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The Walsingham Retreat offers an opportunity to immerse oneself in six days of icon painting in ‘England’s Nazareth’. A place unlike any other in the UK to escape to! And where, time permitting, visits to the two neighbouring Russian Orthodox churches, the Roman Catholic National Shrine and its famous Slipper Chapel, the Abbey Gardens and surrounding Norfolk countryside/seaside can all be visited.
This Retreat is open to all and is strongly ecumenical. It will be facilitated by British Iconographer and Courtauld Institute graduate, Helen McIldowie-Jenkins. Apart from numerous public and private commissions, Helen has many years experience of teaching retreats and also working as an icon cataloguer/specialist for a leading London Russian Art auction house. For more info, please visit Elenis Icons www.elenisicons.co.uk
The Retreat is based at the Anglican Shrine in the centre of the medieval village of Little Walsingham, NR22 6PB. (Please see the ‘Travel’ page for details). The Shrine centre provides an ideal environment for producing an icon: a peaceful private Studio, excellent Refectory facilities, charming accommodation, beautiful gardens - and of course the Shrine Church itself, with the Holy House (a replica of the Holy Family's house in Nazareth) and the Holy Well. All are welcome to join the daily Services and rites of Blessing and Healing at the various churches.
Historically Walsingham has been an important centre of Christian pilgrimage for over 900 years and before that, a site of Roman pilgrimage to a temple of Mercury. Known as 'England's Nazareth', the Shrine at Walsingham was founded in 1061 by a wealthy local widow, Richeldis de Faverches.
Having received a vision and instructions from the Virgin, Richeldis built a replica of the Holy House at Nazareth at Walsingham for three specific reasons; to honour the Virgin, to provide a place of succour and to be a reminder of the joy of the Annunciation.
For five centuries, kings and scholars, lords and laity all undertook pilgrimages to Walsingham, making it a major pilgrimage site in Britain and Europe.
All of the English monarchs from Henry III to Henry VIII made pilgrimages to Walsingham. Henry VIII visited several times and is known to have removed his shoes at the Slipper Chapel and walked the last mile barefoot. In 1537, Henry outlawed devotion to Our Lady of Walsingham, ordered the destruction of the shrine and the execution any of resistant clergy. The following year, Henry ordered the public burning of the 'Witch of Walsingham', the original Marian statue at Chelsea.
Although destroyed during the Reformation, Walsingham was rediscovered in the 19th century and following WW2, restored and developed - and is once again a thriving spiritual centre with international reach.
Today, Walsingham is the focus for Christian unity, reconciliation and international devotion to the Mother of God. The Anglican and Roman Catholic National Shrines, along with two Russian Orthodox Churches welcome thousands of pilgrims annually to their beautiful sites. Many pilgrim groups still walk to Walsingham from all over the UK at Easter.
Extract from the Pynson Ballad, c.1470
"Walsingham, 'in thee is built New Nazareth'
Where shall be held in a memorial
The great joy of my salutation,
First of my joys, their foundation and origin
Root of mankind's gracious redemption,
When Gabriel gave me this news:
To be a Mother through humility
And God's Son conceive in virginity.
O England, you have great cause to be glad
For you are compared to the Promised Land, Zion
You are called in every realm and region
The Holy Land, Our Lady's Dowry.
In you is built new Nazareth,
A house to the honour of the Queen of Heaven
And her most glorious Salutation
When Gabriel said at Old Nazareth,
Ave, This same joy shall here be daily and for ever remembered."
Anglican and Roman Catholic Shrines: http://www.walsingham.org.uk/
St Seraphim's Russian Orthodox Church (the old station): http://iconpainter.org.uk/
Walsingham Village: http://www.walsinghamvillage.org/