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Miracles on the St Lawrence

Nave of Sainte Anne de Beaupre photoWhen the French first settled the land of North America in what is now Canada, they set ashore on the fertile banks of the St Lawrence River, wide enough for nearly one hundred miles for sailing vessels. In 1658, a settler named Etienne de Lessard granted a piece of his land in the community called “Little Cape” for the building of a chapel.. A worker who came to help with the construction Louis Guimont was suffering great pain, thought to be Rheumatoid arthritis. After helping to lay the foundation for the placement of a statue to St Anne, he was suddenly free of his pain. The first miracle. Many have been said to follow. In 1665, Blessed Marie de l'Incarnatio an Ursuline nun from the convent in Quebec City wrote that in the church of Saint Anne ”paralytics walk, the blind can see, and the sick are healed of every kind of illness” The Church of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré has been a pilgrimage site ever since and the present Basilica is one of the most beautiful in North America. The miraculous evidence are the crutches left hanging on the pillars left behind by pilgrims declaring themselves healed.

Front of St Anne de Beaupre photoThe current cathedral sized Basilica was built in the 1920s to replace the earlier church which burnt in a fire in 1922. The design of the basilica which rivals the some of great churches of Europe, more reminiscent of Romanesque arch shapes rather than most other neo-Gothic revival cathedrals, is by French Architects Maxime Roisin and Louis Audet. The Basilica's central under vault harboring the old organ rescued from the former church sparkles with the rich colors of the tile work, Organ Vault photowhile the ceilings of the nave and transepts in the main basilica are completely covered with a tile mosaics by Auguste Labouret telling the life story of Saint Anne. The stained glass windows of the Basilica use a technique by M. Labouret unique to the American continent, utilizing a chipped cutting style creating a deep translucent glow. Work on the church continued through the 20th Century, with some of the later religious figures taking on a contemporary feel. The heavy front doors are clad in intricate copper-bronze reliefs of biblical scenes.

Shrint Statue St Anne Quebec photoVery little is known historically of St Anne. She is not even mentioned in the Bible, but written about in the early writings of the church. She was the Virgin Mary’s mother and the Grandmother of Jesus. But for a saint not in scripture, she left a good portion of herself behind. The Basilica of Sainte Anne de Beaupre has three relics. The first relic was a small fragment of bone from the saint’s finger, brought to Canda from Carcassone in 1670 by Bishop François de Laval. It presumably was brought to France from the Holy Land during the crusades, possibly by the Knights Templar. Bone Relic Sainte Anne de Beaupre photoThe second relic, a 4 inch portion of the forearm bone was giving to the shrine in 1892 by Pope Leo XIII. The third relic, also a forearm bone came in 1960 as a gift from Pope John XXIII, both from Rome's Church of St. Paul Outside the Walls. One of the bone relics are clearly on display in a glass shine in place on a raised arm of St Anne behind the original statue in the north transept. Pope John Paul II visited the Basilica of Saint Anne de Beaupre and prayed before the miraculous shrine statue. The spot where he knelt is marked in tile on the floor a dimond shaped, perhaps ever more significant as he makes his own way to sainthood.

The Way of the Cross

Romans and Christ Cross photoOn a hill slope next to the basilica behind a small church with remnants from 1676, fourteen stations of life-size sculptures representing the story of the Passion of Christ inspired by the Gospel narratives lead along a path through the shade of maple trees, meant to provide contemplation on the travails and suffering of everyday life. The summer the statuary are shaded through the thick leaves of maple trees, while in brisk winter, clad in coats of snow.

Visiting St Anne de Beaupre

Crutches at St Anne de Beaupre photoEntrance to the basilica is free, though not during services. Audio guides are available for rental for $5 for Adults, $3 for students and seniors. Pilgrims still come to Saint Anne de Beaupre, with the church website offering information and details for religious visitors. But whether one believes in miracles or not, this remarkable and impressive church is worth a tourist pilgrimage if one finds oneself in eastern Quebec. To get to the basilica from Quebec City take the Boulevard Ste-Anne, east past the waterfall of Montmorency, or follow the Avenue Royale, one of the oldest roads in Canada (see Moulin Petit Pre), through the villages of this fascinating area of early history of the Americas.
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