8 May 1373: Julian of Norwich receives a vision of Christ

On the brink of death a young woman has a religious awakening


The date was 8 May 1373, and in Norwich an obscure woman now known as Julian, about 30 years old, was approaching the end of her life. Stricken with an unidentified illness, perhaps plague, she had been weakening for days, and a priest had been called to administer the last rites. The priest held up the cross. “I have brought thee the image of thy maker and saviour: look thereupon and comfort thee therewith,” he said. And then the visions began.

Later, Julian remembered that “it was all dark about me in the chamber, as if it had been night, save in the image of the cross whereon I beheld a common light; and I wist not how. All that was away from the cross was of horror to me, as if it had been greatly occupied by the fiends.”

To Julian’s astonishment, her pain disappeared. “Suddenly,” she recalled, “I saw the red blood trickle down from under the garland hot and freshly and right plenteously, as it were in the time of His Passion when the garland of thorns was pressed on His blessed head who was both God and Man, the same that suffered thus for me.”

Julian recovered, of course. But it was at least 20 years until she wrote a full version of her visions, as well as her thoughts about love, sin and hope. Her book, best known under the title Revelations of Divine Love, is the first book published in English known to have been written by a woman. | Written by Dominic Sandbrook

8 May 1429

Inspired by the 17-year-old Joan of Arc, French forces break the siege of Orleans and force the English besiegers to retreat.

8 May 1858

American abolitionist John Brown convenes an anti-slavery convention in Chatham, Ontario. About 50 black and white supporters adopt his provisional constitution.

8 May 1880

Novelist Gustave Flaubert, whose greatest work Madame Bovary had initially scandalised French society, died in Rouen, aged 58.

8 May 1912

Adolph Zukor established the Famous Players Film Company to distribute the film Les Amours de la Reine Élisabeth. By 1914 the company had evolved into Paramount Pictures.

8 May 1947

Retail magnate Harry Gordon Selfridge dies in Putney, in west London.


8 May 1971

Arsenal won the FA Cup final, beating Liverpool by two goals to one. All three goals were scored in extra time with Charlie George netting the winner with a long-range effort with a few minutes to go. His subsequent celebration has gone down in Wembley folklore.

More like this
Browse more On this day in history