Friday, September 28, 2007

honour corruption villainy holiness
riding in fragrance of sunlight (side by side
all in a singing wonder of blossoming yes
riding) to him who died that death should be dead

humblest and proudest eaderly wandering
(equally all alive in miraculous day)
merrily moving through sweet forgiveness of spring
(over the under the gift of the sky

knight and ploughman pardoner wife and nun
merchant frere clerk somnour miller and reve
and geoffrey and all) come up from the never of when
come into the now of forever come riding alive

down while crylessly drifting through vast most
nothing's own nothing children go of dust

It's a splendid poem on Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. I came across it again when being asked how I taught Chaucer. For it had shaped my Chaucer courses during those many years of teaching, at Berkeley, Quincy, Princeton, Boulder. For books are Ezekiel's bones, libraries being that great valley, into which life can be breathed by reading.

But there is also that wisdom of 'honour corruption villainy holiness' riding together in sunlight and shadow. A medieval poem had it 'Fas et nefas ambulans'.

Our gypsies! We love them dearly. And they confessed they lied. Their mother did not need the operation. Their house in Buzau is large. Their children are in school. Vandana was not deported but went home. The two, Maria and Vandana, worked to have money to buy land and build their own houses. They had worked so well we told them we would have paid them for the truth. It has put us in a compromising situation. For we had protested to the Assessor for Immigration in Florence about the 'deportation'. We had spoken with the Romanian Government about the school fees and the medical care. We had gone to Foundations to get help for new roofs and for education. So we had 'corruption' and 'villainy' mixed together with 'honour' and 'holiness'.

We've decided we will still try to put together the proposal for the European Union, putting this experience into the category of 'formation', of both our guests and ourselves their hosts. I must go to Buzau to see what is needed and write that into the proposal. We keep remembering their great courtesy, intelligence, energy. Eating together at table was enchanting. They are much better behaved than Italians, Assunta saying there was never a spot on the tablecloth. They gardened and carpentered and sewed so well, doing what you needed done before you spoke, continuing long after you asked them to stop and had paid them, and always saying 'Thank you'. And even their confessing is in their favour. And the lie was a white one. But now I am making retribution to all who were generous. And apologising to those whom I innocently misled. It reminds me of Chaucer's Franklin's Tale!

Bless you,

He drew a circle that shut me out--
Heretic, a rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in!
Edwin Markham

Julia Bolton Holloway, Hermit of the Holy Family
Biblioteca e Bottega Fioretta Mazzei, 'English Cemetery'
Piazzale Donatello, 38, 50132 FIRENZE, ITALY

Monday, August 13, 2007


On Sunday I was recording Carlo Poli's readings from Dante's Commedia. You can hear these readings at We were discussing the scenes in Dante where he seeks to embrace friends - who are now shades - and how his arms meet only themselves. I, for ever the teacher, mentioned that these scenes are borrowed from Virgil and from Homer, where heroes embrace dead fathers. With us were also three Rroma (gypsies), two sisters and a husband, listening to Dante in Italian, two being unable to read, but all three looking at Botticelli's drawings of the Commedia. In a library in Florence we were experiencing Dante, himself now only a shade, but who comes alive in pages of books, just as do our dead poets, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Walter Savage Landor, buried in this 'English' Cemetery, come alive again as we read and record their poetry (again, Elizabeth Barrett Browning creates her second heroine, Marian Erle, who mirrors herself with her spaniel hair, in Aurora Leigh, a self-taught gypsy.

Have been doing much thinking - and our library much collecting - on this theme of rejecting or of embracing the shadow. We avoid, hate and dread what we do not know. Particularly poverty. And that very behaviour creates ever more poverty, and then even genocide against it. It takes racist forms. It is behaviour that creates slavery. It is murderously unjust.

In recent days visitors to our library or books sent to it have also echoed this theme and its embracing of shadows to find them friends and almost fathers. I recorded a Brazilian Indian reading Elizabeth Barrett Browning's second Sonnet from the Portuguese. Then a Maori chief from New Zealand, blind and deaf, recorded his genealogy and recited a Maori poet on 'Rain', while the rain poured down on Florence. You can hear them on the Piazzale Donatello blog. Then an Australian sent a study on the discrimination against the Aborigine. And I remembered the book given me by Aborigine in Melbourne, where they had studied theology, including the Bible in its original languages, and decided that what was needed was the acknowledging of the act of Melchisadek, the indigenous priest king of an agricultural Palestinian people, giving bread and wine to the nomadic, cattle herding Abraham, come from Iraq to invade his land. Melchisadek embraced Abraham. Hebrew lay families embraced that ritual, the mother at the Sabbath blessing the candles, the father the bread and wine. Jesus adopted it for the Eucharist where all are One.

We are now writing a proposal to the European Union in this year, which is celebrating multiculturalism, where our cemetery and its library shape two simultaneous projects. The first where we reach out to the Italians in diaspora, in Australia, in Canada, in Argentina, in America, where they are forced into 'English Only', and also to others, to give them Dante. Whose name means gift. Observing that in America Jewish and Chinese immigrants study their own language and culture on weekends, attending American schools on weekdays, and thus have two languages and are consequently more intelligent, quickly rising into the professional classes as doctors, lawyers and university professors. While Italian and other Catholic immigrant groups, forbidden their own language, their own culture, largely remain as pizza cooks. If Dante could be shared on Saturdays and Sundays in churches in the Italian diaspora?

Our second project is with the Rroma (gypsies) from Romania, an apprenticeship where we teach the parents how to write their names so they can have their babies back from hospital, where they learn paper marbling, where they garden in the Cemetery and hopefully later help with the restoration of tombs, learning skills they can then use in Romania to support their families. Always we say it is important to have both cultures, to preserve their own with its strong families while entering into ours. The Rom are Europe's largest minority. Every day I listen to their language which I love. But when I began filling out the forms for the European Union proposal I was presented with a list of languages, world languages, and Rom, or Romany, was not included there. In Europe they, as immigrants, have not been allowed to work, only to beg, and in desperation they steal, not much, it's for survival, consequently they are hated murderously. The Romanian Rom in Florence live under plastic in fields at the ends of bus lines. How to break down this poverty-enforcing genocidal prejudice? We have been doing it with building gypsy cradles and with Karen Graffeo's splendid photographs. With friendship. With gifts of used clothing, food, work.

Karen is American, her own family having been share croppers in James Agee's Now Let us Praise Famous Men published during the Great Depression and its poverty. Karen has taken that understanding from America's poorest to Europe's poorest. At first she traditionally photographed in black and white. But the Rom said 'No'. The photographs should be in full colour. And now they are, showing their love of beauty. These hang now in our library, amidst Bibles and books in many languages, books about indigenous and nomadic peoples and the discrimination they face, in particular the Rom. It is here that our first Rom mother, Hedera, who cannot read, whose baby Leonardo I baptized, told us the Gospel: 'He was so poor he was born in a stable, not even a house, and he was kept warm by the animals there, the cows, the horses. They were so hungry that he gave them bread and fish and potatoes. And then the envious killed him'. Listen to her Alleluia she would sing to her new-born child.

A note on the flags. I had vowed to show no flags on my websites. Julien Benda in his Betrayal of the Intellectuals showed how nation states and their jingoistic flags and arms race industries caused wars. But Italy's flag is based on Beatrice's garb in Dante's Purgatorio of red, white and green. And the Rom flag is based on India's Wheel of Life. The Rom have no national boundaries, no army, their flag the green of the earth, the blue of the sky, the red wagon wheel.

A prayer that our proposal be accepted. That, instead of spurning shadows with annihilating dread, we come to embrace them with joy, finding in them ourselves, as Christ did with lepers, Samaritans, Syro-Phoenician women . . .

Bless you,


He drew a circle that shut me out--
Heretic, a rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in!
Edwin Markham

Julia Bolton Holloway, Hermit of the Holy Family
Biblioteca e Bottega Fioretta Mazzei, 'English Cemetery'
Piazzale Donatello, 38, 50132 FIRENZE, ITALY

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


Dearworthiest Family, Dearworthiest Godfriends,

Many have asked me to write an autobiography. But I did years ago, back in the days of manual typewriters and carbon paper, no photocopiers, no word processors. Remember how one mistake meant you had to retype the entire page! Its unique manuscript never reached my father's agent. So I rewrote it, again manually, with my newest baby beside me in the play pen, back in the 60's. I had promised my husband I would write this novel to get us out of debt. But I had no more energy left to market it.

Now I share with you the poems and the novel/autobiography I wrote for my husband and our sons. So much easier these days to include with the poems, with the stories, also the paintings and drawings of so long ago. And to correct mistakes without having to retype whole pages!

Poems Pennyeach are at and there is also an audio book of these at
Mosaic is at and

This mosaic I saw at 21 in Murano on the Venetian Lagoon. The two peacocks at the vase represent the Shekinah, the Eucharist.

Bless you,

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


This book is now published and is wonderful. To order: Descendants of slaves, with ancestral and present trauma in the form of first servitude, then poverty, these families have kept alive consoling traditions. I am minded that in ancient times, millennia before Christ, kindness was counselled; in the Egyptian Book of the Dead, the selfish criminal being devoured by a monster, the harmoniously married couple who have been generous to the poor, living their afterlife in beautiful gardens. Today, when I travel back to America I do not find kindness amongst the jet set. On planes one meets with coldness, with fear, with isolation. The courtesy, the kindness, the warmth, the humanity, one meets instead on Greyhound buses, now much my favoured form of travel.

There are many photographs of these white-garbed Blacks, and, like those by Karen Graffeo of the Rom, taken in love. There is the CD of the powerful haunting music, this democracy of music where all the people count, all their sorrows, all their joys. And the words of the hymns are pure poetry, for these had had ancestors who learned their Judaeo-Christianity from clandestine ministers who illegally taught them to read and write. See for this the story by Frances Trollope in Jonathan Jefferson Whitlaw, where the white minister who secretly helps the slaves is himself lynched by the white community.

I heard Jesus say
I am the way, I am the root and branch of David. I am that I am.

You are the same God that heard Daniel when he prayed in the lion's den
Heard Rachel when she prayed in the cliffs of the mountain;
You heard the three Hebrew boys when they prayed in the fiery furnace.

You are the same God
That heard me one day
When I was lying.
Next door to Hell.

It is a book about faith, about kindness, about joy, about sacred poetry. It is exactly the book this library has needed for its section on trauma and indigenous and nomadic peoples. Its photographs are taken by my oldest son, Richard Holloway.

Posted by Julia Bolton Holloway at 4:40 PM

Saturday, June 16, 2007


Dearworthiest Godfriends,

For years I have yearned to combine sound and sight, music and text and image. Writing, after all, is an ancient technology for recording sound, spoken words, sung words. Greatly daring I have bought an IPod and a Mac mini to make all this possible. My PC is absolutely mute! We never could get its sound card to work.

If you go to and scroll down to:

Voice Recording of Westminster Julian Manuscript: Julian1.mp3, Julian2.mp3, Julian3.mp3, Julian4.mp3
Martin Buber's Julian of Norwich
Song Recording of Lydia McCauley, Sabbath Day's Journey: 'And All Shall Be Well'
Voice Recording of Quaker John Woolman, Plea for the Poor: Woolman1.mp3, Woolman2.mp2, Woolman3.mp3, Woolman4.mp3
Voice Recording of Augustine, Confessions IX, on Time, with Ambrose, 'Deus Creator Omnium
Song and Voice Recording of Hedera, who is Rom from Romania, singing 'Alleluia'

you will find you can even mix and match these voices, all Godfriends, the recordings of Julian done by Julie and Ilya in Oxford, those by Lydia McCauley, Hedera Cjuraru, myself, in motets - which are very medieval! And if anyone can give us suggestions for improvement I should be most grateful. Am still learning the ropes as to how to podcast, etc.

But on a more serious note. Could I have your prayers, perhaps even further help, for a Rom family. Doina is the mother whose baby Stefano was kept in the hospital in Florence because they thought she was too poor to have him. I got them back to Romania by telling the woman judge that Roman Polanski had said it is worse to be an orphan than to be poor. I taught Doina and Luca how to write their names, in our library, which they then repeated in the courtroom, everyone holding their breath as this couple slowly wrote out the letters that said their names. Then Doina and Luca returned here with their fourteen-year-old Walter, leaving Stefano and Cristina with the grandparents. Walter is wonderful, can read and write, speaks Italian extremely well after only three months here, and reads Italian and English. I gave him Alan Mandelbaum's parallel text paperback of Dante's Paradiso and he was ecstatic, took it back to the camp, a field at the end of the bus line where they sleep under plastic and which the police constantly raid, taking everything they own. and he was reading Dante to the grown-ups, all of them loving it. Then he got hit-run while begging at the traffic lights, has his broken ankle in plaster, Assunta finding crutches for him. Doina told me the police, the carabinieri, were on the side of the Italian man in the car who ran over his leg, not on the side of this brilliant, kind, courteous boy on foot begging who can read Dante. At least the ambulance took him to the hospital where they plastered his leg. I looked at the x-rays today. Italy is good about giving free medical care to strangers. But nothing else.

By the way they love Karen Graffeo's photographs of the Rom. So do our other Rom Romanian family of Maria, Alexandra her sister-in-law, Aliena her mother, Benoni and Daniel her brothers. And so also do the 'gadgee', the non-gypsies, us, who see these beautiful photographs of these joyous people in our library with their babies in rocking cradles and swaddling bands and learn to appreciate, not despise them. See Also Gypsies are Europe's largest minority and have no civil rights, were holocausted in WWII, receive no compensation, everyone is afraid of them, hating them murderously. The Romanian Rom were slaves of the Orthodox monasteries from the Middle Ages to the nineteenth century. I have found them to be courageous, honest, kind, courteous, intelligent, musical, beautiful, clean people, caring more for their families than for anything else. In Hedera's 'Alleluia' you can hear their voice.

Bless you,

"You see," writes Catherine of Siena, speaking in the person of the eternal Father, "this sweet and loving Word born in a stable, while Mary was journeying; to show to you, who are travellers, that you must ever be born again in the stable of knowledge of yourselves, where you will find Him born by grace within your souls."

Julia Bolton Holloway, Hermit of the Holy Family
Biblioteca e Bottega Fioretta Mazzei, 'English Cemetery'
Piazzale Donatello, 38, 50132 FIRENZE, ITALY

Friday, May 18, 2007


Dearworthiest Godfriends,

I was thinking of how blessed we Godfriends are. Godfriend Father Nathanael's icon of Julian being loved by all, even pirated for book covers and web essays, that he had created in Ohio. Godfriend Lydia McCauley's Sabbath Day's Journey CD with its song from Julian 'And All Shall be Well', recorded in Washington. Godfriends Julie Dresvina and her Ilya in Oxford creating the recording of the reading Julian's Westminster Manuscript text, Godfriend Sister Anna Maria Reynolds in Ireland having first edited that text. Godfriend Petter Sammerud from Norway, but also in Amsterdam, in India, with his Madonna and Child, his three lilies now in bloom. And myself in Florence putting all these together in a CD for you. This combining of Orthodoxy, Anglicism and Catholicism and so much else about the figure of Julian and the medieval - and modern - Friends of God. 'Blessed may we be.'

Then, yesterday, came two copies of Reflections on the Human Vocation, published by Providence College, because they had included Father Nathanael's most beautiful icon

having written to him and receiving permission to publish it with the caption 'by the hand of the monk Nathanael © 2007 Monastic Brotherhood of St Theodore the Studite, Galion, Ohio' in an essay by Father Joseph J. Guido O.P., 'Five Years After the Towers Fell: Finding God in Difficult Times'. Validating the Oliveleaf Website on trauma healing that is an integral part of the Julian Website

Then, this morning, sadly, this, just as I sat down to the computer to write to Father Nathanael:

Dear Julia,

I know you were much respected by Fr. Nathanael. With sadness I need to inform you that he passed into eternal life this past day, Friday afternooon, May 18 at about 5:45, EST here in Ohio. He was very ill for about a week with what turned out to be a staph infection, and on this past Wednesday suffered a massive stroke. After receiving Holy Anointing and being tonsured to the Great Schema, this morning by our Metropolitan Maximos, he died this afternoon. I recommend him to your prayers. May his memory be eternal!

+Fr. Nicholas

Our icon of Julian is magnificent, created in fasting and prayer. I placed it on the altar of Norwich Cathedral during my lecture there in 1999. Our prayers for our beloved Father Nathanael, who had brought it to me with its paint still wet where I was giving a paper in Kalamazoo, who came into the room, late, beard flowing, blue Irish eyes, cane and all, knocked over the projector, plunging us into profound darkness, to my greeting 'Welcome, Father Nathanael'. Though I had not before met him, it could only have been him. He and his prayerful icon have sustained me now for many years.

It is perfect, this icon. Showing Julian as Benedictine, praying the Advent Antiphon, 'O Sapientia', where the mother prays to her as-yet unborn Child, contemplating on all these things in her heart, Julian mirroring Mary, ourselves, beholding it, mirroring Julian. Father Nathanael told me he took the face of Julian from Fra Angelico's face of Mary in the Cook Tondo in Washington's National Gallery. He told me, too, he had been a jeweller, until arthritis made him change that to painting.

And how did I, a hermit in Italy, come to know Father Nathanael in Ohio? It was back in the pioneering days of the Internet, a Discussion List on the Ordination of Women, when I was Anglican, when I believed women could be priests though that vocation was not mine. Father Nathanael on the same list was adversarial. We become Godfriends, I became Catholic, with mutual respect for each other. His fragrant beeswax candles are on our prayer table beside his most beautiful icon.

Blessed be his memory for ever.

"You see," writes Catherine of Siena, speaking in the person of the eternal Father, "this sweet and loving Word born in a stable, while Mary was journeying; to show to you, who are travellers, that you must ever be born again in the stable of knowledge of yourselves, where you will find Him born by grace within your souls."

Julia Bolton Holloway, Hermit of the Holy Family
Biblioteca e Bottega Fioretta Mazzei, 'English Cemetery'
Piazzale Donatello, 38, 50132 FIRENZE, ITALY

Sunday, April 29, 2007


It was my seventieth birthday present to myself. Accepting the British Library's invitation to 'Sacred: Discover What We Share'. In 2001 we had organized an international conference in Florence on The City and the Book, centred on the alphabet and the Bible as the basis of our western culture, neither of them European in origin. Then we had submitted a proposal to the European Union for digitizing the great Bible manuscripts in the major European libraries. We were turned down. It was the year the EU was strongly anti-religion. That was how I first came to know Ilana Tahan of the British Library. It was she who invited me. For one of the earliest surviving Hebrew Bibles is owned by them and needing to be digitized.

The Exhibition is magnificent, Torahs, Gospels, Korans. Present at its opening were all the Peoples of the Book, Jews, Christians, Muslims. Admiring how much beauty there is in these books. And learning how much each owed the other. The Gospels in Arabic, like a Koran. A Hebrew manuscript, for celebrating the Passover within a family, illuminated like a Christian one. It is from Barcelona and Linda and Michael Falter who showed it to me, have created a facsimile edition of it.

The Exhibition presented how each carried out their liturgies, at birth, at marriage, at death. I could not resist telling of Karen Graffeo's marvellous chuppa that we created in Florence for a wedding in Florida, where I, a Christian hermit, pencilled the names of the Jewish ancestors on white silk, these being then embroidered by Muslim gypsies in gold thread, all the Peoples of the Book working together for the Jewish wedding. See

Saturday, April 07, 2007

we say in Italy.

Our Swiss-owned so-called 'English' Cemetery in Florence is filled with flowering bulbs, sweet-scented hyacinths, narcissi, daffodils, tulips, and wild strawberries and wild violets, on the tombs, while Petter's lilies are about to flower in their great pot. A New Zealander sending her aunt's ashes there wanted her also remembered here, so my Rom and I planted these bulbs in the Fall to find this 'Winter of Our Discontent, Made Glorious Spring', the Resurrection.

Just down the street, in a cell at San Marco, Fra Angelico painted Mary Magdalene reaching out to Christ as Gardener, and on the monks' dormitory's wall, the Angel and the Virgin, both scenes with spring flowers.

Tonight we shall go to Mass at the Santissima Annunziata, one square before the church and cloister of San Marco, on our bicycles.

In the nineteenth century John Roddam Spencer Stanhope's daughter Mary died, he sculpting her tomb with daffodils on its marble beside those by Lord Leighton for Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Holman Hunt's for his wife, which he shaped like a great ark floating on waves, a dove with olive branch in its beak.

We have planted a blue hyacinth by the tomb of Nadezda, who came at 14, a black slave from Nubia, baptised with the name meaning 'Hope' in a Russian Orthodox family, and who is buried here, her story told in Cyrillic on her tomb.

We plan next to plant a pomegranate by Lord Leighton's tomb for Elizabeth Barrett Browning. And speaking of pomegranates and Easter do read 'The Highland Shepherd'

We are preparing again to read Dante's Commedia in our library in a cemetery in Florence as we did several years ago, this time recording it. And with the honoraria from lectures given in America, especially those on our writers, sculptors and preachers against slavery, we shall be able to have the Marchese Torrigiani, from whose garden our now lost, chemically-killed, plants had originally come, replant them. We have forbidden the hired gardeners to use any more poison on the soil and are weeding the luscious stinging nettles ourselves, using rubber gloves, trowels and baskets. We would love to cook and eat them but dare not because of all the traffic fumes about us.

BUONA PASQUA, A BLESSED EASTER. And may we heal this earth of all our polluting that there may be life for all, food for all, flowers for all.

Julia and Assunta