‘The origin of the image [of Our Lady of Walsingham] and how it first came to the Stiffkey valley is lost in obscurity, but that it was venerated here from the eleventh century is well known, and it is not unlikely that it was an object of pious devotion long before the visions of Our Lady made Walsingham a household name in Europe. It has been suggested by some writers that Richeldis only renewed a long-standing cult in this place by building a chapel, or restoring an older one, according to the plan shown to her by Our Lady.
A great Augstinian Priory, with one of the most beautiful churches in the country, was raised to the south of the little church containing the Shrine. This was rebuilt on a more magnificent scale at least twice.
The Holy House was enclosed in a protecting chapel, which was being rebuilt, or at least transformed, in the early sixteenth century and was known as the “new work”. When it was visited by Erasmus in 1511 it seems to have still been waiting for its new windows which were under order from the king.
And then came the devastation of the Religious Houses, the shrines and most of the holy places of England, and with them Our Lady’s shrine in Walsingham was so utterly broken down that even the certain memory of its actual site was lost. But the tradition remained that God had worked many miracles at this places through the prayers of the Holy Virgin.
Silence settled over the lanes and byeways of the countryside; the roads were neglected. Walsingham slipped back into insignificance, and swift ruin overcame its magnificent precincts and churches. The song of vast concourses of pilgrims died on the air’.
from Mary’s Shrine of the Holy House, Walsingham, 1954
by A. Hope Patten, CSA, 1885-1958
O God, who, through the mystery of the Word made flesh, didst in thy mercy sanctify the house of the Blessed Virgin Mary: do thou grant that we may keep aloof from the tabernacle of sinners, and become worthy indwellers of thy house; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
Fr Lee Kenyon