The author’s discussion of the three kinds of model which a holy person can follow – pilgrim, dead man, sufferer on the cross – is based on a sermon by Bernard of Clairvaux, but the saints’ names here are his own addition. James, Giles and Julian were the three saints most closely associated with pilgrimage in the thirteenth century – James in particular, the archetypal pilgrim with his scrip and cockle-shell. St Julian was known instead as an accommodator of pilgrims, as a result of the legend about his life which grew up in the thirteenth century. There’s a useful overview of his story here. According to the Golden Legend, Julian learned as a young man that he was destined to kill his parents. Trying to escape his fate, he fled his home (that never works, Julian!) and settled in a distant country. He got married, but one day when he was away from home his parents arrived at his house and his wife, fatally hospitable, gave them her own bed to sleep in. When Julian returned and saw the sleeping couple, he thought it was his wife in bed with another man, and so he killed them both. In penance for his sin he built hospitals and lodgings for travellers, and ferried pilgrims across the river – on one occasion, as depicted at the top of this post and below, he ferried Christ in disguise as a leper, and was told by him that his sin was forgiven.
St Julian therefore became a patron of pilgrims and travellers, a byword for hospitality – Chaucer says of his Franklin, who loves sharing the pleasures of the table and keeps open house for half the neighbourhood, that ‘an housholdere, and that a greet, was he; Seint Julian was he in his contree’. And so in Ancrene Wisse ‘St Julian’s house’ is heaven, the destination of wayfarers, a permanent lodging-place for those who pass as strangers and pilgrims through this world. Pilgrims travel to their ‘home in heaven’, but that journey is best made, Ancrene Wisse argues, not by travellers but by anchorites, who seek God in one fixed and steadfast place. In that dwelling, as a later English anchorite – another Julian – wrote, they find the union with God which means he becomes infinitely intimate, homely, with the soul: ‘for in us is His homeliest home’.
Read it all.