The Catholic shrines in the United Kingdom have been through a lot.
In the aftermath of the Protestant Reformation that struck England in the 16th century, many of its shrines were torn down, religious houses were vacated, and monastery properties were appropriated by the crown. Catholic priests and the laymen who sheltered them were hunted down and killed. Statues of Our Lady were taken and burnt.
The National Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham is a story of survival and resurrection. It was originally built in 1061 by a devout lady named Richeldis de Faverches. Our Lady inspired her to create a shrine in Walsingham based on the Holy House of Nazareth, where the Annunciation and the Incarnation took place.
This shrine became the center of pilgrimage for English Catholics during the Middle Ages—indeed, it became one of the greatest shrines in Catholic Europe.
The 14th-century Slipper Chapel was originally Walsingham’s final wayside shrine—that is, the last of the smaller chapels along the pilgrimage route that led to the major shrine. It is called “Slipper” because pilgrims would remove their shoes and travel the final mile—called the “Holy Mile”—to Walsingham with penitentially unshod feet.
During the Reformation, the main shrine was destroyed, the statue of Our Lady of Walsingham was burnt, and the pilgrimages ended. The Slipper Chapel fell into disuse—but was not destroyed.
Centuries passed. The Church at last regained the Slipper Chapel in 1896, and the following year Pope Leo XIII re-established the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham. It was located at first at the new Lady Chapel of the Church of the Annunciation nearby before being transferred to the Slipper Chapel.
Pilgrims came back to Walsingham right away, and—with a minor interruption due to World War II—have been coming ever since.
In August 1934, the first Mass since the Reformation was said in the Slipper Chapel. Soon after, at a great pilgrimage of 10,000 souls led by the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales, the Chapel was declared the National Shrine of Our Lady for Roman Catholics in England. Today, 150,000+ pilgrims visit every year!
Of course, you need not be within travel-distance of Walsingham to honor Our Lady. You can create your own home shrine with some help from your friends here at The Catholic Company. A beautiful statue is a wonderful way to start, such as this gorgeous rendition of Our Lady and her precious Child. Crafted of resin and stone and standing nearly two feet high, this ornately-detailed statue will inspire reverence, prayer, and love for our holy Queen. Be sure to add a candle and perhaps a rosary to your home shrine! All available today at The Catholic Company!