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Sacred Springs

38 39 hOly WEllS, WAlSINGhAm Little Walsingham, Norfolk Situated to the north of Fakenham is the small pretty village of Little Walsingham. Its holy wells are the most visited of all those in England. In 1061 the widow Richeldis de Faverches had a miraculous vision of the Virgin Mary, who showed her the house of the Annunciation and told her to build an exact replica. The vision occurred near two holy wells. A wooden holy house was built here, which then became a pilgrimage site of great importance. After the Reformation, the wells degenerated into wishing wells, though still with a strict ritual. The visitor knelt his bare right knee on the stone between the two wells, then plunged his hands in the water. A wish was made, and the water drunk. The wish would be fulfilled within a year if it were never told. In 1931 an Anglican shrine was built housing a replica of the holy house and at this time another well was discovered, fed by the two holy wells nearby in the abbey grounds. Todays pilgrims visit this holy place, and use this well for blessing and healing. Nearby wells to visit are St Withburgas Well in St Nicholas churchyard, East Dereham, and the quirky St Walstans Well at Bawburgh, looking exactly like a typical storybook wishing well, but once a revered place of pilgrimage.
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