The ice bridge
The additional stone needed for the construction was to be gathered on the South shore of the St. Lawrence river in Sainte-Angèle. The church wardens had the stone prepared with the intention of transporting it on the river during the next winter. In those days, boats were not in transit in winter, but the solidly frozen river made it possible to cross with horse-drawn sleighs. However, the winter of 1878-79 was very mild. So much so that the ice never formed. The parishioners turned to the Blessed Mother. Every Sunday they recited the rosary to obtain a bridge. Months went by. Now it is the beginning of March. Spring is near: maple trees will soon begin to run and sugar time will be here. Still no ice on the river...
People kept praying. Mr. Désilets then made a promise to the Blessed Mother to dedicate the small church to her if they were able to transport the stone and begin construction as planned.
On the night of March 16, an ice bridge formed from one side to the other. From the 19th to the 25th of March they were able to transport the stone using approximately one hundred horse-drawn sleighs. The people named this “the bridge of rosaries”. They were unanimous in saying that this bridge came in answer to their prayer to Mary. Fifteen days later, the bishop of the Diocese, Bishop Louis-François Laflèche wrote to Mr. Désilets : “The Good Lord really made possible the transportation of the stone for your church. It shows once again what faith can do, even provide a way to carry 300 meters of stone from one side of the St. Lawrence River to the other”. The following summer, construction got under way and the new Sainte-Marie-Madeleine church was blessed by Bishop Laflèche in October 1880. The old church was spared demolition: The Blessed Virgin had protected it for a purpose. But until then it was an ordinary parish; there were no plans to turn it into a Shrine.
The church built with stones transported on the ice bridge of 1879. It was demolished in 1963 to clear the square of the basilica. To the right the first church of stone (today the Old Shrine).