Julian (or Juliana) of Norwich was a medieval visionary and recluse in England. Although she is commonly regarded as the first English woman of letters, little is known about her life save the few details contained in her mystical treatise, Revelations of Divine Love (1670), sometimes called Shewings. Wedonot know exactly when she was born, when she died, or what her birth name was. She was probably born in Norwich around 1342 and died some time after 1413. She may have been affiliated early in her life with the Benedictine house of Carrow, although it is more likely that she was a highly devout laywoman living at her home. By 1394 she had become an anchoress, enclosed in a cell adjoining the church of St. Julian in Norwich, from which she derived her name. Thereafter, her life consisted of meditation, prayer, and service—a life highly respected by people of the time.
According to her Revelations, Julian desired three gifts from God: to have an understanding of Christ’s Passion; to experience bodily suffering when she turned thirty (the same age as Christ when he began his public life); and to have the three “wounds” of contrition, compassion, and earnest longing for God. Her desire was fulfilled in May 1373 when she was thirty and a half years old: God sent her a serious illness that debilitated her completely for three days and nights. On the fourth day, Easter morning, the parish priest came and gave her the last sacraments of the Church. The priest visited her again, on May 8, to be with her at her end. When she thought she was passing away and all around her had turned dark, he held up the crucifix before her face, saying, “I have brought you the image of your Maker and Saviour. Look, and be strengthened” (Revelations, p. 64). When she fixed her gaze on the face of the crucifix, she saw a light beaming from the cross, and her pain left her immediately. At that moment, the crucifix changed: “And at once I saw the red blood trickling down from under the garland, hot, freshly, and plentiful, just as it did at the time of his passion when the crown of thorns was pressed on to the blessed