Pilgrimage at Wymondham Abbey
Each year we welcome dozens of groups who visit the Abbey itself, or are passing through on the way to Walsingham, and pilgrims often like to light a candle before the statue of Our Lady of Walsingham in our Lady Chapel, bringing their thoughts and prayers before God that He may bless their time of pilgrimage, as well as their own particular pilgrimage intention.
Sometimes people go on pilgrimage to visit relics of a saint (such as those of St Alban, the first English Martyr, whose shrine is at St Albans’ Abbey, and of whom we are historically a daughter house), or to a shrine (such as Walsingham, where the Blessed Virgin Mary is reputed to have appeared to Lady Richeldis). Although Wymondham Abbey has neither a permanent collection of relics, nor can claim to have experienced a vision of Our Lady, thousands of pilgrims still flock to this historic house of prayer every year to offer prayer, seek comfort, guidance, and peace, and we look forward to welcoming you.
Life is a journey! Christians see their lives on this earth as a journey which begins with God, when we are given the gift of life when we are born, and ends with God, when our souls return to His care when we die. In this sense, our lives on this earth are a pilgrimage, which is a feature of many world religions, not just Christianity.
Sometimes, the Church on earth is described as a ‘Pilgrim People’, and the act of pilgrimage itself is a symbol of the journey from our earthly sojourn to our eternal home in heaven.
Throughout history, and especially in the Middle Ages, pilgrimage has been an important element of the Christian life. Centuries ago, going on pilgrimage could take months, even years, and could be very dangerous – the long and arduous journeys, often through hostile territory, meant that there was a real danger of death for the devout pilgrim. Pilgrims would stay in hostelries or monasteries along the way, and pilgrimage routes soon became rich and prosperous, attracting good and bad alike. You can still see evidence of ‘pilgrimage routes’ abroad, for example, the route to Santiago De Compostella in Spain, where to this day, pilgrims wear a scallop shell as a sign of their status as a pilgrim, in the hope that they will receive hospitality along the way. Of course, Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales speaks of a group of pilgrims from all walks of life making their way to Canterbury Cathedral to visit the relics of St Thomas a Becket.
People went on pilgrimage because they believed that, in doing so, their faith could be strengthened, and they could show God how sorry they were if they believed they had committed a sin. Of course, priests would also send people on a pilgrimage as part of their penance for their sins. Sometimes, people would also go on pilgrimage in the hope of being healed from illness.
England has many pilgrimage sites, and in Norfolk, the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, near Fakenham, is internationally renowned as ‘England’s Nazareth’. You can visit their website by clicking here. A piece of the High Altar from Wymondham Abbey is placed in the High Altar in the Shrine Church at Walsingham.