Study Guide

Julian of Norwich in The Book of Margery Kempe

Julian of Norwich

Jesus commands Kempe to visit "Dame Julian," who is the author of Revelations of Divine Love and is considered one of the greatest English mystics. Julian was an anchoress at St. Julian's Church (not named after her) in Norwich.

Though she intended her life to be secluded from the world, Julian was permitted to converse with those who sought spiritual guidance and help in prayer. Kempe shares her life and visions with Julian over the course of their visit, which lasts some days. Julian, in her characteristically patient and laid-back manner, tells Kempe that she has nothing to worry about:

"Any creature that has these tokens may steadfastly believe that the Holy Ghost dwells in his soul. And much more, when God visits a creature with tears of contrition, devotion or compassion, he may and out to believe that the Holy Ghost is in his soul." (I.18.78)

We think this was Julian's gentle way of telling Kempe to quit worrying and get on with the work of contemplative life. Now, you'd think that maybe Julian's authority would be enough to banish any doubt Kempe might have had about her experiences. But you'd be wrong. Despite the good anchoress's kind words, Kempe will spend a lot of time in the future tracking down holy people to ask if she's doing the right thing.