Julian of Norwich as Anchoress  

Posted by Joe Rawls

  Julian (ca 1342-1416) is of course best known as a spiritual writer, but the actual lifestyle of an anchoress is seldom discussed.  A good source of information is this article.  It's important to note that an anchoress was not the same as a hermit, and that Julian's living space or "anchorage", despite its rather severe physical limitations, in reality allowed her a good deal of direct interaction with other people, many of whom received spiritual direction from her.  Some of the procedures involved in becoming an anchoress are excerpted below.


The "Rule of Life" [of an anchoress] was known as the "Ancrene Wisse".  [It] stated that an anchoress was enclosed under a church like an anchor under the side of a ship...The Rule decreed that: 
*  The cell, or anchorhold, of an anchoress should have three windows...
*  One window was to open into the church so that the anchoress could receive communion and follow the church services.  This window was called a "Squint".
*  The second window was to allow the anchoress to be in contact with her assistant.  Food would be passed through this window and refuse taken out.
*  The third window allowed people to come and seek her wisdom, advice, and prayers.
An anchorage also contained a private altar, a bed, and a crucifix.

[Role of the bishop]
*  The personal credentials of the would-be anchoress were checked...
*  The bishop then determined if there was adequate financial support...
*  He then determined a suitable location for the anchorage.
*  He then performed (or ordered performed) the ceremony or rite of enclosure.
*  He then agreed to oversee the well-being and support of the anchoress.

[Rite of enclosure]
*  The...anchoress should fast and make confession.
*  Keeping vigil throughout the preceding night.
*  Attend Mass...
*...a procession of the congregation would include chanting and the anchoress would carry a lighted taper.
*  Sometimes her grave would be made ready...and kept open in the cell as a "momento mori"...
*  Prayers would be said and the door to the...anchorage would be locked.  In some instances there was no door to the anchorage--the anchoress would be walled up.

This entry was posted on Thursday, May 8, 2014 at Thursday, May 08, 2014 . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .



How suspicious that she has yet to be canonized.

May 8, 2014 at 7:09 AM

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