St. Anne Shrine

St. Anne Shrine

St. Anne des Lacs, better known as the St. Anne Shrine, was established around 1920 by a group of French Canadian Catholics led by Napoleon Pelletier, who had travelled to Florida to escape their harsh winters. A white chapel was built, and soon it was joined by a replica of the Lourdes Grotto and monuments to Jesus Christ and St. Christopher (the patron saint of travelers). The place was called St. Anne des Lacs, or St. Anne of the Lakes.

In 1926, French artist Francis Marsollier arrived at the lake with his young son. His son was suffering from tuberculosis, but Marsollier prayed and promised that if his son was saved, he would help with beautifying the shrine. His son recovered, and soon Marsollier went to work creating elaborate murals and sculptures to adorn the chapel and grounds. Stories of the lake's healing ability began to spread, and in 1928 the first formal pilgrimage to St. Anne Shrine was held. For years thereafter, there were two pilgrimages each year drawing thousands to the small lake: February in honor of Our Lady of Lourdes, and again in July for the Feast of St. Anne. At one point, the shrine was even designated a mission by the Dioscese of St. Augustine. In 1937, a new monument to St. Theresa of Lisieux was constructed.

The annual pilgrimages came to a close when the United States became involved in World War II. Canadians stopped travelling to Florida, and the chapel was quietly closed. By the early 1960s, the shrine was desanctified and the chapel razed to save it from vandalism. The original ornate statues have since disappeared; many found a home at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Lake Wales. The Dioscese still owns the land, though do little with it. In 1980, an attempt was made to sell it for a home to be built, but public outcry saved what remains of the shrine. Today neighbors of the shrine contribute to its upkeep, and the Knights of Columbus have built a permanent altar. Mass is held annually at sunrise on Easter Sunday, and the remainder of the year the shrine offers a quiet place for prayer and contemplation.

I Visited the St. Anne Shrine