HISTORY
ENGLISH ROOTS
The Shrine of Our Lady in Walsingham, England was established in 1061 when, according to the text of the Pynson Ballad (c 1485), Richeldis de Faverches prayed that she might undertake some special work in honor of Our Lady. In answer to her prayer, the Virgin Mary led her in spirit to Nazareth, showed her the house where the Annunciation occurred, and asked her to build a replica in Walsingham to serve as a perpetual memorial of the Annunciation.  She promised that “Whoever seeks my help there will not go away empty-handed.”

The simple wooden house, the Holy House, was built and became the focus of special devotion to Our Lady, one of the great shrines of Medieval Christendom and was visited by pilgrims and royalty. In 1153, the Augustinian Canons founded a priory to care for pilgrims, adding a Priory Church in the fifteenth century. In 1340, the Slipper Chapel was built at Houghton Saint Giles, a mile outside Walsingham. This was the final station chapel on the way to the Holy House. Here pilgrims would remove their shoes to walk the final holy mile to the Shrine barefoot.

The Holy House was destroyed in 1538 when England’s religious houses were dissolved by order of Henry VIII. The statue of Our Lady was taken to London and was burned.  Nothing remains today of the original Shrine.

Revival of the Shrine began in 1896 when the Slipper Chapel was restored by Charlotte Pearson Boyd for Roman Catholic use. In 1922, the Anglican Vicar at Walsingham began the restoration of the Shrine beside the ancient well and remaining arch of the Priory, where archaeologists place the site of the Holy House. Construction was completed in 1938.  In the 1970’s, the Russian Orthodox consecrated the Church of Saint Seraphim in Walsingham.  In the words of Saint John Paul II, “the House at Nazareth is where the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, where she awaited the birth of her Son and where He grew to manhood.  The Holy House is the universal home of all the adopted children of God.”
On September 8, 1941, Fr. Thomas Walsh, the first resident pastor of Saint Bede Catholic Church, was inspired to dedicate the College Chapel to Our Lady of Walsingham.  He commissioned a statue of Our Lady of Walsingham based upon the image on the ancient priory seal.  On February 1, 1942, in Williamsburg, the National Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham was blessed.

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