Walsingham is a small village in Norfolk which in its time ranked alongside Jerusalem and Rome as a place of pilgrimage.
Its popularity brought pilgrims from all over the world to see the place where, in 1061, Mary appeared to a wealthy widow, Richeldis de Faverches.
Appearances of Mary often precede major upheavals - and, of course, this one took place just before the Norman conquest.
However, her instruction was that Richeldis should have a reconstruction of the house at Nazareth. The instructions were precise - and, it is said, when the builders could not complete the work - the angels finished it for them!
Because of the Holy House - as it was called - Walsingham became known as the Little Nazareth and people thronged there - from the poorest who could not go to the real Nazareth - through to kings and queens.
Like many places of pilgrimage, the shrine was destroyed during the Reformation and the riches offered by pilgrims were "buried".
It was in the late 19th century that the modern pilgrimages began. The 14th century Slipper Chapel has been rebuilt - though few contemporary pilgrims follow the tradition of taking off their shoes to walk the last "Holy Mile" barefoot.
The Chapel of Reconciliation is a building designed to open out so that the many pilgrims who come during the summer can be accommodated for open-air Masses.
The Holy House itself was lost for many years but archaeological work has identified it close to the ruins in the Priory.
Walsingham is unique in that it has Anglican and Catholic shrines. Given the presence of the two shrines, it is natural that Walsingham is seen today as a place of prayer for reconciliation and unity of Christians.
The photograph comes from the Walsingham site linked
and is used with the kind permission of Sean O'Connell
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