First stone church of Saint Marie-Madeleine Parish. Inaugurated in 1720, it was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary on June 22, 1888, the day of the Miracle of the Eyes.
Built of fieldstones, its architecture is typical of early, rural Quebec churches: simple proportions, raised gable-ends, concaved gutters, steeple with a hexagon base, rooster weather vane above the cross, etc.
It has only one transept located on the northern side.
Extension built in 1973.
It was built in part with stones transported on the ice bridge in 1879. These stones had been preserved when the church was demolished in 1963.
The Interior of the Old Shrine. The statue above the main altar was placed there on June 22nd 1888. That evening, three persons witnessed the opening of the eyes of the statue. This statue had been donated to the parish by a parishioner in 1854, the year of the proclamation of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception.
The interior decoration is subsequent to the original construction of the church. It would seem, however, that the altarpiece tabernacle on the altar was imported from France during the eighteenth century.
The altarpiece, shaped as a canopy over the statue of Our Lady of the Cape, was installed at the beginning of the twentieth century. The side-chapel to the left, where is presently found the statue of Saint Joseph and the Child, originally housed an altar with a statue of the Blessed Virgin. This altar was referred to as the “Altar of the Brotherhood of the Holy Rosary”.
View of the interior of the Old Shrine seen from the balcony. It is one of the oldest churches in Canada preserved in its integrity. It is the oldest church in Canada where daily Mass is celebrated year round.
This statue of Our Lady of the Cape replicates the poise of the Blessed Virgin of the miraculous medal.
This is the statue which Blessed Father Frederic, Father Désilets and Mr. P. Lacroix saw her eyes open, on the evening of June 22, 1888: the Miracle of the Eyes.
The statue was cast in 1854 by Carlo Petrucci of Montreal. The crown and heart were added later.
Two stained-glass windows of Our-Lady-of –the-Cape Basilica. They are the works of the Dutch master glass-maker Jan Tillemans o.m.i.
Left stained-glass: Our Lady of the Cape. On the right: The Holy Family
Interior of Our Lady of the Cape Basilica. This large basilica inaugurated in 1964 holds nearly 2000 persons.
Entering the basilica, one is first impressed by the size of the nave and the harmony of its proportions. The view is open, with no columns or pillars blocking the line of vision from any of the 1660 seating positions.
The frame is composed of large arches of reinforced concrete, built in slanted, straight lines (polygonal arches), resting on pillars at the corners of the octagon. The buttresses between the pillars and the walls have a large opening to allow airflow throughout the nave.
In designing the large arches, the sanctuary and the transepts, architect Adrien Dufresne was visibly inspired by the work of his mentor, Dom Bellot, a Benedictine monk. The arches of the sanctuary and the transepts look somewhat like fingers bent at the joints. It is said that Dom Bellot took his inspiration from this image in designing the polygonal arches.
Our Lady of the Cape Basilica photographed on an August night during a Perseids shower.
Photo: Jean Chamberland
Exterior of Our Lady of the Cape Basilica. This basilica is the work of architect Adrien Dufresne.
Built in the form of an octagon: 79 m (260 ft) long and 60 m (167 ft) wide. The pyramid-like dome is crowned with a skylight that supports a cross measuring 4,5 m (15 ft).
The basilica rests on 195 piles sunk nearly 90 ft deep to reach the solid rock beneath the sand and clay stone.
The white granite walls come from Saint-Gérard (Estrie, Québec). The copper roof changes color with time, turning grayish-green as a result of the humidity.
The cornerstone is found at the top of the stairs, to the left, on the front of the basilica. The four polished stones inset in the form of a cross were part of the stones transported on the ice bridge in March of 1879. They were blessed in Rome by Pope Pius XII. The belfry houses 5 bells each one with it’s note: D, F, G, A & B flat.
Casavant organ, neo-classical design, inaugurated in 1965. The specifications are from Lawrence Phelps, then chief harmonist of the company at Saint-Hyacinthe (Quebec, Canada). Electro-pneumatically driven, this organ has 75 stops, including 2 trumpets and 1 bugle, distributed on 3 keyboards and one pedal-board. It has a total of 5425 pipes. An electronic combiner with 16 memory levels was added during its renovation in 1990. The organ-case looks like a giant maple leaf covering the wall.
Some people, when speaking about the spring in the gardens of the Shrine, speak of “miraculous water”. By that, they probably mean that the Lord has answered their prayer when they drank this water or used it in some other way to present their intentions.
This water source did not spring miraculously from the ground as was the case at Lourdes. It is a natural spring.
Flowing from the gardens of the Shrine, this water is a precious souvenir in memory of the Our Lady of the Cape. Many pilgrims ask a priest or deacon to bless this water as holy water.
Commemorative Rosary Bridge constructed in 1924.
It is a reminder that the parishioners of St. Marie Madeleine parish prayed the rosary with their pastor Father Luc Désilets for the river to freeze over during the winter of 1879 in order to transport the stones for the constructions of the new parish church.
At the time, people referred to the ice bridge, which had formed on the Saint Lawrence River in March of 1879, as the “Rosary Bridge”. For them, this bridge was the answer to their prayers addressed to Mary. Despite the risks involved in transporting the stone on this fragile “crossing”, they told themselves: no danger, our rosaries are carrying us!
Such is the history commemorated by this bridge, its deck supported by what seem to be “chains” of rosaries.
The Rosary Bridge and the small brook that flows in the gardens. This bridge was erected in 1924 to commemorate the ice bridge of 1879.