Julian of Norwich vs. Joseph of Arimathea

With three out of the four saints set, today we’ll complete the Faithful Four as Julian of Norwich takes on Jospeh of Arimathea. To make it this far, Joseph zipped past Lazarus and Kassia, while Julian beat Brigid of Kildare and Zita. 

Yesterday Henry Whipple edged Canaire 52% to 48% to advance to the next round.

After today’s vote, we’ll take a collective breath over the weekend to wave palms and hear the Passion Gospel on Sunday. And then next week will bring a fast and furious culmination to Lent Madness XV.

Vote now!

Julian of Norwich

Julian is one of the best-known mystics, beloved for her insight and honesty about the challenges of life, the reality of sin, and the desperate need we all have to know we are loved. If you, like so many of us, enter the day needing a boost of hope, divine or otherwise, pour a strong cup of coffee or a lovely cuppa tea into your very own Julian mug, complete with one of her most famous quotes, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”

Ahhh, there you go. Now that you’ve caffeinated and affirmed the innate goodness of humanity, it’s time to start your day. Let’s take that wisdom of Dame Julian right into the world with your very own Julian t-shirt that has not only her famous saying, but a picture of a hazelnut. The hazelnut is related to another renowned part of Showings, rather unrelated to the quote, but in the world of kitsch, logic is, well, not exactly necessary. And if the shirt is not enough, add a trucker hat to your ensemble to witness the Good News in multiple ways.

Reinforced by Julian’s wise words and coffee (or tea), the day is filled with possibilities. Including the opportunity to spend time putting together your very own Julian puzzle! Julian herself pieced together contemplative insights about God and Christ after a near-death experience. You can simply sit at a table, spread out all the pieces, and slowly put together the larger image of God’s love as shared by Julian.

After you’ve worked on your puzzle a while, perhaps it’s time to imitate Dame Julian with some time of deep contemplation. Julian is often pictured with a cat. The rule for anchorites, which Julian was, suggested a cat as a companion in one’s solitude as well as a handy way to keep rats away. Whether Julian actually had a cat is unknown. But surely if she did, she would have had this print in thanksgiving for the gifts of contemplation, cats, and solitude.

All this deep study of Julian has inspired you to join her in the life of an anchorite. But alas, where to find a cave? Never fear, the Lent Madness Celebrity Bloggers are here. After scouring the internet, you, too, can have your own cell in which to pray, contemplate God’s astounding love, and adore your cat.

After all this, we truly do know that all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well…especially in the world of Lent Madness.

Laurie Brock


Joseph of Arimathea

Joseph of Arimathea gets no lines in our gospels, and since he’s the stuff of legends, I thought there would be lots of kitsch. I was wrong. But there is a lot of intriguing art. Let’s examine the art in order of what we know about Joseph of Arimathea’s role in Jesus’s death.

We first know that Joseph of Arimathea went to Pilate to ask for Jesus’s body. This image, which is in the Brooklyn Museum’s European art collection, is gouache over graphite on gray wove paper. I love how Joseph of Arimathea is off-center. While there is color in this painting, Joseph is shrouded and cloaked. Fitting.

A stained glass window at the St. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea Church in Israel depicts Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus lowering Jesus from the cross. Did it really happen if there’s not a stained glass window?

This 14th-century icon of the descent from the cross is in the Church of Agia Marina, Kalopanayiotis. It’s used in an online station of the cross using Byzantine art. Sometimes, images like this have Joseph of Arimathea or Nicodemus catching Jesus’s sweat and blood from the wound in his side in the grail.

We’ve arrived at the tomb Joseph of Arimathea prepared for Jesus. Mary, mother of Jesus, and John join Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. This work is my favorite as I appreciate the details and facial expressions. Also notice the hand in Jesus’s hair and furrowed brows. The sadness is palpable.

Here’s a different grouping at the tomb: (from the left) Nicodemus, an unidentified helper, Mary Magdalene, Mary, John the Apostle, and Joseph of Arimathea placing the body of Jesus in a tomb in this 1509 sculpture at the church Groß St. Martin (Köln). Notice the hands on the cloth holding Jesus’s body and the facial expressions. It’s so interesting to compare these sculptures.

For all you grail legend lovers, here’s an image of the grail replica from Indiana Jones and the Last Adventure. The person guarding the grail in the movie is not Joseph of Arimathea, at least according to IMdb.

Finally, here is the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. May he rest in eternal peace with our gratitude for caring for Jesus’s earthly body.

Miriam McKenney

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68 comments on “Julian of Norwich vs. Joseph of Arimathea”

  1. Julian for the Golden Halo! And I have no doubt whatsoever that she had a cat, well, several over the years -- since cats are usually impeccable judges of human character! Some sources say she was likely a widowed mother, perhaps losing family in the plague that swept Norwich in her lifetime. If so, she came by her language and imagery of the divine Mother naturally. And perhaps one or more cats on the verge of their own motherhoods took refuge in the safety of Julian's cell. Kittens -- the ultimate kitsch!

    1. I know of a kitten named Julian who got picked up by his adoptive servants on Friday afternoon, which is why I voted for Julian. I talked about him in my initial comment on this matchup.

  2. I knew it was a throw-away vote with these two, but I went for Joseph of Arimathea. Why? Because he selflessly gave away his own tomb to be borrowed by Jesus. Did he believe in the resurrection before it happened, as Jesus had told his followers (Remember, Joseph was a 'secret follower, for fear of the Jews.) Tear down this temple and I will rebuild it in three days... etc.
    So, he KNEW in his heart he'd still have a tomb to rest in later. Still, it's a nice story and he got my vote. I'll probably vote for Julian next round!

  3. Once again a tough decision, but here we are on the cusp of Holy Week... and this is the man who took responsibility for the body of the crucified Jesus...so I had to go with Joseph.

  4. "putting together your very own Julian puzzle! Julian herself pieced together contemplative insights about God" - that did it for me. I so wanted to vote for Joseph, but Laurie's kitsch round writing won!

  5. Does anyone else think the Universe in a hazelnut is akin to the Big Bang theory. Jim Parsons already said no. I’ll buy the shirt so I can remember who had the vision

  6. I have loved Julian since I wrote a paper about her in college - the only time I cared enough to both research and write well enough to have a paper I'm willing to read again. Her Showings have reshaped my theology to include forgiveness beyond the grave.

  7. I notice in the Wikipedia article about Julian of Norwich that she did not present her famous line as her own idea. It was in one of her visions: "Jesus answered with these words, saying: 'All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.' ... This was said so tenderly, without blame of any kind toward me or anybody else." That's a little different from considering it her own pronouncement.

  8. Dame Julian all the way this time! A bit pedantic, I realize, but please, please, the quote is "...all manner of THING shall be well" - it's not plural. (My bona fides: biblical feminist since the 1970s, Eliot scholar, linguist.)

  9. I enjoy the lightheartedness of the kitsch round every year. I voted for Julian of Norwich before even looking at the kitsch because I want her to win the Golden Halo. However, the art and writeup for Joseph of Arimathea were amazing. Thank you.

  10. I love the images of Joseph - thank you for sharing these, they're so special. I'm not sure why Joseph speaks so strongly to me, but there it is. My vote is for him - perhaps he'll pull it out in the end.

  11. I voted for Julian of Norwich. She is one of my favorite saints. When I was in EfM, our mentor gave each of us a round stone with a purple spiral painted on it & the "All is well" quote. Also, Julian is featured in the book "Katherine" written by Anya Seton.

  12. Thank you, Miriam, for these LOVELY artistic choices for Joe of A. I am especially grateful for the sculpture in Koln--since I will be there in June and that church is on my must-see list!
    The final photo of "the Tomb of Joe of A" is actually of the Syrian Chapel in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre just off the the rotunda with the edudicle (that is erected over the tomb of JC--the borrowed grave of Joe). Adjacent to the Syrian Chapel are some 1st century tombs. I'd love to share more. If you go to my website,formingLutherans.org, you can email me from there.
    Yes, I'm trying to suck up to a celebrity blogger.

  13. I want to like Julian, but the whole "anchorite" thing creeps me out. Being walled up? Sounds like "The Telltale Heart" Ugh!

  14. This is tough.

    My parish has an icon of The Lamentation that was written as a memorial following 9-11, and as with the 14th century icon above Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea are included.

    On the other hand, I’m a Patreon supporter of a feline foster home in Connecticut that specializes in pregnant and nursing mom cats and their kittens. The mom cats and kittens are cared for, socialized, fixed, and placed in carefully selected furrever homes. One of the kittens, an orange and white boy named Julian was picked up by his new servants this afternoon. If you are interested their website is https://kitten.academy/ and they have a YouTube channel named Kitten Academy where you can see the two newest mom cats, Cuddles and Skylight, who each delivered four adorable kittens two days apart earlier this week.

    I think I will vote for Saint Julian of Norwich and her cat in honor of Julian the kittenand his new servant Delise.

  15. Was not looking forward to a Joseph and Andrew match up. Would have been to hard to decide, both are worthy of the Golden Halo having the real life experiences with Christ. As in March Madness, upsets happen but didn’t think this would. Solidifies my vote next contest.