A Julian of Norwich pilgrimage may not seem to have much to do with suspicions that I was an industrial spy (spoiler alert: I’m not!). My innocent journey to trace Julian’s life took on comic dimensions when I was a graduate student many years ago.
I took a pilgrimage to the reconstructed anchorite cell of the compassionate visionary author Julian of Norwich in December 1989. It was a chilly winter’s day in Norwich, England.
My parents were living in England for the year. We took this little trip for fun and stayed at the Maid’s Head Hotel where Queen Elizabeth I stayed.
I had to use a step stool to climb into the bed.
One afternoon, my parents took a nap and I decided to explore and find the church Julian of Norwich was associated with. I wore my oversized horn-rimmed glasses, a blue beret, and long pea coat. On my back I wore my pink backpack. I looked pretty innocent. I was pretty innocent!
Here’s the name of the street the church is on with Norwich Cathedral in the background through the trees.
And I saw people’s pleas to God for help through prayer.
The church had a reconstruction of Julian’s cell.
An anchorite like Julian would have looked out into the church through a squint. Here is one from Christine of Carpenter’s cell in Shere. She escaped from her cell. Read documents about her abandoning her cell and her return here. Note that one letter mentions how she might be excommunicated! ChristineCarpenter
I always find it sad to read about the destruction from World War II. The church was bombed in 1942. Read more about the German’s Baedeker Blitz. This article, as well as this one, tells more about the bombing.
20th-century images of Julian at the Cathedral in Norwich.
I started walking with my dad’s old ordnance survey map towards what was said to be abbey ruins. I had heard that Julian might have been in an abbey before she became an anchorite. I walked down the street about a mile, and finally got to a parking lot for a company. I just crossed the parking lot unto the grounds.
It didn’t look like abbey ruins! Suddenly, a security guard ran out and asked how I got here. In my American accent, I innocently and honestly said I just crossed the parking lot. He told me to stop and he went to make some calls. Finally, a man came out. Turns out he was the company historian and the company was Colman’s Mustard Factory. They must have thought I was an industrial spy! But I only wanted to see part of Julian’s past. My name cleared, the nice historian told me only about 12 nuns a year visit to see it. He gave me lots of written material and then a personal tour.
And here were more ruins.
There is not much left. Mr. Colman had paid 25,000 pounds to have archeologists work on the site. His financials advisors disapproved, but he did a great service to history! Thank you, Mr. Colman!
It was a cold, late December day in Norwich which is a fabulous small city with lots of heritage.
This wall has been reconstructed.
This wall is made of flint.
And, given my interest back then, I should have known in 1990 that I’d write a book on excrement in the Middle Ages one day!
All good pilgrimages must come to an end. My parents loved my story. I hope you liked it too!