Basilica of Our Lady of Walsingham
|The Basilica of Our Lady of Walsingham
The Slipper Chapel
|Church of Saint Catherine of Alexandria|
Frontal entrance of the shrine
|Location||Houghton Saint Giles|
|Heritage designation||Grade I listed|
|Designated||6 March 1959|
|Diocese||Diocese of East Anglia|
The Basilica of Our Lady of Walsingham, also known as the Slipper Chapel or the Chapel of Saint Catherine of Alexandria, is a Roman Catholic basilica located in Houghton Saint Giles, Norfolk, England. Built in 1340, it was the last chapel on the pilgrim route to Walsingham.
When the Slipper Chapel was built, Walsingham was second only to Canterbury in the ranks of importance in English pilgrimage.
In 1538, after King Henry VIII's English Reformation, the chapel fell into disuse and was variously used as a poor house, a forge, a cowshed and a barn. 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. On 6 February 1897, the chapel was re-established as a shrine authorising the image for public veneration by papal rescript from Pope Leo XIII. It was restored in 1904 by Thomas Garner.
On the Feast of the Assumption, 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 Francis 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.
Canonical coronation of the image
Twenty years later on 15 August 1954, Pope Pius XII delegated his Papal nuncio, Monsignor Gerald O'Hara to crown the venerated image of the Virgin Mary under the same title in his apostolic name, funded by gold donated by female devotees and accompanied by his papal bull from the Sacred Congregation of Rites.
Moments after the coronation ceremony, two white doves descended on the lap of the image, which was considered miraculous by devotees. The ceremony was accompanied by both British and American pilots who sponsored the security for the event, and devotees who processed barefoot in the "Holy Mile" leading into the shrine.
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. The statue was taken to Wembley to be blessed by Pope John Paul II when he visited England on 29 May 1982.
The Grade II listed presbytery was built in 1904, probably by Garner. 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.
Status as a minor basilica
Pope Francis raised the sanctuary to the status of a minor basilica on 27 December 2015, along with the Catholic shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham via a pontifical decree from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
- Historic England. "The Slipper Chapel (1170439)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 25 April 2014.
- 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[permanent dead link]
- Historic England. "The Presbytery to Slipper Chapel (1049416)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 25 April 2014.
- Enjoy England website Archived November 19, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
- How We Built Britain - BBC website
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a3hfxbJDBbs - Walsingham Shrine becomes a Minor Basilica - Declaration in Latin language
- "Pope designates Walsingham shrine as a minor basilica". Catholic Herald. 31 December 2015. Retrieved 31 December 2015.