Albert Schweitzer vs. Julian of Norwich

Where else can you find the winner of the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize locked in battle with a 14th century mystic? We're guessing nowhere. Like, literally nowhere ever. In the history of ever. But here at Lent Madness, today finds Albert Schweitzer pitted against Julian of Norwich with a trip to the Faithful Four hanging in the balance.

Albert made it this far by defeating Lawrence and Methodius while Julian bested William Wilberforce and Roch. Again, if you're looking for information from the previous rounds, click the Bracket tab and scroll down.

Yesterday Sojourner Truth advanced to the Faithful Four by getting past Absalom Jones 64% to 34%. She'll face the winner of Columba vs. Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

But the big news involved the Lent Madness 2016 feel good story of the year as Oliver won the Mug Shot contest. You can read all about it here and check out Tim and Scott's favorite images of the many that were submitted.

Albert Schweitzer

unnamed-4When one enters the hallowed Saintly Kitsch Round for the first time it is an overwhelming experience. The rich history of this time honored tradition is not to be trifled with. How does one do justice to the saint and their tchotchkes?

One can begin with the low hanging fruit. Like the saint’s book that shaped historical Jesus scholarship for a century. Sure the title is boring but the cover of the second edition is kinda nifty.

There is also the solidly B movie that tells his story – Albert Schwietzer: Ein Leben für Afrika. Because, you know, Africa is a country.


unnamed-7But after this low hanging fruit things get tricky. First stop, Ebay. After a quick search of “Schweitzer” one finds this lovely “Old Violin Labeled Schweitzer.” Schweitzer loved music. This works.

Actually, it doesn’t. Nothing on Ebay works. Ebay is the worst. Time to fire up theunnamed-9 Googles. “Schweitzer kitsch.” No dice. “Schweitzer shwag.” Nein. Apparently one must direct their searches a bit.

“Schweitzer mug.” BINGO! Sip your favorite morning bevvy with Albert’s mug on your mug! I’m not gonna lie, though. I’m not sure how I feel about my lips being so close to that burly ‘stache. Seriously, it scares me. Who knows what lives in there.

unnamed-10While blindly Googling for Schweitzer mugs and t-shirts I kept running across mugs and shirts with cats on them. And I began to wonder, is Schweitzer German for cat or something? It turns out one of his more famous quotes reads, “There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: munnamed-11usic and cats.” So here you go, those who need refuge from the miseries of life (I’m looking at you, Roch) – some cats playing music.

But that’s not really Schweitzer schwag. But this is! I present without comment (you have no idea how hard this is for me).

Save the best for last, or something like that. This came up while Googling unnamed-12“Schweitzer keychain” (is there nothing kitschier that a keychain?). The description of the item was “memorial plaque.” Looks to me like a keychain. I like how Schweitzer takes up ALL of southern Africa and the building takes up the rest. Because, you know, Africa is a country. Also the German flag ribbon really ties it together nicely. It does not ring of colonialism at all.

So there you have it. Kitsch worthy of Schweitzer’s mustache.

-- David Creech

Julian of Norwich

unnamedJulian of Norwich is not exactly the queen of kitsch. The austere life of a medieval anchoress doesn’t really lend itself to tchotchkes.

However, there are lovely icons depicting her, as well as many modern paintings that tend to capture her with her cat, as can be seen in this collage of Julian related items on Etsy.



In fact, there is some confusion about whether Julian is the patron saint of cats, or simply a devotee. Definitive Internet sources confirm it is in fact St. Gertrude who is the patron saint of cats.

unnamed-2More often, Julian is depicted holding a hazelnut, representing her divine vision that the whole of creation is so tiny to God, and yet sustained by God's love.

Personally, I would like to see her honored on this prestigious product label:


Occasionally, one can find an image with both a hazelnut and a cat, as
in this handmade statue of Julian, also found on Etsy. And in this painting from the previous home of the Order of Julian of Noriwich, Julian House Monastery, courtesy of Marguerite, @The_Parishioner , who is affiliated with that order.

unnamed-3 unnamed-7


Ultimately, however, Julian’s legacy is in her words, rather than her image. In 1981 Sydney Carter of “Lord of the Dance” fame wrote the song "Julian of Norwich" (sometimes called "The Bells of Norwich") based on her words.

unnamed-6The Poet T. S. Eliot incorporated the saying that "…All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well” into his poem Little Gidding, the fourth of his Four Quartets.

And Internet searches for tasteless art inspired by Julian were ultimately unsatisfying, because instead there are rather a lot of tasteful posters and mugs with her quotes. And I promise, I get no commission from Etsy if you go right there and purchase some inspirational artwork!
unnamed-4 unnamed-5

Indeed, what better than a cup of coffee to help you have faith and hope in Christ's promise to Julian that all manner of things shall be well?

-- Amber Belldene


Albert Schweitzer vs. Julian of Norwich

  • Julian of Norwich (68%, 3,893 Votes)
  • Albert Schweitzer (32%, 1,859 Votes)

Total Voters: 5,752

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158 comments on “Albert Schweitzer vs. Julian of Norwich”

    1. I voted for Albert Schweitzer because he is awesome and he has an awesome!!!!! mustache.

          1. She had a beard. Normally we can't talk about that, but Chaucer did, at the same time Julian was alive, to the great appreciation of their contemporaries. The Miller's tale explains how Absolon (not Absalam Jones, who would not have fallen for this ruse) got a kiss and a rude awakening about anatomy:

            This Absolon gan wype his mouth ful drie.
            Derk was the nyght as pich, or as the cole,
            And at the wyndow out she putte hir hole,
            And Absolon, hym fil no bet ne wers,
            But with his mouth he kiste hir naked ers
            Ful savourly, er he were war of this.
            Abak he stirte, and thoughte it was amys,
            For wel he wiste a womman hath no berd.
            He felte a thyng al rough and long yherd,
            And seyde, "Fy! allas! what have I do?"
            "Tehee!" quod she, and clapte the wyndow to.

            "Ful savourly." There, folks, you have the start of English poetry. You can smell and taste the experience; I imagine the final day must have seemed pretty attractive to Absolon at that moment. I reckon Julian's contemporaries were careful to go even to an anchorite's window during the day. The lesson is: be careful what you kiss in the dark, and at whose window. We have now "posted" much of our way to Canterbury, and bawdy jokes are part of the journey.

          1. Well, I don't think that was her beard Absolon was kissing! But if it was, she's in good company. Most of you probably have no idea how many women need to shave, even in our day and time! End of subject!

  1. My heart is with Julian, although I thought Albert's kitsch was great. Who was the blogger for that one?

    1. True, Schweitzer wins hands down on kitsch. No way does a Sydney Carter song and T.S. Eliot reference qualify as kitsch. But I still have one question: who was Paul McCartney's uncle Albert?

  2. I voted for Julian of Norwich because she saw the world in God's hand and she said all will be well.

    1. You are so right, Oliver, about what Julian said. Letting go and giving our lives to God all shall be well no matter what's going on. God is with us that's why!

    2. Oliver, you made me cry! Julian has my vote all the way to the Golden Halo, but you just nailed it! And to those who seem to think she's somehow whiffy, READ HER BOOK, both long and short texts--it's rich and deep and totally in touch with human reality, no matter the century.

    3. Although I voted for Schweitzer, I wanted to congratulate you on winning the life-size St. Francis. A very well deserved win!!!!

    4. Congratulations Oliver! I understand your Godly Play teacher is Jennifer! She's a friend of mine! You have learned about saints from her, and are a good participant in Lent Madness!

    5. Right again, as always Oliver.
      Julian it is!!
      I love your theology and your faith.
      I wish you could know my grandson.
      He is also eight years old.

    1. I think her visionary serenity in the face of end times is appealing to people, particularly in times of social and political turbulence. We know little about many of these earlier figures, but their longevity in the cultural imagination lends them weight and authority for our own minds. Julian's words live on in T.S. Eliot's poetry and that carries her into our own era. She didn't win a Nobel prize, but he did. So she has a solidity and panache that are modern even as her feet are rooted in the Middle Ages. That's my effort at an explanation. Be well.

  3. I am supporting Julian all the way to the Golden Halo. More so today - the wise woman who loves cats is deep in friendship, humor, curiosity, a dollop of pastoral action in a day of devotion. I vote for woman power!

  4. Because mysticism, historical Jesus research, reverence for life, and music! Especially because the music of Bach!

  5. This is WAY tough. Two awesome cat people, both celebrating the whole of creation. ONe healing the sick and one praying for us all. Both are halo people and i'm waiting until the end of the day and then asking my 2 cat family members to help choose. Though Schweitzer's, “There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.” is pulling at me. Do i go listen to "Cats" (the musical) now? That would bring Mr. Eliot into the mix of course too.

    1. Ok.. not waiting. Sitting with cats reading emails and messages from Doctors Without Borders pops in... it's a sign (that and i like the idea of not bothering the ants and i think Julian would have too, what with the hazel nut and all) ... Albert it is!

  6. Catastrophe! What devious minds pit cat lovers against themselves?! The 'Stache is the clincher, as our cats bond with our whiskers; gotta be Schweitzer !

  7. Julian because "all shall be well". But I must say that I loved the Albert kitsch. Kudos to his blogger (I assume it was David Creech).

  8. A tough one since I am our family's "crazy cat lady." Although, we have limited ourselves to two, I almost brought home a third on Sunday after visiting his cat mommy who is dying of cancer and having a hard time taking care of him. I pray both Lady Julian and Albert to intercede for Jackie.

    I voted again for Julian because I am still trusting for all things to be well.

    1. Yes, Lora, I agree with you completely, and this is the first time I have played this game this year. Albert S. is the best.

    2. Claudia, may God hold you tenderly and surround you with divine love. You are in my prayers.

  9. “…All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well” 
    These words are especially comforting in the current days of political rancor.
    Go team Julian!

  10. I fell out with Albert Schweitzer over the bugs in the house thing during the last round besides, his kitsch is awful. Julian has surprisingly nice kitsch and I use her "all will be well" prayer quite a bit.

  11. many thanks to the persevering mind and Wickedly wonderful sense of humor of the writer of these two entries. The Schweitzer one was funny, and helped diminish the colonialist nature of much of his kitsch. We confess, and then work for the day when the expressions of our faith, even the kitsch, will be more inclusive, and less, well, less colonial. Maranatha!

  12. With respect and love for all, my vote goes to Albert, the trinkets would not please Albert, his legacy is much more important than key chains and other trivia.

  13. The song swayed me. "All shall be well again..." I needed that today. But I feel guilty about letting Albert down.

  14. Albert Schweitzer wrote this childhood prayer:
    O heavenly Father, protect and bless
    all things that have breath,
    guard them from all evil,
    and let them sleep in peace.

  15. Albert is the king of Kitsch! Love that statuette! But a trio of two harps and a guitar swings me over to Julian of Norwich. Plus my cats, Fluellen and Ray, have insisted I vote for her.

  16. Not being a cat lover (allergies) I have broken out in itchy hives over this one. In the end I've gone with Julian since I have visited her shrine and have benefited from the kind hospitality of Sr. Pamela of the All Hallows Community, which is situated next door to the shrine.

  17. I think the final match up, after serious contemplation of the Lenten Madness brackets, will be Constance vs. Dietrich Bonhoefer, and that Bonhoefer will win the golden halo!!! Haha! This has been soo much fun. Thanks for all your hard work in putting this on. On toHoly Week!!

  18. Some of need that All Shall be Well message quite often so in spite of great admiration for Schweitzer, I have to vote for Julian.

  19. I let my two Springer Spaniels vote on this one since they LOVE to chase cats. They decided on Albert. The cat band photo just looked like too much fun.