In the 1061 Richeldis de Faverches a Saxon noblewoman who had great faith and devotion to our Blessed Lady had had a vision in which she was taken by Mary to be shown the house in Nazareth where Gabriel had announced the news of the birth of Jesus. Mary asked Richeldis to build an exact replica of that house in Walsingham. This is how Walsingham became known as England’s Nazareth. The vision, it is said, was repeated three times, and eventually the house was built. The shrine’s reputation grew and by the 16th century it was ranked as one of the major places of pilgrimage in the world along with Rome and Jerusalem.
At the time of the Reformation, Walsingham was destroyed, and the image of Our Lady was taken to London and publicly burnt. For the next four hundred years the name of Walsingham was all but forgotten.
But 1896 a women called Charlotte Boyd bought the Slipper Chapel. This was a small chapel situated a mile from the village of Walsingham. This was the last stopping point for the ancient pilgrims on their way to the shrine. Here they would take off their shoes and walk the last mile to the village barefoot. Charlotte restored the chapel and gave it to the monks of Downside Abbey. Walsingham was reborn as a place of pilgrimage.
In 1934 Cardinal Bourne led a pilgrimage of 10,000 people and declared the Slipper Chapel the National Shrine of Our Lady.
In 1954, before a crowd of 20,000 people, the Papal Delegate, Archbishop O’Hara, in the name of Pope Pius XII, crowned the new statue of Our Lady which is enshrined in the Slipper Chapel.
When Pope John-Paul II visited England in 1982 he was unable to go to Walsingham, so the statue was taken from the Slipper Chapel and brought to Wembley Stadium, there the Pope venerated the image and had it placed on the Altar for the Papal Mass.