The village of Walsingham, four miles inland from Wells on the north coast of Norfolk, was revived as a place of pilgrimage in honour of Our Lady during the 20th century. Its story began in 1061 when a noble lady called Richeldis experienced a vision in which she was asked to build a replica, in England, of the Holy House in Nazareth. The shrine was a major pilgrimage centre in medieval times until its closure and near-destruction at the Reformation. The old Slipper Chapel was rescued in the late 19th Century by Charlotte Boyd who presented it to Downside Abbey ; the monks subsequently handed it into the care of the Diocese. It was proclaimed the National Shrine of Our Lady in 1934 and the annual "Student Cross" pilgrimages began in 1948. Walsingham was in the Diocese of Northampton until 1976 when the Diocese of East Anglia was separated off. In 1981 a larger chapel was built nearby for the use of increasing numbers of pilgrims, and in the last few years the little Catholic church in the village itself has been rebuilt. Walsingham remains an almost-unspoilt rural village of great peace and beauty, with an emphasis on religion which is highly unusual in the UK, and is well worth a trip even if you are not part of an organised pilgrimage.
The 2013 pilgrimage took place on 8th June. We hope to have a report and photos soon.
As the time for each year's pilgrimage draws near, watch out for posters and announcements, and enquire within your own parish first to see if there is an organised trip. For other enquiries, e-mail Deacon Michael Fleming at St Gregory's, Northampton, or ring their parish office 01604 713015 to be put in touch with him.
The 2012 Pilgrimage was on Saturday 9th June that year. See below for a report and photos
A report on the 2012 Pilgrimage (as published in the Vine)
The sun shone for the annual diocesan pilgrimage to Walsingham, and pilgrims from all over the diocese sang as they walked the Holy Mile. Bishop Peter said it was wonderful to see so many in the chapel for the Mass.
"We come to honour Our Lady and to ask her to intercede for us with her Son for our needs and intentions"
He gave thanks for his 44 years as a priest, adding: "As I come to the end of my seventh year as your bishop, I come to pray for all of you and all the priests and parishes in the Diocese of Northampton. We are part of a wonderful diocese, with all our joys and our sorrows and there’s much to thank God for."
"Walsingham is a place of reconciliation of conflicts and divisions, within our families, our communities and between nations. And that is the prime object of prayer in this holy place.
"The theme of the Mass gives us the model - Mary, Woman of Prayer. She is our companion, our mother and our sister. As she prayed with the apostles so she prays with us. May I ask you to ask Our Lady to pray with us, that we may walk humbly with our God and that we may journey together in this year of faith that starts in October."
He said that the parishes had received a DVD of his talk in March and he hoped that people would watch it together and talk about ways to understand, to celebrate, and to live, our faith better.
"I think that’s the real key - that we are people of hope and joy" he said. "So let us ask Our Lady for a mature faith that looks beyond ourselves."
At the end of Mass there was praise for the musicians and servers, all from St Gregory's ,Northampton. Bishop Peter received his traditional ‘Father’s Day’ gift a week early from ‘Jimmy’. And the pilgrimage ended with three cheers for Bishop Peter.