Our Lady Walshingham




The Anglican (Church of England) Shrine occupies an island site in the village of Little Walsingham, five miles from the north Norfolk coast. Close to the ruins of the original medieval Priory (destroyed in 1538), the present-day Shrine was gradually created from 1931 from derelict farm buildings and cottages with a brand new Shrine Church in the south-east corner of the site. Within the Shrine Church is the "Holy House" a 'recreation' of the house in Nazareth where Mary received the news from the angel Gabriel that she was to be the mother of Our Lord, Jesus. Within the Holy House, above the altar, is the niche where the statue of Our Lady of Walsingham sits surrounded by candles and votive lights (see picture below). The  statue of Our Lady of Walsingham is much-loved. It is important to understand that the statue is simply a focus for devotion - a visual aid - and not something to be worshipped in itself. Down through the years Christians have sought the prayers of Mary to support them in their pilgrimage through life. At times in the history of the church there has been controversy about devotion to Mary but in these ecumenical days there are few who would deny a right respect and love to the Mother of Jesus.

Pilgrims have made the journey to Walsingham from all over Britain - and the world - since the 11th century, not long after the Lady Richeldis had her vision of Our Lady in 1061. However, Henry VIII ordered the Shrine to be destroyed in 1538 as part of the English Reformation and it was not until 1922 that the then Vicar of Walsingham decided to undertake the restoration of the Shrine.

Today the Shrine complex welcomes over 10,000 residential pilgrims each year (nearly 200 pilgrims can be accommodated at any one time.) Meals are provided round the clock in the Pilgrim Refectory and the Norton Café Bar. In addition, a further 300,000 visitors come to Walsingham each year. A new Visitor Centre is currently under construction to help them enjoy their visit. There is also a Shrine Shop in the centre of the village and offices for the Membership, Accommodation and Education departments.

For many people their first visit to Walsingham is centred around the National Pilgrimage which takes place on the Spring Bank Holiday each year. This is a wonderful outdoor event with the famous procession of Our Lady from the ruined priory grounds, through the village to the Shrine.

But at the heart of the Shrine lies the Church and Holy House. Here pilgrims and visitors join in the daily worship or say their prayers asking for Our Lady's help. The daily  service of Sprinkling at the Well (Easter to October; weekends during winter) is attended by thousands throughout the year. Water from the ancient well within the Shrine Church is used to sign a cross on the forehead, given as a drink and poured over outstretched hands as a sign of God's healing. Without interruption since 1931, Shrine Prayers - a short service during which pilgrims intercession requests are read out - has taken place in the church.  Many pilgrims and visitors are content simply to say their own prayers; many like to enjoy the peace and beauty of the Shrine gardens. For Walsingham is Holy Ground.