The leaves are at their peak once again and the cruise shippers are here in force. After two cancelled years, it is a joy to have them back, at least for this Québec City tour guide.
Among the sites they see during their eight-hour stopover is Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré. A pilgrimage destination since the mid-17th century when Louis Guimont was miraculously cured of his kidney ailment, the Sanctuary of Saint Anne draws thousands every year. They come especially in late July, around the time of the Feast of Saint Anne. At that time of the year, the hotels and campgrounds of the region are at capacity hosting the Catholic faithful. This year’s annual pilgrimage was graced by the presence of none other than Pope Francis I. At the basilica, he gave a mass that was attended by thousands, including a not insignificant number of protestors. Québec society today has a hard-earned skepticism toward the Catholic Church.
My customers as well sometimes express doubt when they learn that Saint Anne’s Basilica is on the day’s itinerary. They will preemptively declare that religion is “not their thing”, that they are not interested in visiting a church during their limited time. I do understand their reticence, but even the most hardened of skeptics find something beautiful in this place of pilgrimage 30-some kilometers from Old Québec. They admire the size, scale, and Romanesque architecture of this grandiose structure that rivals the great cathedrals of Europe. They admire the artistry of the interior and the artisans who spent years bringing it to fruition. And they admire the picturesque commemorative buildings that surround the main structure. The replica of the 1676 church is especially beautiful against the backdrop of Québec fall foliage.