A short drive to the east of Quebec City is the majestic Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupre, which has been credited by the Catholic Church with miracles related to curing the sick and disabled. Reflecting this history, you are immediately presented with a collection of crutches and braces upon entering the church.
A popular destination for both tourists and pilgrims alike, the church is easily visible from the highway and is a common point of interest on bus tours of the area. For the drivers, although street parking is possible, it is highly unlikely; instead, we took advantage of a small parking lot nearby that charged $5.
Feeling much more imposing from the outside than its sibling in Montreal—Notre-Dame Basilica—it is less dramatic once you step through the great doors. The lighting is much brighter than with Notre-Dame (less moody or awe-inspiring), but that gives you plenty of opportunities to read Ste. Anne’s life story, told in a series of vignettes across the vault above the main chamber.
With so many tourists wandering around, conversing and taking photos, it can sometimes get a little awkward when pilgrims are praying to the Sainte for her intervention in some personal need. More than once, I witnessed less mindful tourists lining up to get shots of themselves with believers praying in the background. I was unimpressed, and while I am not religious, I felt bad for those who are.
On the lower floor is another chapel with a much lower ceiling, surrounded by scenes of various priests and nuns from the area’s history working with the local indigenous community or immigrants to the New World. (I will not get into the historical and social implications of these interactions.)
And in the hallway that rings this chamber are several smaller prayer alcoves and rooms dedicated to Mary or past priests and nuns.
Within walking distance, you will find a variety of restaurants. Those on the narrow town streets tend to be coffee and souvenir shops, while those off the highway are fast-food joints like Tim Hortons and A&W. A couple minutes west on the highway, you will find Restaurant Les Artistes, a true roadside diner. There is also a gift shop on the Basilica grounds, but I did not visit these.
Even if you’re not particularly religious, the Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupre has much to offer as a tourism destination because I think more than Notre-Dame, it offers a true glimpse into the role of the Church in Quebec’s history and the faith of its current believers.