What’s an Anchorage? & Julian of Norwich

achorage achorage diagram

Above are two images found on the internet (via Google because who would use Bing), the first claims to be an image of an anchorage, the second a diagram of what is believed to be the floor plan of a typical anchorage. This supports our class discussion today about the conditions anchorites and anchoresses lived in.

If you Google search “What is an anchorage?”, the provided definition is “an anchorite’s dwelling place”. I found this interested considering a significant majority of people who chose to live their lives in this manner of devotion where women (anchoresses). However, I found out that anchorite is not a gender-specific term; it is defined as “a religious recluse”. “Anchoress” then means a female anchorite. I made the simple comparison about how the word “waiter” refers to a server or one who waits (either male or female), but a “waitress” is just a a way of identifying a female waiter.

Although we went over is briefly in class, the following is a description of the setup of her anchorage and what she would have owned:

“The window called the Squint was to open into the church so that the anchoress could receive communion and follow the church services. The second window provided access to her attendant who would deliver food and remove any waste. The third window provided visitors with the means to talk to Julian asking for her advice and prayers. All Julian had in the cell was a crucifix, a hard bed and a small altar. Her clothes would have been plain consisting of a kirtle with a mantle, black head-dress, wimple, cape or veil.”

Another interesting fact I found on Wikipedia (can we trust it, who knows, haha) is that plague epidemics were common in the Fourteeth century, and whether she was an unmarried laywoman, a widow, or a nun, a factor that may have played into her decision to live the life of an anchoress may have been the ultimate quarantine from the rest of the population (since she suffered an illness beforehand that brought her close to death). Although she states that she completely trusts in God’s will, when she is ill she does seem to regret death should it come now (at the time of her sickness): “I trusted in God of his mercy; but it was to have lived that I might have loved God better and longer time, that I might have the more knowing and loving of God in bliss of heaven. For methought all the time that I had lived here, so little and so short in reward of that endless bliss, I thought nothing” (589). Julian may have reasoned that living in quarantine away from the rest of the population and the spread of disease, she may have a better chance of living longer to worship the lord and earn her place in heaven/”bliss”.