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ARC Home > Projects > Sacred land :
Pilgrimage | Walsingham pilgrimage trail | The Cistercian Way | Cistercian Way map | Words along the Cistercian Way | Story of a 20th century shrine | Shropshire’s Orthodox monastery

Walsingham pilgrimage trail

a quiet walk along a disused railway line has replaced the busy main road along the pilgrims' final stretch into Walsingham

The shrine of Our Lady at Walsingham in Norfolk is the most popular Catholic shrine in Britain, and has been a place of pilgrimage for nearly a thousand years.

In 1061, five years before the Norman invasion of England, an aristocratic woman called Lady Richeld, had a vision of the Virgin, asking her to build a replica of the Nazareth house where Mary first learned that she would be the mother of the Messiah. Lady Richeld did this at Walsingham, and when her son returned home from the Crusades, he endowed the shrine. It was considered to be the English Nazareth, and in the Middle Ages the only site to rival it was Canterbury.

The last pilgrim shrine before you reach Walsingham is the Slipper Chapel at Houghton St Giles. It is a mile away from the final destination, a place where pilgrims traditionally removed their shoes in order to walk the rest of the route barefoot.

But in recent years that final mile has become a busy road – mostly because so many visitors arrive at Walsingham by car and coach – and the pilgrims travelling there on foot in the traditional way do not get the quiet meditative walk that they crave.

The Sacred Land Project has helped advise the local community on how to move the route onto the quiet trail of a disused railway line – with wheelchair access and all banks sown with wildflowers and English trees.

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