The only thing I knew about Julian of Norwich before reading Amy Frykholm's excellent new "contemplative biography"
of her was that she was the saint who said "All shall be well, and all
shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well." My friend Kelly
likes to quote that when I'm particularly stressed out, and I find it
It turns out that I'm not the only one in the dark about this medieval saint. In this interview, Christian Century correspondent Amy Frykholm explodes some of the pervasive myths about Julian and helps us to understand Julian's theology and visions.
Sainthood: I don't know much about Julian, but I had always heard she
was an aristocratic nun. You say that might not have been the case at
Frykholm: Right. In fact, I think the evidence points away
from it. No one knows for sure, but there was an enormous explosion of
lay writing in the late 14th and early 15th centuries. Lay people were
taking on greater roles in the church and claiming their own
spirituality. So there's no reason to presume she was a nun. But there's
also the fact that Julian never mentions a convent, a religious order,
or anything monastic in her book. Another reason was that she wrote this
book for laypeople. Most books written by women in this period were for
sisters or make a great deal of mention of convent life. She's very
clear that she's writing for laypeople.
FS: So she probably wasn't a nun, but you're saying she was not gentility either?