Ah, the 96 Buick served us well yet again as my sister and I depart St. Petersburg heading North into Central Florida. First stop while Out and About is Ste Anne des Lacs, better known as St. Anne’s Shrine. East of Lake Wales, Florida, off the beaten path of Highway 60 — there nestled among the quaint community surrounding Saint Anne Lake, is quite the gem. A rural shrine built in the 1920’s or there about and like most people, places or things, there is a story.
Napoleon Pelletier, a native Canadian traveled to Florida with his son, who was diagnosed with turberculosis. Napoleon felt the warmer temps might help his son. In their travels a lake was found and as the story goes, it was Napoleon’s devotion to St. Anne and the healing waters of the lake (this day in time known as St. Anne Lake) miraculously cured his son. Thanks to an extremely grateful man, Napoleon attributed the miracle to St. Anne and the healing waters of the lake, making a promise to God. In that promise, there under an oak hammock near the lake, the shrine to St. Anne began to take form. At some point, possibly when Napoleon and his son traveled, a group of French Canadians tired of the severe winters, also traveled to Florida to escape the bitter cold, all settling by the lake. A church was built, religious services began, the shrine became a spot for annual pilgrimages and in July the Feast of Saint Anne takes place. With the many miracles that have been attributed to the divine intercession of St. Anne throughout the ages - the remains of the St. Anne Shrine in Lake Wales continues to add to that love and devotion despite how it has aged and weathered.
Circling the lake, a large stone monument rises at the shore. Although the recap from articles written differ, some write the stone monument once held a statue of Saint Anne while others note a statue of Jesus Christ. Either one or none, what remains of the stone monument is still an impressive sight and can only imagine how much more so back in the day.
Rather hot on the day of our visit at 95 degrees, it was there near the monument, under a small grouping of older oak trees with hanging Spanish moss that shelters us from the heat after visiting the shrine. Between the shade and cool breezes from the lakeside, there is spiritual comfort to be had amid the serenity of the lake and the monument from long ago.
Nearby, the St. Anne Shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes, a stone grotto also weathered by time, is tucked in the woods surrounded by the old-growth of palm trees and live oaks. Once a church and later demolished by the Catholic Church, what remains is surely not as grand as it was though is indeed majestic and worth the time to visit.
From the road that circles the lake, a short path into a wooded area, one will find the grave of Napoleon Pelletier to the right of a lovely stone bridge over a now dried channel that leads to the picturesque structure. Awe-inspiring, the shrine and structures that do remain from long ago are cared for and maintained by volunteers, residents who live around the lake. Most of the structures are now on private property so should you visit please be respectful. Not only of the shrine and its structures but to the residents who kindly make their property available for travelers to enjoy the beauty, the glory of this unique religious site.
Keeping with the hallowed past, there at this weathered stone grotto, a small area for prayer remains. Should your travels take you Out and About to St. Anne's Shrine -- after admiring the view, do rest in silence - giving thanks to Napoleon for his dedication to God, building the shrine and for the residents of today who love and care for the history of long ago.
St. Anne's Shrine
Lake Wales, Florida