Our Lady's Mirror

Winter 1942

The Orthodox Chapel
Great enthusiasm has been expressed by friends of Walsingham at the establishment of the Priory. And now that the Sisters are a self governing body offers of assistance have been coming in and much interest taken in their welfare. A bird whispers that there is likely to be a Walsingham calendar published by the Pax House, for 1943. Do not forget as Christmas draws nearer to enquire for this. The Government have seen fit to lift the ban on visits to the Eastern Counties for a further period, so that visitors to the coast, and pilgrims to the Holy House, can come until April 15th. Now then, what about your pilgrimage to ask for victory and peace – it doesn’t matter how many or how few come – but come. Cells of the Society of Our Lady of Walsingham have been established at S. Saviour’s, Pimlico, under the Patronage of S. Edward, K.C., Teddington, with S.S. Peter and Paul as protectors; Oxford under the intercession of S. Paul and S. Frideswide. A City of London Cell is about to be founded with S. Magnus as its defender. All members of the S.O.L.W. are asked to get into touch with their Priests and to form cells – or to join up with one in their neighbourhood. “There is strength is unity”. Those who are forming Cells of the S.O.L.W. are doing a most excellent work for the increase of devotion to Our Lady of Walsingham and are to be supported in every way possible. Some of our Society may remember reading that among other things found in Walsingham were a number of stone cockle shells. These carved stones were not dug up all in one place, but in gardens in the village and in the remoter precincts of the Shrine. No one has been able to explain their purpose. One of our Guardians travelling in Spain found a house with many such cockle shells decorating its front, but was unable to find out the purpose of the adornment. A solution, however, may be found in a passage in Gertrude Bone’s “Days in Old Spain”, Macmillan, 1939, p. 140, where writing of Santiago de Compostela, she says, "In the poorer part of the town modest streets of houses with cockle shells carved above the doors announce the ancient inns of pilgrims". Now there were many Pilgrim Inns in Walsingham up to 1538 and no doubt other accredited houses of a more private nature where pilgrims arriving as strangers would seek a lodging. What more likely than that a sign indication "apartments" in the form of a stone cockle shell should be fastened over the doors of houses authorised by the authorities to put up wayfarers to the Walsingham Shrine? Further, although the cockle shell was primarily the symbol of the pilgrimage to Compostela, yet it did become in course of time a kind of general token of pilgrimage. Knowing the great devotion there was to the Shrine of S. James, it is very likely that many innkeepers and other inhabitants of Walsingham would, in the course of three or four hundred years, make the pilgrimage to the Spanish Sanctuary. If this is so they might very likely have adopted this sign for their own Pilgrim inns and in many instances – perhaps in each case – it is more than probable that they would beg or "pinch" the cockle shell from the lintel of the house they stayed in and set it up over their own doors in Walsingham as a double sign, that they accommodated pilgrims and that there were eminently respectable, having themselves made the hazardous journey to Compostela. After the war someone must go to the Shrine of S. James and compare these stones. THE ANCIENT FOUNDATIONS Most of our readers have no doubt seen “Some recent Discoveries”, and so made themselves conversant with the arguments for and against the ancient foundations beneath the Shrine being those of the original Sanctuary built in the eleventh century. One well-known archæologist declared that the four towers, the bases of which were uncovered, one at each angle of the main foundations, made it almost certain that these footings were of some Elizabethan house. Ignoring the arguments against this theory and the statements of other accredited people to the effect that these foundations are either late Saxon or Norman work. We will quote from A. W. Clapham’s “Romanesque Architecture in Western Europe”, published in 1936. “The featuring of this great gabled façade led also to the placing of the Western Towers, where such existed, touching or free of the Western front. Such a pair were planned at S. Giacomo, Como (c 1105), and exist at Piacenza and Parma Cathedrals, and it seems probable that the scheme was introduced from the north. Twin towers flanking the apse are more typical of Savoy, where they appear early in the eleventh century in the cathedrals of Ivrea and Aosta. S. Abbondio, Como (consecrated 1095) is a notable example in Lombardy”. (p.36) “Certain remains of the eleventh and early twelfth century cathedrals perhaps still exist, and portions of others have been recovered by excavations, so that from these survivals some idea may be gained of the characteristics of this first building era ..... In general the churches were of the aisled basilican plan with three eastern apses ...... All these features show clearly that the twelfth century Romanesque of Hungary was an importation from north Italy and reproduced the main features of the Italian churches of the tenth and eleventh centuries. Certain decorative features also indicate sufficiently clearly the same parentage. Three of these churches, however, Szekesfehervar, Esztergom (Gran), and Pecs, are or were provided with four towers set symmetrically in pairs at the east and west ends of the building. Those at Pecs form salients to the main building. This unusual arrangement, foreign to Italy and not closely paralleled in Germany, has given rise to many theories …. M. Gál ascribes the foundations of these churches to the period 1030-60 and makes Pecs the latest of them”. (p.186) It would be interesting to find an English example of a church with four towers in the position of the eleventh century. True we have King’s Chapel, Cambridge, fifteenth century. But taking into consideration the date of the Walsingham foundation, the type of work uncovered and the similarity of the plan not only of Pecs and Parma, but several others of about the same period, we are left more convinced than ever of the early date of the foundations on our site and its possible parentage. articles: 'The Ancient Foundations'; 'Dilectus Meus Candidus et Rubicundus' (a poem); 'From the Bursar' photographs: The Orthodox Chapel [above]; the chapel of S Curé d'Ars, view from the nave with the icon of the Iberian Madonna on the pillar; rough drawings comparing foundations at Pecs, Parma and Walsingham.