WALSINGHAM, OUR LADY OF
The most famous of England's shrines to the Blessed Virgin, near Norfolk in Anglia. As a place of pilgrimage, it dates from the eleventh century, when a noble widow built a replica of the Holy House of Nazareth on English soil in response to her dreams of such a request from the Mother of God. This first chapel, paneled in wood and lighted by candles, was a Marian shrine for four hundred years. A Lady's Chapel was built to enclose the small house, and in the thirteenth century a priory church was added to accomodate the Augustinian canons who serviced the shrine. Thousands began to flock to this shrine by the sea--including kings and the historical great--to revere Mary; it was because of Walsingham that England was titled "Our Lady's Dowry." But in 1538 Walsingham, by royal edict, was totally destroyed. Mary's image was burned and in time the shrine was forgotten except by a few loyal patrons of Mary. Three hundred years passed and all that remained was a legend. However, in the nineteenth century, archaeologists excavating near the site discovered remants of the holy shrine. Old documents were searched and the Slipper Chapel (on the site of Walsingham) was reborn. In 1897 a new statue duplicating the old, from pictures, was enshrined in the parish church, later to be taken to the restored Slipper Chapel. The famous Lady's Chapel, the rich gold and silver gifts, and the priory are all lacking, but Walsingham's history has been revived. It coincided with John Henry Newman's appearance on the English religious scene. Today pilgrims come from all parts of England, many on foot walking the "penitential mile."