Norwich – St. Julian’s Church

It’s not known who the church of St. Julian is named after, it could either be Julian the Hospitaller or Julian of Le Mans. I hope that it’s the former, as he’s the Patron Saint of travellers and he’s venerated in Malta, where there’s a town called St. Julian’s which is named after him. The church seem less convinced, they think it’s of Julian of Le Mans….. Anyway, I walked by here a couple of weeks ago and hadn’t realised it would be open, so I had a little meander inside.

Much has changed from this nineteenth century map of the church, with St. Julian’s Alley now reached off of Rouen Road.

The church was heavily restored between 1868 and 1870 under the supervision of Walter Emilius McCarthy. The chancel was reconstructed and there was some modernisation to the building, similar to what Victorians did to other churches across the country. Here though, the work was overdue as the church had been allowed to fall into a state of disrepair before the work was undertaken.

Unfortunately, nearly all of what is visible today is a post-war reconstruction as the building was nearly entirely destroyed during the Second World War, on 27 June 1942. The church has been restored to mostly look like as it did before it fell, but the tower wasn’t restored to its original height. It was the only badly bomb damaged church in Norwich to be rebuilt, even though others had more structurally left standing. This is mostly, and indeed likely entirely, due to the connection with Mother Julian.

One discovery which was made were the Saxon windows that had been covered up in later restorations and which have now been made visible again. One example in the main photo of the church’s frontage above is the small circular window which are likely late Saxon.

The main doorway of the church, which needed to be repaired following the war damage. George Plunkett has, of course some marvellous pictures of the church before it was damaged, as well as during the restoration.

1937 – church before war damage

1946 – church reduced to rubble

1952 – reconstruction of north side of church

1962 – completed church after rebuild

The nave of the church.

The chancel of the church.

The church’s font was originally located at All Saints’ Church in the city.

This door is from the nearby St. Michael at Thorn Church which was also damaged during the Second World War, but despite the tower remaining, the whole building was pulled down. The site is now used as the EDP’s car park and although I understand that there was a problem with the high number of churches already being under-used in Norwich, not keeping at least the tower was I think a mistake. But there was a desire to entirely redevelop that area of the city, something not really done that well in my view and it would have preferable to at least keep the streetlines.

The door is though quite marvellous, it dates from the first half of the twelfth century and it’s now the entrance into the chapel of Julian of Norwich.

This is the chapel of St. Julian, which is where Julian of Norwich was an anchoress where she lived in total seclusion whilst praying and writing. This chapel is a new addition, there were some foundations found during the excavations of the church following the war damage and it was thought they might have been from Julian’s cell. It was thought appropriate to build a chapel on those foundations, and I must say this is a gloriously peaceful little room.

She has the honour of being the first known woman in England to have written a book, known as the Revelations of Divine Love (of which much more on Wikipedia). There’s also more about Julian of Norwich at the church’s web-site.