The Lady Julian and her cell
Julian was an anchoress. It is fairly certain that she was not a nun. An anchoress was a person called to a solitary life - not one that was cut-off from the world, but one anchored in it. Her life was one of prayer, contemplation and counselling, a life highly thought of by people of the time. Her home was a small room, or cell, attached to the Church of St Julian, Bishop of Le Mans, just off one of the main streets of Norwich. She probably took her name Julian from the Saint of the Church.
There was a 'Rule of Life' associated with this order drawn up in the 13th century, which stated that the cell should have 3 windows that opened; one into the Church, so she could hear Mass and receive the Blessed Sacrament; one to communicate with her servant, who would have lived close at hand and would have been responsible for the chores; the third to give advice to those who sought it (such as Margery Kempe from Lynn). The life of an anchoress, although not common during the Middle Ages, was not a novelty. Many of the churches in Norwich at the time had cells where an anchoress or anchorite could live. It is thought that anchoresses may have lived in Julian's cell before and also after her.
During the Reformation when Henry VIII ordered the dissolution of the monasteries, and destroyed many of our country's magnificent Abbeys such as Carrow in Norwich, the cell attached to St Julian's was also pulled down, and nothing remained. The little Church of St Julian continued.
In Victorian times, the area around St Julian's was a warren of small streets and artisan housing going down to the river: the population of the area was considerable and able to support the many churches round and about. During the Second World War an air raid in 1942 substantially damaged St Julian's such that only the high altar, the reredos carved in Oberammergau, the Tabernacle containing the Blessed Sacrament and some parts of the walls survived.
Because of the plethora of churches in the city, there was no real need to rebuild this little church of St Julian. However, by now more and more people had come to know the Revelations of Divine Love and been drawn closer to the Lord Jesus by them, that Fr Paul Raybould, the Rector at the time, encouraged by the Community of All Hallows at Ditchingham, decided that the church should be rebuilt. Excavations were made and ancient foundations were found on the south side of the church alongside the sanctuary - these were thought to be the foundations of the cell. So the church was rebuilt in traditional style incorporating much of the old building, and the cell built on the site of the foundations. The church was re-dedicated to Bishop Julian of Le Mans in 1953 mainly to act as a Shrine Church for the Lady Julian of Norwich.
St Julian's Church is cared for by the people of the parish of St John's Timberhill with St Julian's who are proud to keep it clean, tidy and in good decorative order so that it offers a welcome to the many visitors and pilgrims. This much loved church is in regular need of maintenance and refurbishment, and any assistance towards the costs of these would be greatly appreciated.
The Eucharist is celebrated at St Julian's every Sunday at 9am, and on several weekdays too. Visiting groups of pilgrims are welcome to have a service in the church and are able to use their own priest - please contact the Parish Priest for further details.
We hope that the many pilgrims who come from all over the world to pray in this holy place, where Julian of Norwich revealed her Revelations, will all receive the blessings of drawing closer to the Lord and to God's unconditional love.