Diocesan Pilgrimage to Walsingham

8th June 2024

A pilgrimage to Walsingham is a significant spiritual journey undertaken by devout Catholics to the village of Walsingham in Norfolk, England. Walsingham is renowned as one of the most important Marian pilgrimage sites in the United Kingdom, with a history dating back to the 11th century. The pilgrimage to Walsingham is a way for Catholics to express their devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and seek her intercession.

Program

Our day pilgrimage begins at midday with Mass celebrated by Bishop David Oakley in the Catholic Shrine Chapel.

Following Mass there is free time for pilgrims to have lunch (either a packed lunch or bought at the Cafè on site). After lunch there is an opportunity for pilgirms to visit the shop at the Shrine and visit the SLiper Chapel.

At 3 pm our diocesan pilgirmage begins to walk the holy mile from the Catholic Shrine to the Abbey grouns in the village of Walsingham. More information about the Abeey can be read below.

The Abbey

The history of the Abbey in Walsingham is closely tied to the origins of Walsingham as a significant pilgrimage site dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The story of the Abbey begins in the early 12th century and includes several key events:

  1. Foundation of the Priory: The history of religious devotion in Walsingham can be traced back to the 11th century when a devout noblewoman named Richeldis de Faverches claimed to have had a vision of the Virgin Mary. According to tradition, in 1061, the Virgin Mary appeared to Richeldis and instructed her to build a replica of the Holy House of Nazareth in Walsingham. A small wooden shrine, known as the Holy House, was constructed based on her vision. This shrine became the focus of Marian devotion and pilgrimage.
  2. Priory Established: In 1153, a priory of Augustinian canons was established at Walsingham to oversee the shrine and accommodate the increasing number of pilgrims. This priory, known as the Priory of Our Lady of Walsingham, played a central role in maintaining the shrine and facilitating the pilgrimage experience for visitors.
  3. Growth of Pilgrimage: Over the centuries, Walsingham became one of the most renowned pilgrimage sites in medieval England. Pilgrims from all over Europe would visit to seek the intercession of the Virgin Mary, particularly in times of illness or hardship.
  4. Suppression and Dissolution: The dissolution of the monasteries by King Henry VIII in the 16th century had a significant impact on Walsingham. The priory was dissolved in 1538, and its buildings were largely destroyed. The Holy House was dismantled, and the statue of Our Lady of Walsingham was taken to London and burned.
  5. Restoration: Walsingham’s significance as a pilgrimage site lay dormant for many years, but interest in the site was revived in the 19th and 20th centuries. Efforts to restore the pilgrimage tradition led to the establishment of the Anglican Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham in the late 19th century. In 1931, a Catholic shrine was also established, known as the Roman Catholic Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, with the blessing of the Catholic Church.
  6. Modern Shrines: Today, both the Anglican and Roman Catholic shrines exist side by side in Walsingham, each with its own traditions and pilgrimage activities. The Anglican Shrine is located at the original site of the priory, while the Roman Catholic Shrine is located nearby. Pilgrims visit these shrines to pay homage to the Blessed Virgin Mary and seek her intercession.

The history of the Abbey in Walsingham is a tale of devotion, suppression, and revival, with Walsingham continuing to serve as a significant center of Marian pilgrimage and devotion in both the Anglican and Roman Catholic traditions to this day.

BOOKING

There is no need to book with the Catholic Shrine or the Diocese of Northampton for this pilgrimage, however, if you are travelling with a local parish group or with the pastoral area you may need to book with them locally. In this instance, please speak to your parish priest. 

The Walsingham Pilgirmage Director is Deacon Michael Flemming and he can be contacted on deaconmichael.flemming@northamptondiocese.org