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Wednesday, 10 June 2015


Thw Anglican shrine of our Lady of Walsingham has grown up around a Holy House - a structure built in 1061 AD by Lady Richelis, a young widow who, three times, had a vision in which the Virgin Mary first showed her the place in Nazareth where the Angel Gabriel's delivered the message that Mary was to be the mother of Jesus and then asked her to build a replica of it. Lady Richelis built the Holy House on her own property, which, after her death, was gifted by her son as a Priory. Around 1154 this became an Augustinian Abbey. The Holy House gradually became a place of pilgrimage. It was visited by most kings from Henry III to Henry VIII who, in 1538, ordered its destruction, along with the Abbey.
In 1922, the Anglican priest in Little Walsingham set about restoring the pilgrimages and reconstructing the Holy House. When the Shrine Church opened in 1931
it incorporated a replica of the Holy House, an image of the Virgin Mary (Our Lady of Walsingham) 
and a consecrated well - on the site of a Saxon Spring.
Since then, the Shrine has become a significant place of pilgrimage, retreat and worship. The church has been extended, gardens, accommodation and facilities added.
Numerous chapels have grown up inside the church
some with a special focus, such as prayer for youth.
An annual pilgrimage on Bank Holiday draws 150 000 people to a service in the grounds of the ruined Abbey.

In my Sydney University Anglican Society Days, Our Lady of Walsingham was much discussed by those who worshipped at Christ Church St Lawrence - the outpost of Anglo-Catholicism in the Evangelical Sydney Diocese. I was always interested because I studied both Medieval History and Early English Literature and Language.

I found myself conflicted in Walsingham. The Shrine Church draws me as a centre that creates and supports both opportunity and focus for contemplation, devotion, prayer and meditation. On the other hand, I still recoil from the painted images,
the urn of water from the well  
- in the end, from the concept of a shrine. It is the first church I have visited in which I could not bring myself to light a candle.
I am far more drawn to the ruins of the Abbey
and the simple marker of the site of the 1061 Holy House replica.
There is, however, a sense of peace and spirituality at the shrine.
As we left Walsingham we stopped at to visit another Round Tower Church in Little Snoring. The tower, once attached to a wooden church, is now completely free standing.
The entrance door and font are Norman.

I liked many of the tapestry kneelers.

 We ended up in Kings Lynn, back at Marriott House on the Quay for a meal at 5pm. It was peaceful and pleasant, the food was good and the sun finally came out and warmed us. Another great day.


  1. I always assumed Graham Greene made up Little Snoring for his picture book "The Little Engine". What do you know. The story of our Lady of Walsingham is an odd one isn't it.

  2. These entries are really getting me travel-sick now. Beautiful place - I love the combination of bits added in different ages.

  3. Little Snoring is certainly real. Yes, there's a lot that looks like competition and opportunism - but it is clearly a lot more than that.

  4. LOL, Jillian, I was thinking exactly the same thing! I wasn't raised Anglican, but my college was Anglican, and half divinity students, and I can well imagine a similar conversation going on there. But, if it reaches some people, then I think that is worthwhile.

    On to the next post for me!