Britain's 'Most Spiritual' Place?

Old Nov 10th, 2005, 10:09 AM
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Britain's 'Most Spiritual' Place?

I'd thought after traveling around the UK annually for over 30 years i'd heard of every major place of interest. So i was surprised when i saw an article recently about a place that BBC listeners had voted the UK's 'Most Spiritual Place'. At first i thought well it's probably Glastonbury or Wells. But it seems its Little Walsingham, in rural Norfolk a few miles east of Kings Lynn. Now i realize that BBC listeners are probably not representative of Brits as a whole, especially in terms of spirituality, but i was intrigued to learn more about Little Walsingham, which though unheard of by most foreign tourists like myself must be terribly famous in the UK. From my research i gathered Little Walsingham is a Lourdes Light.
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Old Nov 10th, 2005, 10:24 AM
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Walsingham has been a place of pilgrimage for centuries
It has a website at http://www.walsingham.org.uk/

It is a religious site rather than a tourist destination.
 
Old Nov 10th, 2005, 10:29 AM
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Walsingham most certainly ISN'T Lourdes light.

First and foremost, it's used by all three strands of Christianity. Obviously a lot of the shrines there were pinched by the Prods (or rather, re-established by sensible Anglicans once the Taliban tendency in Anglicanism had withered away). There's equally obviously a considerable amount of Catholic activity, with pilgrimages organised from almost everywhere.

But most surprisingly, there's a great deal of Orthodox presence, and the history of how there come to be Orthodox churches in the backwoods of Norfolk is extraordinarily moving. And unlike in Jerusalem, the denominations actually get on together.

Second - and how can I put this without offending people - Walsingham lacks the horrors of Lourdes. No light-up statues of Bernadette. No wall-to-wall souvenir merchants. None of those maiden aunts anyone my age from Liverpool, Dublin, Sydney or Boston grew up with. No mass singing of that awful hymn. No 10 year olds being dragged somewhere they really don't want to be (if this sounds personal, guess what?) Just a reasonable number of people who are seriously interested in exploring their spirituality.

Third, though, while it's true that Walsingham doesn't have the nearby ski resorts Lourdes has, it does have Stiffkey as a neighbour. And if you want an antidote to too much of all that devotion, research the history of its rector, his floozies and his life with the lions. That'll show you what happens if you veer from the True Faith. Then go off to Burnham Market (aka Islington by the Sea) for a spectacularly overpriced meal.
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Old Nov 10th, 2005, 11:29 AM
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ENGLAND'S NAZARETH
Well maybe not a Lourdes Light but perhaps a Nazareth Light...
Little Walsingham traces its roots to 1061 when, legend has it, a Saxon noble lady Richeldis de Faverches had a vision where the Virgin Mary etched in her mind's eye a mental picture of the house in Nazareth where the Angel Gabriel announced Jesus' birth. Mary told Richeldis to build a replica of the house here...and the rest is history.
For four centuries Little Walsingham was Britian's foremost pilgrimage destination for nobles as well as peasants - one can only think that at this time it was indeed not a Lourdes Light but a veritable Lourdes where folks came to pray for help - desperate malades for cures, etc. Indeed even today the waters of a well in one of the churches is said by some to have healing properties.
Alas the monastic wrecking ball unleashed as an aftermath of Henry VIIIs Reformation that leveled such religious sights throughout England struck here as well and the priory housing the shrine was demolished in 1538. Little Walsingham's raison d'etre was snuffed out for the next 4 centuries. It was only in 1931 that a Protestant ('Prod' in Flanner parlance i guess) church arose here to tap into the historical religious significance.
So the town once again hit the religious map - a Roman Catholic shrine was built to complement the Anglican one. Like in many UK towns the two churches are on opposite sides of the village. Now some 250,000 devotees flock to the village each year - some say they come mainly for the calmness and tranquility and not from any deep religious sentiment. Like Flanner says an Orthodox church has been built as has a Methodist one.
The director of the Roman Catholic shrine says 'unlike the big European shrines like Lourdes, the emphasis is not so much on healing as on your Christian journey, your life journey".
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Old Nov 10th, 2005, 11:54 AM
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Actually there were at least two Orthodox churches last time I was there, and I'm sure I remember a third that wasn't open at the time.

Given that Orthodoxy can be at least as fissiparous as Western Christianity, no-one should be surprised there are several denominations of Orthodoxy represented. Indeed their first church was consecrated by an archbishop from the Polish Orthodox church, whose very existence usually astonishes most people. His see, of course, is now in Belarus.
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Old Nov 11th, 2005, 08:16 AM
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You can sleep over in either of the two major shrines - the Anglican or Roman Catholic - the former has beds for 218 folks, the latter 120. so if looking for something different in your UK trip go for tranquility and dose of spirituality. 10,000-12,000 folks stay in a given year in the Protestant shrine.
Tourist office officials say that 250,000 people visit the village annually.
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Old Jul 5th, 2006, 09:50 AM
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ttt to remind myself to put this on my to visit hit list
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Old Jul 5th, 2006, 10:11 AM
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Another for your to-visit-hit-list...

St Nectan's Glen and Kieve tucked away off the narrow road between Tintagel and Boscastle in north Cornwall is considered to be amongst the most spiritual and sacred sites in the UK.

http://www.stnectan.currantbun.com/stnectan.htm

It truly has a most special feel about it, and has ben a place of pilgrimage, worship and healing since pre-Christian times.

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Old Jul 6th, 2006, 08:45 AM
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julia t - thanks sincerely for that reference - i once must have driven right by it when i visited Tintagel, which i thought itself was a most evocative, if not spiritual site - outstanding ruins on a rocky mass overlooking the sea - smashing location and, if you believe the legends, perhaps a very spiritual place as well.
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Old Jul 6th, 2006, 08:55 AM
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Well, if you didn't know about St Nectan's Glen you wouldn't know to stop along that small road. Two years ago when I was last down in that part of the world there was only a tiny sign tucked away in a small parking area. It is 4 years since I visited what we call 'the magic waterfall', and as I am in Cornwall again at the end of next week, I plan to visit again.

As for Tintagel - I have tried twice and been unable to get far up the path due to vertigo! Both time it was windy and fairly stormy, so maybe I should try again when calmer conditions prevail... It makes me feel such a failure when my children skip ahead of me like mountain goats and I have to call them back!
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