|Church of Saint Catherine of Alexandria|
|Location||Houghton Saint Giles|
|Country||England United Kingdom|
|Diocese||Diocese of East Anglia|
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'), meaning to slide, to move out of the rest of England into this 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 and a barn, until, in 1863, the chapel was rediscovered 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 the Diocese of Northampton for Catholic use. The Bishop of Northampton, Bishop Youens, promptly gave it to the monks of Downside Abbey to look after. In 1897 the chapel was re-established as a shrine by Pope Leo XIII.
On August 15, 1934, Bishop Youens of Northampton 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.
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.
Every year on September 8, 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.
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.
- Catholic Tradition website
- Information from Catholicism.org
- Norfolk Churches website
- Intersecting Journeys: The Anthropology of Pilgrimage and Tourism by Ellen Badone, Sharon R. Roseman Published by University of Illinois Press (2004) pg 55 ISBN 0-252-02940-2
- The Catholic Walsingham website
- Enjoy England website
- How We Built Britain - BBC website