Pilgrimage, journey to a sacred place for religious or spiritual purposes. There are several sites in Canada which attract many Canadian and foreign pilgrims. Foremost are the Catholic shrines of Québec, the oldest being the church of Ste-Anne-de-Beaupré, some 30 km northeast of Québec City. During construction of the first shrine on this site in 1658, the miraculous cure of a workman was reported. Other cures followed, and the shrine soon became renowned for miracles. Pilgrims came and many, such as Anne of Austria, mother of Louis XIV of France, patronized the shrine from home. Today the stone basilica attracts over 250 000 pilgrims per year. The principal gathering is on the feast of Ste Anne (July 26).
A more recent shrine which now enjoys great popularity is Saint Joseph's Oratory on Mount Royal in Montréal. The pious Brother André, a member of the Order of the Holy Cross and a devotee of St Joseph, built the first small chapel to the saint in 1904. A stone crypt was added in 1917. A basilica with a capacity of 5000, begun in 1922, now stands on the site. The annual number of pilgrims today exceeds 3 million, with the largest gatherings on May 10 and Labour Day.
Ste-Anne-de-Beaupré and Saint Joseph's Oratory attract pilgrims because of their fame as sites of miracles. The saints of these shrines are now popularly believed to be effective intercessors, taking the pilgrim's message to God. The long racks of crutches and canes, braces and corsets discarded by pilgrims are seen to bear testimony to the many healing miracles that have occurred. For those who do not seek a miracle, the shrines offer objects of devotion for prayers.
The basilica of Cap-de-la-Madeleine at Trois-Rivières is another important Catholic shrine in Québec. The First Plenary Council of Québec declared the church a shrine of national pilgrimage in 1909. In 1964 the church at the shrine was given the status of minor basilica.
Another shrine to Ste Anne at Lac Ste Anne in Alberta attracts large numbers of aboriginal people from across Canada to a pilgrimage of several days, culminating on July 26, the saint's day. Healing is an important feature of this pilgrimage as well.
The shrine of Ste Marie Among the Hurons near Midland, Ontario, reflects another aspect of the history of Catholic interactions with the native people. Six of North America's 8 martyred saints (killed between 1642 and 1649) were missionaries here.
Religious and ethnic communities have developed and supported their own pilgrimage centres. The Polish population visits the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes at Skaro, Alberta, for the Vesper of the feast of the Assumption of the Holy Virgin (August 15). The first Ukrainian church in Canada, at Gardenton, Manitoba, is the site of an annual pilgrimage for that community.
Canadians also travel outside Canada to centres sacred to the various religions. Thousands of Muslims (see Islam) annually make the hajj (pilgrimage) to Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia, places made holy through their importance in the life of the prophet Muhammad. Christians make pilgrimages to Rome, Canterbury, Lourdes, Fatima and many other shrines. Muslims, Christians and Jews all journey to Jerusalem for their devotions. Hindus and Buddhists visit the many shrines of India and elsewhere in Asia and, increasingly, in the United States. Through their journeys the faithful renew connections with the global centres of their religions.
Pilgrimage was formerly a difficult, dangerous austerity from which the pilgrim could not be sure of returning. Although today the sacred journey may appear to resemble a package tour more than a spiritual exercise, it is still an important feature of popular religion. In an uncertain and sorrow-laden world, there is magnetism in places where the divine is believed to manifest itself in a living, active, miraculous form to heal the sick and ease the burden of the faithful.