Our Lady of the Cape Shrine is located on a stunning site that was regularly visited by Jesuit missionaries as of 1634.
In 1678, the parish of Sainte-Marie-Madeleine was founded. The first fieldstone church was built under the French regime and inaugurated in 1720. In 1879, the parishioners wanted to build an even bigger church. The stones and building material required for the new church were to be brought over in the winter across the frozen Saint-Lawrence River. But 1879 happened to be one of those rare mild winters when the river did not freeze over. Parishioners prayed the Rosary all winter in their homes and in the church asking for the Blessed Mother‘s intercession for solid ice to form on the river.
Father Luc Desilets made a promise to the Blessed Mother that he would dedicate the small fieldstone church to her instead of demolishing it, if the building material could be obtained before springtime.
It was only in the evening of March 16 that a solid ice passage formed from one side of the river to the other, spanning a distance of approximately two kilometers. This ice-bridge, commonly called the Rosary Bridge, as it resulted from praying the Rosary, stayed on the Saint-Lawrence River for a solid week, long enough for the necessary stones and building material to be hauled on horse-drawn sleds.
Father Désilet kept his promise and the old church was dedicated to the Virgin Mary on June 22, 1888.
On the evening of the same day, the benevolent Father Frédéric Jansoone and two other witnesses, including Father Luc Désilets, saw the eyes of the statue of the Virgin Mary, located on top of the high alter, open. This miracle became known as the “prodigy of the eyes.” This date marks the official beginning of Our Lady of the Cape Shrine.
Following these events, a great number of pilgrims came to pray at Cap-de-la-Madeleine. The Virgin of the Cape opened her arms to them. Pope John Paul II visited the shrine in 1984.