A: The shrine of Our Lady of the Cape or
Notre-Dame-du-Cap is located on the St. Lawrence River
in the town of Cap-de-la-Madeleine (Quebec).
The statue of Our Lady of the Cape has been venerated since 1854
when it was donated to the sanctuary (which has been in existence
since 1694) by Zepherin Dorval, who was about to take part in the
Klondyke gold rush. It is one of eleven identical statues made in
Canada by an unknown Italian sculptor. The statue portrays Our
Lady as she appeared to Catherine Laboure in 1830. This event is
known as the Miraculous Medal apparition. It shows Mary without
the child Jesus, her arms outstretched toward the people,
standing on a half-globe, her foot/heal crushing the head of the
snake. The Miraculous Medal representations bears the well-known
inscription: "O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us." The
reverse of the medal shows the capital letter M surrounded by twelve
stars. There exists in the Miraculous Medal a double allusion to
the beginning (snake) and the end of Scripture (the lady
surrounded by stars).
Our Lady of the Cape statue (see right) is essentially a
representation of the Immaculate Conception (cf Gen 3:15),
inviting her prayer of intercession. The reference to Revelations
12 is not evident (in the statue) but may be assumed. However,
there are other motifs which go beyond the iconography of the
Miraculous Medal. First, there is the burning heart on the upper
part of her body. This symbol is part of the original statue
donated in 1854, and suggests a different iconographical
tradition which goes back to the fourteenth century, and which achieved
considerable popularity in the eighteenth century (i.e. Mary pictured
with a heart in her hand or on her chest).
The meaning of the heart of Mary is one of burning love beating
in union with the heart of her son, and partaking in his
suffering. The other characteristic element of the statue of Our
Lady of the Cape is her crown. It was added in 1904 (on October
12) to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the definition of the
Immaculate Conception. The coronation honors and highlights, in
particular, the miraculous character of the statue. In fact,
since the so-called "ice bridge" miracle of 1878 [when a ribbon
of solid ice formed across the St. Lawrence River and thus made
possible the transportation of 175 loads of supplies for the
construction of the new sanctuary] attributed to Our Lady, her
image has been considered miraculous.
The image has still another meaning. The original dedication of the sanctuary was to Our Lady of the Rosary, patroness of a rosary confraternity which is the true origin of this pilgrimage -- today considered the third largest in Canada. Thus the statue of 1854 [which replaced an older one which vanished without a trace and is mentioned in parish records as "The Golden Virgin"] automatically became Our Lady of the Rosary. On occasion (e.g. procession, etc.) the shrine statue holds a golden rosary in her hands.
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