Celebration to mark 100 years since restoration of famous religious shrine
- Credit: IAN BURT
A religious shrine that brings thousands of pilgrims to the region every year is celebrating a century since it was restored.
A national festival is under way to celebrate the restoration of The Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham.
The year 2022 marks 100 years since a priest, Fr Alfred Hope Patten, restored the image of 'Our Lady', setting up in the parish church of St Mary.
This spiritual focal point is celebrating its jubilee with a national tour and local events.
The Walsingham Festival will take place in the cathedrals of Blackburn, Durham and Exeter, as well as many parish churches around the country.
Bishop Philip North, Master of the Guardians, opened the jubilee celebrations ahead of the shrine fully reopening in February 2021.
The shrine, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, was founded in 1061 by Lady Richeldis de Faverches. It operated continuously until 1538 when it was destroyed by Henry VIII.
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The carving was relocated to a new home in the village, as a church was constructed during the inter-war years, opening in 1931.
Bishop North said: “Something remarkable had happened: the pilgrimage to Walsingham, suppressed in 1538 under the orders of Henry VIII, had been restored.
"So, in 2022, we can rejoice and give thanks for the centenary of that restoration.”
The centenary has not come around without challenges.
The shrine and its base, like many hospitality services, has faced staffing shortages. It is currently hiring, reaching out to local parents, students and the recently retired as it seeks part-time workers.
Today, the shrine welcomes more than a quarter of a million visitors each year.
During the pandemic, those working at Walsingham were quick to develop a new strategy to reach thousands of supporters around the world, offering a live stream of shrine prayers each day – a daily Rosary that became hugely popular during the lockdown.
Christopher Hamilton-Emery, director of development, said: “There’s no employer like it in the region, but what makes the place truly special is the pilgrims, who come from every part of the country, by every means of transport.
“Seeing those thousands of faces, many of whom have been coming for decades, makes the shrine an exceptional place.”