2008: Retired Norwich
priest, Father Robert Llewelyn
, who revived interest in the remarkable English 13th mystic, Mother Julian of Norwich
, died in hospital yesterday (February 6) after a fall, aged 98.
Father Robert, as he was known to people around the world, was invited in 1976 to become the unofficial chaplain to the Shrine of the Lady Julian
It was an inspired choice by Canon Michael McLean
because just three years earlier, visitors from all over the world had come to Norwich for the 600th anniversary of the revelations of the religious recluse, Mother Julian.
It was a direct result of his dedication for almost 35 years that Julian of Norwich become so much better known. As he told the EDP in 1990 after he had formally retired as chaplain: “I came to study her and find out what a remarkable woman she was. My work was to be here, to go to the shrine.”
As more people wanted to know about Julian, who wrote Revelations of Divine Love - the first book by a woman in English, he had the idea of compiling daily readings. The result, translated into modern English by Sheila Upjohn
, was Enfolded in Love
and just 2,000 copies were printed in 1980. It sold 10,000 copies two months later and a decade later, sales topped 75,000. Typically generous, he donated royalties to the upkeep of her shrine, off King Street.
Born in Devon, he read mathematics at Pembroke College, Cambridge, and went to teach at Westminster School in 1932. “I remember saying to my headmaster two things I'd never be: one was a priest; the other a schoolmaster,” he told the EDP.
Ordained in 1936, he went to India three years later for the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. War was declared while his ship was in the Indian Ocean, and he spent most of the next 25 years teaching in the sub-continent.
He had a four-year spell in the Bahamas but returned to India in 1951 to become principal of Sherwood College in Lucknow, remaining for a further 20 years. He was delighted to be appointed Archdeacon of Poona.
Back in England, he became warden to an Anglian contemplative cell in Kent before the invitation to come to Norwich.
In 1994, he was awarded the Templeton Prize and £3,000 for his significant contribution to spirituality - joining a select band including the late Rabbi Lionel Blue
and Terry Waite
Gifted with a great sense of humour, he also wrote an extraordinary number of books, based on her teachings, which were all successful.
The Rev McLean paid tribute: “His humility and love touched the lives of men and women, of all faiths and none, at a very deep level. He will be greatly mourned but with enormous thanksgiving and joy for a very remarkable life.”
A funeral service takes place at St John's Timberhill, Norwich, Friday, February 15, 11.30am. A memorial service will be held at Norwich Cathedral, to be announced.