Julian (or Juliana) of Norwich, also known as Dame Julian or Mother Julian (late 1342 – after 1416) was an English anchorite of the Middle Ages. She wrote the earliest surviving book in the English language to be written by a woman, Revelations of Divine Love.
She lived throughout her life in the English city of Norwich, an important centre for commerce that also had a vibrant religious life, but which during her lifetime was a witness to the devastating effects of the Black Death of 1348–50, the Peasants’ Revolt, which affected large parts of England in 1381, and the suppression of the Lollards. In 1373, aged thirty and so seriously ill she thought she was on her deathbed, Julian received a series of visions or “shewings” of the Passion of Christ. She recovered from her illness and wrote two versions of her experiences, the earlier one being completed soon after her recovery, and a much longer version, today known as the Long Text, being written many years later.
For much of her life, Julian lived in permanent seclusion as an anchoress in her cell, which was attached to St Julian’s Church, Norwich.
Nothing is known for certain about Julian’s actual name, family, or education, or of her life prior to her becoming an anchoress. Preferring to write anonymously, and seeking isolation from the world, she was nevertheless influential in her own lifetime. Her manuscripts were carefully preserved by Brigittine and Benedictine nuns, all the scribes but one being women. The Protestant Reformation prevented their publication in print for a very long time.