Slipper Chapel

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Slipper Chapel
Church of Saint Catherine of Alexandria
Slipper Chapel is located in Norfolk
Slipper Chapel
Slipper Chapel
52°52′52″N 0°51′12″E / 52.88112°N 0.85331°E / 52.88112; 0.85331Coordinates: 52°52′52″N 0°51′12″E / 52.88112°N 0.85331°E / 52.88112; 0.85331
Location Houghton Saint Giles
Country England United Kingdom
Denomination Roman Catholic
Website Website
Founded 1340
Status Active
Functional status Shrine
Heritage designation Grade I listed[1]
Designated 6 March 1959
Architect(s) Thomas Garner
Style Gothic
Diocese Diocese of East Anglia
Bishop(s) Alan Hopes
The Slipper Chapel and Presbytery
East end
Side view of the chapel

The Slipper Chapel, or Chapel of St Catherine of Alexandria, is a Catholic chapel located in Houghton Saint Giles, Norfolk, England. Built in 1340, it was the last chapel on the pilgrims' route to Walsingham.

When the Slipper Chapel was built, Walsingham was second only to Canterbury in the ranks of importance in English pilgrimage. The word 'Slipper' comes from the word 'slipe' (or 'slype'),[citation needed] meaning to slide, to move out of the rest of England into the holy land of Walsingham, and probably has nothing to do with pilgrims actually walking in slippers or even barefoot.

After Henry VIII's Reformation of the English Church, in about 1538 the Slipper Chapel fell into disuse and was variously used as a poor house, a forge, a cowshed[2][3] and a barn,[4] until, in 1863, the chapel was identified by a wealthy local woman, Miss Charlotte Pearson Boyd (1837–1906), a convert to Catholicism from Anglicanism. She bought the building from the farm owner in 1896, restored it and then donated the chapel to Downside Abbey for Catholic use.[5] In 1897 the chapel was re-established as a shrine by Pope Leo XIII. It was restored in 1904 by Thomas Garner.

On 15 August 1934, the Bishop of Northampton, Laurence Youens celebrated the first public mass in the Slipper Chapel for four hundred years, and two days later Cardinal Bourne led a national pilgrimage of the Catholic bishops of England and Wales and more than 10,000 people to the shrine. From this date it became the Catholic National Shrine of Our Lady.[6]

Many modern pilgrims remove their shoes at the Slipper Chapel and walk the last mile, called the "Holy Mile", into Walsingham barefoot. The Slipper Chapel contains a stone statue of the Virgin Mary carved by Marcel Barbeau, and crowned by the Papal Representative, Archbishop O'Hara, on the Feast of the Assumption in 1954. The statue was taken to Wembley to be blessed by Pope John Paul II when he visited England in 1982.

Each year on 8 September, on the Feast of the Birth of Our Lady, the statue of Our Lady of Walsingham is carried for several miles in a procession which begins at the Slipper Chapel.[2]

The Grade II listed presbytery was built in 1904, probably by Garner.[7] Today, the complex surrounding the Slipper Chapel includes a Chapel of Reconciliation, built in 1982, which can seat up to 350 people for services and can be opened towards the pilgrimage area in occasion of bigger ceremonies; a bookshop; and a tearoom.

In 2007 the Slipper Chapel featured in the BBC documentary series How We Built Britain, presented by David Dimbleby.[8][9]


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