It gives me great pleasure as Rector to welcome you to the website of the Catholic National Shrine and Basilica of Our Lady, at Walsingham. In it, you will discover a flavour of the life and mission of our Shrine at Walsingham, as well as many practical details about the Shrine’s daily programme here.
Back in the 12th century, Walsingham was one of the four principal shrines in Christendom. It was as famous as Rome, Jerusalem, and Compostella, and so pilgrims flocked in their thousands here, so much so that it became the foremost Marian shrine in the world at that time.
Here, in 1061, Our Lady appeared to Richeldis de Faverches, a devout Norman widow. In a vision she showed her the house where the Annunciation had taken place and where the Holy Family had lived. Richeldis was then requested to build a similar house at Walsingham and was promised: “All who are in any way distressed, or in need, let them seek me there in that little house you have made at Walsingham. To all that seek me there shall be given succour. And there at Walsingham in this little house shall be held in remembrance the great joy of my salutation when St Gabriel told me I should through humility become the mother of God’s Son.”
As pilgrims flocked to Walsingham, Richeldis’ son, had a priory and a church built. It’s running was given to the Augustinian Canons and the Shrine flourished. King Edward I had a particular devotion to Our Lady of Walsingham and visited the shrine 13 times. In fact, every English monarch from Henry II until the Reformation is known to have paid at least one visit to Walsingham. This even included Henry VIII who was responsible for its eventual destruction at the Reformation.
Even though the Augustinian Canons signed the Act of Supremacy acknowledging Henry VIII as the head of the Church of England, the days of the Shrine were numbered. In 1538 the priory and all its buildings were sold, and the famous statue of Our Lady of Walsingham was taken to London to be burnt. All seemed to be lost.
At the end of the 19th century, however, a Charlotte Boyd an Anglican convert, managed to buy the disused 14th century Slipper Chapel, where formerly pilgrims had stopped to remove their shoes so they could walk the final mile to the Shrine in the village barefoot. Charlotte restored the chapel and donated it to the Benedictines of Downside Abbey. They eventually handed it over to the Diocese of Northampton, and on 19th August 1934, the Mass was celebrated there, once again, when the chapel was formally consecrated as the National Catholic Shrine to Our Lady.
Continuing the restored Catholic Shrine’s mission, today, we offer the celebration of Mass and Confessions every single day as well as Adoration and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, and the daily Recitation of the Rosary. As a place of worship, pilgrimage, evangelisation, and reconciliation, our Marian Shrine of the Incarnation offers the occasion for one’s deepening conversion, with ‘Mary, helping us to journey together,’ our pastoral theme for 2024.
On behalf of every one of the team at the Catholic National Shrine and Basilica of Our Lady, at Walsingham today, I hope that your visit online will inspire you to plan an in-person visit to us soon! We look forward to welcoming you!
If you wish to come as a day pilgrim to the Shrine, to join us for Mass or Eucharistic Adoration, or to place your petitions at the Slipper Chapel, or to stay with us on pilgrimage for some time longer, our website has all the latest information [including how to stay in our accommodation]. We hope that your pilgrimage to Walsingham will be spiritually enriching.
May God bless you abundantly and Our Lady of Walsingham intercede for your every need.
Sincerely in Christ,
Reverend Dr Robert P Billing