Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Revelations of Divine Love

Rate this book
One of the first woman authors, Julian of Norwich produced in Revelations of Divine Love a remarkable work of revelatory insight, that stands alongside The Cloud of Unknowing and Piers Plowman as a classic of Medieval religious literature

After fervently praying for a greater understanding of Christ's passion, Julian of Norwich, a fourteenth-century anchorite and mystic, experienced a series of divine revelations. Through these 'showings', Christ's sufferings were revealed to her with extraordinary intensity, but she also received assurance of God's unwavering love for man and his infinite capacity for forgiveness. Written in a vigorous English vernacular, the Revelations are one of the most original works of medieval mysticism and have had a lasting influence on Christian thought. This edition of the Revelations contains both the short text, which is mainly an account of the 'showings' themselves and Julian's initial interpretation of their meaning, and the long text, completed some twenty years later, which moves from vision to a daringly speculative theology.

Elizabeth Spearing's translation preserves Julian's directness of expression and the rich complexity of her thought. An introduction, notes and appendices help to place the works in context for modern readers.

193 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1393

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Julian of Norwich

40 books204 followers
Julian of Norwich was the most important English mystic of the 14th century. Her spirituality is strongly Trinitarian and basically Neoplatonic.

In her Revelations of Divine Love Julian relates that in May 1373, when she was 30 years old, she suffered a serious illness. After she had been administered extreme unction, she received 16 revelations within the span of a few hours. When she wrote her Revelations, she was a recluse at Norwich, supported by the Benedictine convent of Carrow. Anchorite seclusion was a rather common form of life in 14th-century England among Christians with high spiritual aspirations. A woman of little formal education - she calls herself "unlettered" - Julian writes in a beautifully simple style and shows a solid grasp of traditional theology.

Julian's revelations, a mixture of imaginary and intellectual visions, bear all the characteristics of true mysticism. According to her, her visions came in fulfillment of three petitions of her youth: to have in mind the Passion of Christ, to have a critical bodily sickness at 30 years of age, and to receive the wounds of "true contrition," "genuine compassion," and "sincere longing for God." The revelations consist mostly of visions of the crucified Christ occasioned by the sight of a crucifix which the priest had left at her bedside. But through the Passion, Julian is led to intellectual visions of the Trinity and of the universe as it exists in God. Thus she is confronted by the teachings of sin and damnation, which she finds hard to reconcile with God's grace in Christ. Nevertheless the accepts the traditional Church doctrine of the existence of an eternal rejection. Yet on the sinfulness of those who will be saved she hedges: "In every soul to be saved is a godly will that has never consented to sin, in the past or in the future. Just as there is an animal will in our lower nature that does not will what is good, so there is a godly will in our higher part, which by its basic goodness never wills what is evil, but only what is good." Obviously she finds herself unable to accept that divine goodness could ever allow the elect to be truly sinful. Her fundamental outlook is optimistic. The Lord tells her: "All shall be well," and "You will see for yourself that all manner of thing shall be well."

Little is known of Julian's later years, not even the date of her death. She is last referred to as a living person in a will dated 1416. Apparently even during her life she enjoyed a certain renown, for people came from afar to see and consult her.

Further Reading

There are two versions of the Revelations, one much longer than the other. It is not known whether the short one is merely an excerpt from the older one or whether it is the first authentic report on which Julian elaborated in the longer version. A critical edition is being prepared by Sister Anna Maria Reynolds and James Walsh. Meanwhile, a modernized edition of the short version is A Shewing of God's Love (1958) by Anna Maria Reynolds. Several modern translations of the longer version, under the title Revelations of Divine Love, are by Roger Hudleston (1927), James Walsh (1961), Anchoret Juliana (1966), and Clifton Wolters (1966). Important studies of Julian are Paul Molinari, Julian of Norwich: The Teaching of a 14th Century English Mystic (1958), and James Walsh, ed., Pre-Reformation English Spirituality (1966).

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
2,778 (39%)
4 stars
2,100 (30%)
3 stars
1,385 (19%)
2 stars
497 (7%)
1 star
217 (3%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 475 reviews
Profile Image for rachel.
771 reviews150 followers
January 24, 2015
"And I saw quite certainly in this and in everything that God loved us before he made us; and his love has never diminished and never shall. And all of his works were done in this love; and in this love he has made everything for our profit; and in this love our life is everlasting."

I don't know what sort of criteria one should use to rate this book, so I'm not going to attempt it. I approached it from the perspective of an agnostic leaning towards atheist, and I came out of my reading experience realizing that the reason I was so unshakably stuck in this position, unable to even consider the possibility of personal belief, is because I was looking at faith in the wrong way. The conservative God of the political right-wing and the forced church attendance of my childhood were never going to have any spiritual impact on me. But a God of love, discovered on my own terms, could and would.

Thinking of God as existing -- not in epistemological terms but in spiritual terms -- in human manifestations of love (family, friends, and the man Jesus) had a powerful effect. So many times, Julian would mention that sin and times of suffering only exist to help bring the sufferer into the fold of God's love, which is stronger and outlasts all suffering. It has been a miserable year for me and I picked this book up not understanding why I did. As I read it, I felt my anxiety relax -- this while standing in the bookstore on a browse trip, even before the realization that a part of me might be susceptible to actual, genuine belief.

I still believe that faith or lack of faith is a highly personal feeling, so it is not something I plan to talk about too much beyond this review. But I will say that personally, I didn't realize how much of an impact this book and #22 in particular had on me:

For although the dear humanity of Christ could only suffer once, his goodness makes him always ready to do so again; he would do it every day if it were possible; and if he said that for love of me he would make new heavens and a new earth, it would be but little in comparison, for he could do this every day if he so wished, without any hardship; but to offer to die for love of me so often that the number of times passes human comprehension, that is the most glorious present that our Lord God could make to a man's soul, it seems to me.

Until I went to church willingly this morning for the first time in years, just to see if it felt differently, and it was so moving to be there after internalizing all of these things (maybe even believing them for once in a rare while) that I almost cried.

Time will tell if this reaction stands. Being naturally skeptical, I'm sort of inclined to chalk up these new feelings to Julian's hypnotically lovely prose rather than any real faith. But again, as I type this and think about the book, my usually tense body is calm. So I don't know.
Profile Image for Jan-Maat.
1,565 reviews1,887 followers
September 3, 2019
From about four in the morning until nine on the eighth of May 1373, Julian of Norwich, then thirty years old, sick and believing herself to be near to death, had a series of visions of Christ. After this she had a vision of the Devil (he had tile red skin, dark freckles, red hair, white teeth and smelt terrible ) before seeing Christ again that night and then the Devil again (who upon departing left only his awful stink behind him). It then took her between fifteen years and twenty years, less three months, to come to an understanding of the meaning of the visions that she experienced. At some point she then presumably dictated the book that we can read today.

Julian's visions as spiritual literature don't seem to have been particularly well known in the middle ages. It survives in one manuscript of a short version and three manuscripts of a long version, the oldest of which dates from the fifteenth century. However Julian as a person who had visions was well enough known in her own lifetime for Margery Kempe to seek her out and visit her. The book's wide availability today probably reflects its very domestic spirituality, its joyful message, and its almost complete lack of personal or contemporary detail while might serve to alienate and distance a reader.

Julian is associated with Norwich. In the fourteenth century this was one of England's largest towns. She lived there at a time of on going war with France and occasional outbreaks of the plague, but none of this intrudes on what she has to say. We don't know if she was married, or a mother, owned land or practised a craft or even where she was born. The whole narrative is at once completely personal, focused on her experience of seeing Christ, and yet at the same time striped of all personal details to the point that she is not just an everywoman but in effect an anybody, my reading of The Hollow Crown to give me some context beforehand turned out to be of no advantage except for showing how disconnected Julian's story appears on a casual reading to be from her cultural and social surroundings .

There are a couple of partial exceptions to this timelessness in the 170 odd pages of this printed edition, such as an extended metaphor of Christ and Adam as master and servant and a single reference to saint John of Beverley who is the only British saint she mentions . Apart from that, the personal and social context has been almost entirely stripped away to give us Julian and her sense of revelation.

The text plunges us straight into her visions. This produces a curious, intense effect that is also imprecise, disembodied and abstract. For most of the book we are apparently with her while she has a series of visions from the moment that a Priest, called to her bedside, holds up a crucifix and she begins to see it bleeding. At the same time she is not just narrating what she saw but telling us what she understood those visions to mean even though that understanding was only reached many years after the initial experience. This very literary choice on her part creates immediacy for the reader, but is entirely artificial. Looking back on reading it it is not even always entirely clear, as with the vision of being under the sea and seeing the stones there all covered with green moss, what she saw on that morning of the 8th of May and what she saw at some later date. Clearly that kind of a distinction was not what she aimed to achieve.

While towards the end of the work she says "This place is a prison, and this life a penance" (p.200) and "We are nothing but sin and wretchedness" (p.201) this runs counter to the force of her experience which was of overwhelming faith in God in the person of Jesus and his love. Jesus is father and mother and brother for her. She has a nice description of Christ as a mother watching their child stumble as they learn to walk, or in a slightly more bloody image the wound in Christ's side from the crucifixion allows the Christian to enter into God, which is likened to the intimacy and love of a mother breast feeding her child . The two spiritual sicknesses that Julian feels are important are sloth or impatience - in the form of making heavy weather of hardship and suffering and despair. Against this she experiences God comforting her by telling her 'you shall not be overcome'.

Faith is at the centre of her experience at one point In my foolish way I had often wondered why the foreseeing wisdom of God could not have prevented the beginning of sin, for then, thought I, all would have have been well (p.103) The answer is of course that "Sin was necessary" and she feels the problem that Ivan raises in The Brothers Karamazov "we see deeds done that are so evil, and injuries inflicted that are so great, that it seems to us quite impossible that any good can come of them" (p.109). The answer again is faith. That everything will be clear in Heaven. Since Julian's emphasis is on the compassion and love of God, her experience is of a joyful message. God in Julian's vision is not angry and wrathful, but loving.

Although she was an Anchorite , Julian's spirituality as revealed in this book is entirely domestic. It does not require monastic retreat, pilgrimage, good works or even a hair shirt. It is something that can apparently be lived in any circumstances by anybody. This is a revelation of the power of faith in giving a person confidence and joy in their life. It is more of a piece with later forms of Christian spiritual life, Luther's salvation by faith alone comes to mind, and is a long way from the angry saints of an earlier age always out to punish those who were insufficiently respectful towards them, or the need to flee the world for a desert place to suffer for salvation of the desert fathers or even the Cistercians who could not bare to set up one of their monasteries within hearing of the bells of another monastery. By contrast here Christ and the Devil come to Julian while she is in bed. It could hardly be more homely.

There are some particularly striking moments. Julian seeing all that God has created as a tiny thing, the size of a hazelnut, in Jesus' hand. Later the soul located in her heart is by contrast as large as an eternal kingdom and ruled over by Christ, while Christ's thirst to have everyman inside himself is so great that God is continuously drinking, drawing all in.

I wouldn't recommend this particular edition which is a translation into modern English, I'd look out for a version with the original text and a translation on the facing page if there is such a thing. The introduction didn't strike me as helpful with it's discussion of her heresy without any attempt to put Julian in her religious context. Also my second hand copy, sold for six shillings in 1966, split in two while I was reading it, there's no life in these short lived paper books compared with a decent work in vellum!
Profile Image for Ines.
321 reviews198 followers
June 11, 2020
This reading was really special, at first i was curious and I decided to read this book because I really liked the cover only, found it in my father’s bookshelves... I had no precise reason for a book with such a unique subject, as can be the mystical revelations of the Saints.
Instead, the revelations and commented words are very smooth, so the reading is likable and never verbose.
The contemplation of the Beatitude of our Lord Jesus Christ.... all the theme on which the revelations relate, and the grace that faith can give, when in every circumstance, even the most adverse, is a sign that everything is for a greater good. The Passion and death of Christ, others are not to defeat the nowadays material condition of our life. Death will not be the last word on us, but a sign of a total belonging of man to his creator, who, by dying for us, has given to us an eternal salvation.
For a not believer these words can only seem a blasphemy or a shame, for those who see in Christ, the eternal salvation of our living, are a sign of a total love of our miserable and sinful condition of life. In the mystery we will find eternal salvation....

Questa lettura è stata veramente particolare, primo, ho deciso di leggere questo libro unicamente perchè mi piaceva moltissimo la copertina, scovato nella libreria di mio padre.... non avevo un preciso motivo per un libro con un argomento così unico, come lo possono essere le rivelazioni mistiche dei Santi.
Invece le rivelazioni e le parole commentate sono molto scorrevoli, quindi la lettura risulta piacevole e mai prolissa.
La contemplazione della Beatitudine di nostro signore Gesù Cristo. , tutto qui il tema su cui vertono le rivelazioni, e la grazia che la Fede può dare, quando in ogni circostanza, anche la più avversa, è segno che tutto è per un bene più grande. La Passione e la morte del Cristo, altri non sono per sconfiggere il qui ed ora materiale del nostro vivere. La morte non sarà l' ultima parola su di noi, ma segno di una appartenenza totale dell' uomo al suo creatore, che morendo per noi ci ha donato una salvezza eterna.
Per un non credente queste parole possono solo sembrare una bestemmia o una vergogna, per chi vede nel Cristo, la salvezza eterna del nostro vivere, sono segno di un amore totale della nostra condizione misera e peccatrice di vita. Nel mistero troveremo la salvezza eterna....
Profile Image for David Sarkies.
1,813 reviews315 followers
June 14, 2016
Visions of a Medieval Mystic
28 January 2012

I discovered this book when my Bible College lecturer mentioned it and then proceeded to mock it for the rest of the lecture. Once the lecture had finished I went straight to the library, located it, and borrowed it, and I must admit that I quite enjoyed it (it was a much easier read than An Imitation of Christ. Basically the book is about a series of 16 visions that a female recluse had in the 1300s and her interpretation of these visions.

The story goes that Julian of Norwich wanted to have a revelation from God and then one day fell extremely ill, and while she was ill she had a series of 16 visions in which she learnt about God's loving nature. It is not the most theologically sound book that I have read, and there are a few areas that I simply don't agree with, namely that God's love is incompatible with his being angry, and that because of God's love, sin does not matter as much, but it does delve deeply into grace and is a book in which God's love that is demonstrated through his death upon the cross is explored deeply.

What stands out the most about this book is how Julian breaks through the gender barrier, for at the time theology is very much a male dominated discipline, and though things have changed, Julian was writing in the 14th century, and it further appears that she was not as well versed in the scriptures as others probably where. Yet for a book to have lasted for so long from a time when a recluse woman who had visions and then taught from them and was not burnt as a witch is impressive.

There are a couple of things I've noticed about her teachings (if that is what you wish to call it). Firstly, everything occurs in threes. Okay, she has 16 visions, but as she describes these visions, she always describes them in triplets, which reflects the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. The second thing is how she explores the feminine nature (or what she sees as the feminine nature) of God, and she generally expresses that Jesus is the mother, however that is something that I don't necessarily see as entirely supportive simply because my reading of the scripture indicates that God is male, and if there is any feminine aspect to God then it is the church. That does not necessarily mean that God does not have feminine characteristics, but it is not something that I have any desire to speculate on at this time.
Profile Image for Quirkyreader.
1,535 reviews43 followers
October 29, 2018
This was a moving testimony by a woman in great pain who used her faith to get through it.
8 reviews2 followers
December 30, 2008
The first book known to have been written by a woman in the English language. Julian is loved by feminist theologians and Catholic conservatives alike. Out of her mystical visions of Christ, comes an exploration of the feminine aspects of God, the problem of evil and suffering, and God's love for humanity. Most known for the phrase "all shall be well", but I also love "Love was His meaning". I love this book.
Profile Image for Melody Schwarting.
1,536 reviews81 followers
August 16, 2023
2023 Review

This year I read Barry Windeatt's translation for the Oxford World's Classics edition. Definitely my favorite! I sat down with Mirabai Starr's translation at first, but her translator's note turned me all the way off to her methodology so I decided to pivot. Windeatt's translation is readable without losing Julian's spark, and the explanatory notes are very helpful. There's also an index of Scripture references, a general index, a list of revelations in both the short and long texts, an excerpt from The Book of Margery Kempe, and some helpful front matter too. I have struggled to find the right edition to recommend to those interested in Julian, and I think I've finally found it!

This is the fifth time I've spent the summer with Julian, and it is always needed, always a balm to my soul. Resting in God's love, delighting in him and receiving his delight--there's nothing like it. As the first theological text written in English, it is a fount of English spirituality and theological expression. Drinking the sweet waters of the source simply fills my soul.

"...our Lord showed me spiritually in a vision how intimately he loves us. I saw that he is to us everything that is good and comforting for our help. He is our clothing that out of love enwraps us and enfolds us, embraces and wholly encloses us, surrounding us for tender love, so that he can never leave us." (45)

"Truth sees God, and wisdom contemplates God, and from these two comes the third, which is a holy, marvellous delight in God, which is love. Where truth and wisdom truly are, there is love, truly coming from both, and all of God's making." (97)

"And just as we shall be without end, so we were treasured and hidden in God, known and loved from without beginning." (119)

2022 Review

I never regret spending several months with Julian. Her central question regards what it means to live in the reality of God's love, and I love meditating with her on that every year.

This was the first time I sought a different translation: that of Father John-Julian, OJN. I valued his lexical choices, but the format of Paraclete Press's edition was not ideal for my personal reading. He sets the readings into brief daily sections, a total of 195, though I wanted to make it through in ~3 months as usual. The sections don't always follow the text's chapter designations, which I found unhelpful. The translation is also arranged somewhat like poetry. I liked it sometimes, but disliked it most of the time. Shewings/Revelations is not poetry. It is the first theological text in vernacular Middle English. I respect the translator's choices, because one of his major goals is to make the text accessible for devotional use. It just wasn't quite suited for the devotional pattern I've settled into over the past few years. It also makes it really hard to go back through the text to find quotations and passages for additional meditation, and the line breaks and indentation make quoting in a review like this a chore.

I plan to read Mirabai Starr's translation next. I wonder how I would have encountered this translation if I had read it before reading Elizabeth Spearing's thrice. The poetry-like line breaks and 195 sections for daily readings made me feel something of a distance between myself and Julian, which I had not encountered before. Yet, Father John-Julian's translation choices (opposed to organizational choices) communicated Julian's words to me in a fresh way that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Overall, I'd gift this edition to someone who is interested in Julian but intimidated by her, or someone seeking different translations. Yet, for someone who is acquainted with mysticism, medieval texts, et c., I'd recommend another edition.

2021 Review

My third year in a row spending the summer with Julian. Always worth it! Her focus on comfort was particularly needed this year--as it was last year, too--and her invitation to rest in God's goodness and love remains enticing. It struck me this time that Julian herself never says "all shall be well." The many times it's repeated in the text always come as quotations from her visions.

"...the goodness of God is the highest object of prayer and it reaches down to our lowest need." (49)

"And what comforted me most in the vision was that our God and Lord, who is so holy and awe-inspiring, is also so familiar and courteous." (51)

"'Look how I loved you. Look and see that I loved you so much before I died for you that I was willing to die for you....For my pleasure is your holiness and your endless joy and bliss with me.'" (76)

"...in this marvelling he sees his God, his Lord, his Maker, so high, so great and so good in comparison with him that he made, that the creature hardly seems of any value to himself, but the brightness and purity of truth and wisdom make him see and recognize that he is made for love, in which God holds him forever." (105)

"Mercy works with tenderness and grace blended with abundant pity; for by the work of mercy we are held safe and by the work of mercy everything is turned to good for us." (111)

"Thus I saw that God is our true peace, and he is our sure support when we are ourselves unpeaceful, and he is continually working to bring us into eternal peace." (113)

"And just as we shall be eternally, so we were treasured and hidden in God, known and loved since before time began." (129)

"He did not say, 'You shall not be tormented, you shall not be troubled, you shall not be grieved', but he said, 'You shall not be overcome.'" (135)

2020 Review

Chose this again for a summer devotional read, taking it even slower this time through to savor it. Julian's focus on love and intimacy with God is always a breath of fresh air, yet her reverence for the Holy Trinity never wavers. My second reading confirmed that Revelations is a great introduction to mysticism for the novice. Love mysticism can be a bit woo-woo for us Western folk, and Teresa of Avila is not exactly in the contemporary comfort zone, either, until one is introduced to mystic thought and expression, and can read it phenomenologically. Julian is more earthy, and the Penguin Classics translation by Elizabeth Spearing is very readable, especially after reading A. C. Spearing's introduction, which explains her earthy terms like "homely."

"...our Lord showed me a spiritual vision of his familiar love. I saw that for us he is everything that is good and comforting and helpful. He is our clothing, wrapping and enveloping us for love, embracing us and guiding us in all things, hanging about us in tender love, so that he can never leave us. And so in this vision, as I understand it, I saw truly that he is everything that is good for us." (7)

"[Jesus] supports us willingly and sweetly, by his words, and says, 'But all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.' These words were shown very tenderly...Thus I saw how Christ feels compassion for us because of sin. And just as I was earlier filled with suffering and compassion at the Passion of Christ, so was I now also partly filled with compassion for all my fellow Christians; and then I saw that whenever a man feels kind compassion with love for his fellow Christian, it is Christ within him." (21-22)

"Truth sees God, and wisdom contemplates God, and from these two comes the third, a holy and wonderful delight in God, who is love. Where truth and wisdom truly are, there is truly love coming from both of them, and all of God's making; for he is supreme unending truth, supreme unending wisdom, supreme unending love, uncreated." (105)

"And you to whom this book may come, thank our Saviour Jesu Christ earnestly and heartily for making these showings and revelations of his endless love, mercy and goodness for you and to you, to be your and our safe guide and conduct to everlasting bliss; which may Jesus grant us. Amen." (180)

2019 Review

For my first time going completely through the short text and long text, I read a few chapters each day as part of my devotional practice. Julian is such a mother of the faith, and her voice is rich. Insights leapt to me from every page, and some of them changed my life. Considering returning to this one on a yearly basis.
Profile Image for Quirkyreader.
1,535 reviews43 followers
November 2, 2020
This was a re-read. This time around it was for the longer text.

I like the longer text better. It elaborates more on what Julian of Norwich saw during her visions.

While I was reading this I used a copy of the Wycliffe Bible as reference work. Anytime scripture was mentioned I looked it up in that translation. For me it wasn’t that difficult to read. But, this is coming from a person who had to memorize Chaucer while in High School. So something you can try, is to have both the Wycliffe and King James open side by side while reading the quoted scriptures. Reading the scriptures can help put you into the frame of mind that Julian was in while experiencing her visions and writing the text.

This book is also considered to by a “Christian Classic”. So give this one a go and see what it means to you.

Profile Image for booklady.
2,317 reviews65 followers
August 25, 2013
Julian likes lists! So do I! ☺ At another time in my life, her writings might have sounded like an old-time sermon. The recording I listened to read by Pam Ward and produced by Hovel Audio did use many quaint unfamiliar expressions. And yet, I found myself compelled to love Julian's ‘Gracious Lord’, so I might be able to claim as she did,
‘Our courteous Lord endlessly beholds us in this work, rejoicing. And we please him best by wisely and truly believing these things, and by rejoicing with him and in him. For as truly as we shall be in the bliss of God without end, praising and thanking him, so truly we have been in the foresight of God, loved and known in his endless purpose from time without beginning. In this unbegun love he made us; and in the same love he keeps us and never allows us to be hurt in a way by which our bliss might be lost. Therefore when the last day is called and we are all brought up above, then we shall clearly see in God the secret things which are hidden from us now. Then shall no one be stirred to say in any way: ‘Lord, if it had been so, then it would have been well.’ But rather, we shall all say with one voice: ‘Lord, may you be blessed for it is so, and it is well; and now see we truly that all things are done as you ordained before anything was made.’


Set this aside for some reason ... guess I had too many other books started. Picking it up again. Listening to it as well as reading it.


One of the first e-books I downloaded to my new Kindle Fire. Looked through a number of versions of the this classic work and this was the one which looked the best; hope it is.
Profile Image for Stephanie Ricker.
Author 6 books95 followers
November 30, 2008
Medieval Lit: sometimes you are so cool, and other times you make me want to stab my eyes out with a quill pen.

Julian of Norwich falls into the category of written dream vision, of which there seems to have been jillions in the middle ages. Nobody just had regular dreams, oh no; they had religiously significant dreams that must be recorded for all to read about and for professors today to torture their students with. Thanks, Julian. Thanks a bunch.

In all seriousness, I appreciate her sincerity and obvious depth of belief. Julian was an anchoritess, meaning she chose to be walled into a small cell attached to a church to have the time and peace to contemplate her visions and write them down. Pretty serious jazz. Her images and discussion of God as mother are theologically sound, even if she does carry them a little too far (kinda vampiric with the whole drinking the blood of Christ thing). I also liked the line "All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well." Apparently T.S. Eliot did too, because he put it in his poetry. So I guess you're not all bad, Julian...but I just can't bring myself to like most dream visions. I'll stick to the Dream of the Rood, at least that's in Old English.
Profile Image for Ellie.
1,491 reviews378 followers
September 2, 2020
I love those medieval mystics and Julian is one of the best--"And all shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well".

There are so many beautiful things in The Showings. God as Mother and Father, the idea (and new word) of "one-ing" with God. The vision of a God incapable of anger where sin is what makes us unhappy not what angers God. A God that delights in his/her creation. A God that is trustworthy.

I'll admit I skimmed through some of the more gruesome Catholic visions of the bleeding Jesus, and Julian's desire to experience serious illness to be one with him. There certainly were a lot of pages that did not speak to me. But who would have expected that so many would?

A beautiful book.
Profile Image for Cait.
1,071 reviews30 followers
July 31, 2023
Where Truth and Wisdom are verily, there is Love verily, coming of them both.


this book is a trip. I read it because it's the earliest surviving example of a book written in english that we know for sure was written by a woman, historical importance yadda yadda, but mainly, it's a trip.

julian of norwich is sooooo horny for god! and in particular so horny for, like, jesus's physical bodily damage! she's a real gorehound, to be honest! (I may also finally have to cave and create a #sidewoundrepresentation shelf, because obviously.)

but then just when you think that this book is going to be exclusively about julian's ecstatic agonies over jesus's blood-dripping forehead or whatever, she hits you with some extremely interesting stuff about jesus being our mother. like, really hits you over the head with it—it's relentless. even though I was tickled by the god-is-all-forms-of-love-and-I-do-mean-all section, the mother jesus gender section is the part I liked the best, the part where I had to sit up straight and tuck my shirt in and start taking notes instead of simply goofing around on my computer in the giant lecture hall (metaphorically speaking) because I realized that actually this was an interesting speaker with an interesting point. and give it to her!! because yes, she's right!!!!! if one believes that god is the father along with everything else then one must also surely believe that god is the mother, and like, yes, obviously, but I am just so unused to hearing that perspective from faithful catholi-christians (christians of any stripe, really, but when julian was having her revelations norwich was busy suppressing the lollards and martin luther hadn't been invented yet).

quotes about our mother jesus under the cut simply for length, but I do recommend reading them if you're interested, because again, it's all kind of wild:

other little bits of miscellany:
- rightfulness hath two fair properties: it is right and it is full—WELL, WHEN YOU PUT IT THAT WAY
- the word 'liefer'!!!! lief my old friend I didn't know u could be comparative :')
- so many modest (or not modest?) little as to my sights, forty-three in all!!
- sin is more painful than hell
- 'soothness'
- I know now that 'homely' and 'homeliness' mean something different in british english than in USian lol

whether we be stirred to know God or our Soul, both [these stirrings] are good and true.

*the translation is interesting. julian of norwich wrote in the vernacular; grace warrack's 1901 translation, which is the one that has wound up in the public domain—look at this beautiful cover!—makes use of all those olde-timey eths and so on. I wonder to what extent that is a preservation, and to what extent a manufacturing, in taking something from middle english and going to the trouble of translating it to a modernized english for readability. I suppose that, in any case, it's likely for the effect of that elevated and grandiose tenor in the Churchy Language–y way. and we presumably also have warrack to thank for the transition into modern english of wonderful phrasing like a marvellous mingling both of weal and woe (while I have to imagine that the original text, which I haven't perused, was alliterative as well, translating it successfully is a feat in itself!).
Profile Image for Kenny Kidd.
150 reviews3 followers
October 28, 2021
Aaaand the other book I have completed, not just read excerpts of, for my Christian Mysticism class!

Julian of Norwich deFINES girlboss. Praying that God would increase her suffering so she could relate more with Christ’s suffering and be closer to him? Girlboss. Receiving an amount of suffering that drew her close to death and opened her mind to all sorts of visions with rich theological implications? Girlboss. Recovering from this incredible illness and reflecting on these visions and extrapolating dense theological lessons about love, service, and a total absence of anger in God? Girlboss. Being the first known female writer in the English language? Girlboss. Spending the last long portion of her life in solitude as an anchoress? Girlboss. Spreading the idea of God as mother in a beautiful, gentle, tender way that makes quite literally as much, if not more sense, as the idea of God the Father? Girlboss.

The only thing not quite girlboss about Julian is that she, self-admittedly, doesn’t understand how Hell could exist in a world where God is all-loving, and would be a universalist and believe that everyone is redeemed, except, in her words, “The Church teaches otherwise.” C’mon, Julian, you can go against the church! It’s alright! Go Universalist it up!

But yeah, this is a stunning piece of very emotive, richly thoughtful writing that’s one of my favorite explorations of God I’ve read (that does end up being a bit monotonous and repetitive, unfortunately), so would recommend 😎
Profile Image for Gary  Beauregard Bottomley.
1,007 reviews601 followers
January 24, 2019
A fourteenth century mystic’s guide for the human experience written with a spiritual coherence that surpasses any other modern day book of divine appreciation.

I stumbled onto this book when I noticed that Sister Julianne from ‘Call the Midwife’ had this book as one of her few possessions. That would have been time appropriate since this book very well would have been known in 1961 or before and would had made a good companion for an Anglican nun. The series also made notice of the movie ‘Whistle Down the Wind’, a movie I never heard of, and we ended up watching it from an archive.org version.
Profile Image for Anna Bright.
Author 4 books748 followers
January 2, 2022
did it take me 3.5 years to read this book? darn sure did. but it wasn't ever meant to be devoured like a novel, anyway. REVELATIONS OF DIVINE LOVE, like a lot of spiritual reading, is better suited for slow chewing and meditation. (maybe not QUITE this slow, but.) it's been a real pleasure reading the last bit of this one to my baby daughter as she falls asleep at night.
Profile Image for Jeremy.
758 reviews16 followers
April 8, 2012
This books seems pretty divisive. Readers either give it five stars or 1-2 stars. For me, I suppose I had a difficult time reading it with it's original milieu in mind. I couldn't stop thinking "This would never get published today, this would never get published today".

Obviously, it is a very significant work, as the first recorded English writing by a woman; as a well-recognized anchorite bio. However, I simply didn't get much from it. Also, I am "tainted" by my rebellious protestant upbringing and cannot help being scandalized by strong focuses on "working your way to salvation" and a fixation on longing to see Mary when apparently Christ was in her midst. I can't imagine being visited by God incarnate and saying "Wow, this is incredible! Can you go get your mom, though?"

If you're going to go for it, I recommend finding a copy that has a "short text" and a "long text". If you did the short, invest in the long.
Profile Image for Drew Canole.
1,729 reviews1 follower
May 31, 2023
Revelations of Divine Love is one of the earliest (and earliest still surviving) works in English by a woman. Unfortunately I found it quite a slog to get through not being interested in religious mystical visions.

Written by Julian of Norwich (born 1343 and died sometime after 1416). They estimate this was written in 1393, so right in the middle of when Chaucer was writing The Canterbury Tales.

Pretty cool that we still have this!
Profile Image for Joel Larson.
169 reviews5 followers
October 28, 2021
Christian mysticism let's goooooooooo!

Julian is fascinating to me - she was an anchoress (lived the end of her life in solitude in a single cell for the sake of contemplating and reflecting on the goodness and mystery of God), and experienced intense revelations which she spent the rest of her life thinking of and explaining through her writing. She gets repetitive, but the sections on Jesus as Mother were so so so good. God our Mother isn't a new-age hippie idea, folks!
Profile Image for Samantha B.
311 reviews21 followers
March 20, 2021
I have A LOT of thoughts about this.

On the one hand, she has so much in here that is beautiful, but most of it is stuff that I already know. Like how much God loves us all the time. (That one is at least 50% courtesy of our current pastor who thinks, and rightly so, that it's really, really important for us to internalize that. I didn't know how much I HADN'T internalized God's love until he started preaching and teaching about it on a semi-regular basis). And how He loves us even when we sin, and how His grace surrounds us, and how He is the root of our prayer. I also thought it was really cool how she talks about joy in suffering, and how she has an almost Lewisian view of the joys of heaven. So: the vast majority of the time, I really enjoyed/appreciated this.

That said. She's trying to be very careful to stay within the teachings of the Church (i.e. the Catholic Church, which was the only Christian Church at that point). Which I appreciate. BUT.
-Some of the time, it takes a certain amount of knowledge of theology and looking at what she's saying through a couple of different lenses before you can quite figure out how what she's saying fits into the framework of the Faith. That's not necessarily a problem, but I definitely wouldn't recommend it for someone who doesn't have a solid foundation in philosophy and theology.
-Sometimes she veers close to the edge. For instance, when she's talking about humans, and souls and bodies, she comes dangerously close to the "meat-puppet fallacy" (by which I mean, the soul just kind of lives in the body, or the body is bad, etc. The correct conception of this is that humans are union of body and soul. Credit again goes to our pastor for the coinage of the term "meat-puppet fallacy" XD). In addition, she has some strange idea about a human will which never consents to sin??? And I'm not sure that's legit. Oh, and she has one statement which implies EITHER that everyone is saved OR that Jesus only suffered for those that were saved? And I'm pretty sure that neither of those is true. (Catechism says: we can't say the first one for sure, and the second one is completely false.)
Within context, these things are fairly minor, but they did bug me. So. Yes. Enjoyable, but read with caution.
[Edit]: Also, I forgot to say how much the secular edition of this book irritated me. Because, like, the notes were so condescending? And so much of the notes/cover material assume that she's BREAKING MOLDS and BEING UNORTHODOX and it's like, no, she veers close to the edge sometimes, but it's NEVER THE TIMES THAT YOU ARE SAYING SHE'S BEING UNORTHODOX. /rant over/

Three stars, methinks.
Profile Image for Emma.
1,219 reviews42 followers
February 14, 2016
Since the late 1970s, thanks to the series Classics of Western Spirituality, English readers have had access to an excellent text in modern English of the Book of Revelations by Julian of Norwich, both in its short and long versions. Mirabai Starr thought time had come for a much more daring translation, theologically speaking, of the mystic’s sixteen visions (in its long version). She states doing so on the basis of what she thinks are Julian’s ideas. This leads her to move quite far away from the literal text in some cases, under the pretext of providing a more accessible text to the reader. Nevertheless, one can often wonder about the merits of such a choice, even if it is true that translating is always a matter of interpretation, but to what extent? The textual expression "those who will be saved" for example, was translated as "all beings." To move away from the usual consensus can sometimes create more confusion than clarity for the reader. Thus, automatically replacing the uses of the word "sin" in Julian’s text by "missing the mark" seems to lead readers too far away from Julian’s perspective. Especially if they ignore the Greek etymology of this word, they will not even be able to identify the true meaning of the expression used. In a similar desire for clarification, the translator has divided each vision in several paragraphs, each introduced by a title of her own. Finally, a printing defect makes the reading very painful: there is often a small vertical sign added to certain letters
Profile Image for Fariba.
211 reviews85 followers
March 18, 2016
Mystics (especially female mystics) are often dismissed as enthusiasts; they are not taken as seriously as academic theologians. But Julian of Norwich's Revelation of Love is as theologically sophisticated as anything the Scholastics wrote in the late Middle Ages. Dame Julian's visions lead her to comment on all of the great metaphysical questions (sin, Grace, predestination, salvation, etc). Unlike the Scholastics, however, Julian insists that many of these questions just cannot be answered and some should not even be asked. There is a lot of pain and suffering in this world, and all explanations are unsatisfactory, but God is love and mercy and Grace. Julian does not arrive at this conclusion from a position of comfort. She constantly fights against personal weakness, sin, self-doubt, pain, and fear. Despite everything she believes, "All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”

Revelation of Love is incarnational mysticism at its finest. Written in the lat 14th century, the showings are in the tradition of affective spirituality. The crucified is described in excruciating detail. This is the "Christ is wounded for you" atonement of Bernard of Clairvaux. Still, Julian insists that God never blames humans. God only loves. We separate ourselves from God, but God is always near. Many analogies from the created world are used to describe the Trinity. Julian shatters the myth that mysticism is only concerned with the "other world".
Profile Image for Melissa.
773 reviews
July 20, 2021
This book is a series of essays that Julian of Norwich wrote about 16 revelations she had about God's love. Well worth reading.

She is also the first known woman to write a book in English.

Things that stood out to me:
At one point Julian of Norwich had a vision in which God showed her a hazelnut, and from that very simple ordinary thing she learned three lessons. 1) God made it 2)God keeps it and 3)God loves it. If it is true of a hazelnut, how true it is of any human that God is our Maker, Keeper and Lover.

Favorite quotes:

"For we are now so blind and unwise that we never seek God till He of His goodness shew Himself to us."

"...it is full great pleasance to Him that a helpless soul come to Him simply and plainly..."

"...It lasteth, and ever shall [last] for that God loveth it"

"... suddenly the Trinity fulfilled my heart most of joy. And so I understood it shall be in heaven without end to all that shall come there."

"For He that is highest and worthiest was most fully made-nought and most utterly despised."

"...each kind compassion that man hath on his even-Christians with charity, it is Christ in him."

"He said not: Thou shalt not be tempested, thou shalt not be travailed, thou shalt not be afflicted; but He said: Thou shalt not be overcome."

"For since I [Jesus] have made well the most harm then it is my will that thou know thereby that I shall make well all that is less."
Profile Image for Ygraine.
574 reviews
April 17, 2016
medieval mysticism and the movement towards becoming one with divinity, losing the self in god and finding god in the self, is something both fascinating and unsettling; these are works of vast intimacy, calling upon god as father in his divine creation, and mother in christ's self-sacrificing nurture of humankind, as son in the images of the virgin mary's pain, and as lover in the burning, all-consuming nature of his love, as teacher, as brother, as spouse. this is a vast, all-encompassing yearning for closeness, a spirituality that contains as much romantic, sexual and familial devotion as religious devotion.

and this yearning for closeness manifests itself in an invasive, penetrative sense, the manifestation of christ's wounds as a gateway to heaven, the spiritual meaning of the passion made physical; unity with god is more than a purely metaphysical concept, here it is often literal - the spear wound in christ's side becoming a vaginal image in medieval art, and further, becoming womb-like in julian's visions, its capacity to hold mankind and nurture them there, in love and peace for all eternity. jesus' suffering leaves him bloody and open, a highly feminised figure, and there is something in that that seems highly resonant with women such as julian, or margery kempe, who see the wounds of christ as a way of entering his being, who recognise some sense of womanhood and motherhood in the symbol of god.
Profile Image for Ty.
132 reviews32 followers
January 28, 2021
I don't know about you but sometimes I wonder if the problem is that I haven't read enough medieval mystics. Is there some great secret hidden in some semi-obscure text that'll make everything make sense for me?? Probably not, but how will I know unless I read every single book ever written! Julian of Norwich was a 14th century anchorite, probably now most well known for her phrase "but all shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well." This book, REVELATIONS OF DIVINE LOVE, is her account of a series of visions she had and her own interpretation of them. It's considered to be the first book written in English by a woman. She invented the word enjoy. When I first started reading it I was very into it, but it quickly started to feel monotonous and it ended up taking me almost six month to finish. Mystical experiences are fascinating to me, but they are definitionally kind of hard to write about or explain to anyone else, so reading about them can be frustrating and tedious. The main things I remember now are one of the visions in which she is extremely moved by the sight of the giant bleeding head of Jesus, and another in which she realizes that "as verily as God is our Father, so verily is God our Mother."
Profile Image for Bethany.
3 reviews1 follower
April 30, 2019
With grace and poetry the English mystic known as Julian of Norwich offers a view of God that is unique for her time. Born out of an era of disease and religious terror, Julian's words offer an image of a Divine Mother who made, loves, and keeps all things. With great depth of tenderness we see the desire for God met in abundant visions that comfort and reassure Julian. Reading Revelations of Divine Love one can't help but be drawn and enclosed within a God who will make all things well.
Profile Image for Peyton.
240 reviews20 followers
June 15, 2022
"When Adam fell, God’s son fell; because of the true union made in heaven, God’s son could not leave Adam, for by Adam I understand all men. Adam fell from life to death into the valley of this wretched world, and after that into hell. God’s son fell with Adam into the valley of the Virgin’s womb (and she was the fairest daughter of Adam), in order to free Adam from guilt in heaven and in earth; and with his great power he fetched him out of hell."
Profile Image for Peter.
569 reviews51 followers
May 1, 2019
I’m more of a Simone Weil stan. My rating reflects that this book wasn’t written for wretches such as myself
Profile Image for Marta.
137 reviews
March 23, 2020
Not a terrible book to read while the world's burning down around you, quite frankly.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 475 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.