and God’s mercy towards weak humankind. "So Jesus is our true Mother in nature by our first creation, and He is our true Mother in grace by His taking our created nature."

Her hermit’s cell was a simple structure with a window that opened onto the interior of the church and its altar, and another that opened for those who came to her from the street, seeking counsel and merely a listening ear. In this icon she is shown at the latter window with her cat, listening to those who come to her with their problems, fears, and woes.

The Anglican Church keeps her feast as May 8.

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