Three Wounds

Return to Revelations of Love

From: The Shewings of Julian of Norwich, Part 1, 1994,  (Ed: Georgia Ronan Crampton)

CHAPTER 2 Three wounds.

The shorter text adds a reference to Saint Cecelia: “For the thirde, I harde a man telle of halye kyrke of the storye of Saynte Cecylle. In the whilke schewynge I undyrstode that sche hadde thre woundys with a swerde in the nekke, with the whilke sche pynede to the dede. By the styrrynge of this I conseyvede a myghty desyre, prayande oure lorde god that he wolde grawnte me thre woundys . . .”

[For the third, I heard a man tell of holy church’s story of Saint Cecelia, from which account I understood that she had three wounds with a sword in her neck, with which she suffered till death. By this inspiration I conceived a mighty desire, praying our Lord God that He would grant me three wounds] (fol. 97v).

This single mention of a normal and specific mode of receiving information is of hearing, not reading. Riehle believes that the request for three wounds and for physical illness owes something to women mystics on the continent whose writings may have reached England; the parallels he gives are approximate (pp. 28-30).

50 and suffer with Him. The shorter version adds, “not withstandynge that I leevyd sadlye alle the peynes of cryste as halye kyrke schewys & techys, & also the payntyngys of crucyfexes that er made be the grace of god aftere the techynge of haly kyrke to the lyknes of crystes passyoun, als farfurthe as manys witte maye reche”

[notwithstanding that I firmly believed all the pains of Christ just as holy church shows and teaches, and also the paintings of crucifixes that are made to the likeness of Christ’s passion, as far as man’s intelligence may reach, by the grace of God, and after the teaching of holy church] (fol. 97r).

Commentators cite this passage as evidence that religious art affects the images of the showings. For the possibility that “payntyngys” may be a neo-Platonic term, see C&W, I, 202, and the article cited there by G. V. Smithers, “Two Typological Terms in the Ancrene Riwle,” Medium Aevum 34 (1965), 126-28.

Julian’s desire to be in effect a fellow witness of the Crucifixion would not be unusual in the affective piety of the fourteenth century. Richard Rolle, the earlier fourteenth-century mystic, wrote a “Meditations on the Passion” in which the speaker attempts to view the events of Christ’s last hours from arrest to entombment as if they were unfolding before his eyes in sequence (English Writings of Richard Rolle, ed. Hope Emily Allen [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1931], pp. 17-36). The popular pseudo-Bonaventuran Meditationes vitae Christi (13th century) initiated and sustained many similar devotions. See Jantzen for a sketch of precedents and the role of monastic reading technique as an influence upon the development of such devotion (pp. 56-58). What is unusual about Julian’s petition is the form its granting took. For the theme of Christ’s suffering as it figures in the writings of female mystics in particular, see Petroff, pp. 9-16. For the distinctive caste of Julian’s treatment of this theme, see Bhattacharji, pp. 85-88.