Devotion to Mary is growing among Anglicans, Fr. Noel Wynn told the New York Times. Fr. Wynn is the director of the Roman Catholic Marian shrine in Walsingham, known as “England’s Nazareth.”
Walsingham is home to two Marian shrines—one Catholic and the other Anglican—located at opposite sides of the town.
Tradition says the first shrine was founded in 1061, when Richeldis de Faverches, a Saxon noblewoman, had a vision of the Virgin Mary, who showed her the house in Nazareth where the Angel Gabriel announced the birth of Jesus. Mary then instructed the lady to build a replica.
Since then, Walsingham has been an important pilgrimage site in England, whose emphasis is not healing but on one’s lifelong Christian journey.
In 1538, what is now the Protestant shrine was destroyed as part of the Reformation under King Henry VIII. It was rebuilt in 1931, with accommodations for 218 people.
The Catholic shrine is built around the Slipper Chapel, so named because historically it was there that people removed their shoes and walked the Holy Mile, the last mile of the pilgrimage. Some still walk it, reported the New York Times. This shrine has accommodations for 120.
According to the New York Times, the number of Protestant pilgrims visiting the Marian shrine and staying overnight has risen since 1999, from 10,000 to 12,000.
Protestant worshipers in Walsingham often belong to the Anglo-Catholic tradition, which accords greater reverence to the Virgin Mary than other Protestant sects, and uses the bells and incense like in the Roman Catholic liturgy.
The shrines also appeal to other Christians, and the Orthodox and Methodist churches in the town are indicative of this.