Walsingham

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Template:GBmap Walsingham (full name Little Walsingham) is a small market town in Norfolk, England, famed for its religious shrines in honour of the Virgin Mary. It contains the ruins of two medieval monastic houses.

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Walsinghamseal.jpg
Seal of the Medieval Shrine

Mid-way between Norwich and Kings Lynn, Walsingham became a major centre of pilgrimage in the 11th century, following a vision of the Virgin Mary to Saxon noblewoman, Richeldis de Faverches in 1061. Richeldis was instructed to build a replica of the house of the Holy Family in Nazareth, in honour of the Annunciation. The Holy House was panelled with wood and held a wooden statue of an enthroned Virgin Mary with the child Jesus seated on her lap.

Walsingham became one of Northern Europe's great places of pilgrimage, and remained so through most of the Middle Ages. A priory of Augustinian canons was established on the site in 1153, and grew in importance over the following centuries. Several English kings visited the shrine including Henry III (1231), Edward I (1289 and 1296), Edward II in 1315, and Edward III in 1361. The last English king to make pilgrimage there was Henry VIII, who was later responsible for its destruction. The shrine and abbey perished in the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1538. Eleven people including the sub-prior of the abbey were hung, drawn and quartered. Gold and silver from the shrine was taken to London along with the statue of Mary and Jesus, which was burnt.

The fall of the monastery gave rise to the anonymous 16th Century poem the Walsingham Lament, which includes the lines:

Weep Weep O Walsingam,
Whose dayes are nights,
Blessings turned to blasphemies,
Holy deeds to despites

Sinne is where our Ladye sate,
Heaven turned is to helle;
Satan sitthe where our Lord did swaye,
Walsingham O farewell!

Since 1900 Anglican, Roman Catholic and Orthodox Marian shrines have been re-established in Walsingham, and pilgrimages are held through the summer months. The Anglican National pilgrimage takes place on Spring Bank Holiday (the Monday following the last Sunday in May).

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