St. Anne’s Church & It’s Notable Shrine

15 Sep

Located on South Main Street, across from Kennedy Park in Lizzie’s Borden’s Fall River, is this magnificent Catholic Church built by French Canadian immigrants in the early 1900’s.  It is one of the iconic skyline structures immediately recognizable upon the Braga Bridge approach to Fall River.

This structure was put on the National Historic Register of buildings in 1983.

St. Anne’s Parish was founded in 1869 when there were about 500-600 French families in the city.  The Church was founded in 1894.  In 1900, Fall River had a population of slightly more than 100,000 people, of which nearly 40,000 were French.  The surge of French Canadian immigrants at the turn of the Century came from the agricultural crisis in Quebec.  They had a profound influence in the labor, language and culture.  Even by the 1930’s, Fall River still kept sort of a French flavor, and even today one comes across more French and Portuguese names in its local politics, legal profession, and many of the middle class businesses.

French Canadians rose to prominence in Fall River, including Edmund P. Talbot, Fall River’s Mayor from 1923-1926 and again from 1929-1930.   Past Mayor Edward M. Lambert, Jr. is Franco-American.  Ties to church and community is what kept the former mill workers (including the Portuguese and Irish) to remain in Fall River while most of the founding families split when the hard times hit.   Now the French Canadians and those from the Azores are the weavers of a restored tapestry to Fall River’s rich history.  Their hands are no longer on levers and pulleys and spindles,  but their fingerprints are all over what is left and plans for what will be.

Little known to tourists and passing visitors (mostly because it’s not advertised in city brochures) is the below ground level Shrine to St. Anne within the Church.  One has to know where to enter:  an unmarked outside door on the north side.  According to Fall River “Officer Dave” whom I met at the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast, the Church at one time opened up this space for the homeless.  In short order there were thefts, vandalism and even a death.  The space had also become a safe haven for illicit drug use.  So the parishioners had to re-think that whole be-kind-to-those-less-fortunate thing when it came to free and easy 24/7 access to the Shrine of St. Anne.

The subterranean Shrine is open most all hours to the general public.   It is spacious with a number of “exhibits, as I prefer to call them.  The Shrine of Mother Theresa is astonishingly realistic from all angles.

I forgot what or who this was supposed to be.  I just remember it striking me as rather creepy.

St. Anne was Jesus’ maternal grandmother – although you won’t find that in the bible.

Candles for prayer.

After you delight in the “Shrine Exhibit”, just down the road at Globe Four (really Five) corners, at Globe and South Main is one of the best secrets in town.  You can get the best soft serve ice cream anywhere, right here, in this little French Canadian nieghborhood.


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9 responses to “St. Anne’s Church & It’s Notable Shrine

  1. Heidi

    March 16, 2013 at 6:42 AM

    Awesome! I’m researching my relatives, who came from Falls Creek (and before then, Quebec). My great grandma Leah Bouthillier was baptized here!

  2. Manuel Perez

    October 28, 2014 at 10:20 AM

    The caption that says that St. Anne was Jesus’ maternal grandmother is below a photo of Our Lady of Lourdes with St. Bernadette. Even though St. Anne isn’t in the Bible, she appears along with the Virgin Mary’s father, St. Joachim in the Protoevangelium of St. James, a second century gospel that wasn’t included by the Catholic Church among the other 27 books of the New Testament back in the 4th and 5th century councils. St. Anne is revered both in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches.

  3. Lorraine dragon

    March 27, 2015 at 1:04 PM

    What is the shrine of woman in case with red dress saw this when I was very young and was told something about a saint

  4. cindi

    April 11, 2015 at 6:01 PM

    Whats the story about the women with the red dress in a glass case at st annes church in fall river mass

  5. Pat

    January 25, 2016 at 3:13 PM

    The woman in the glass case is St. Concordia. Along with her is a chalice holding relics (I believe its supposed to be some of her blood or bone), along with a cat-o-‘nine tails, the type of whip she was killed with over her refusal to renounce her Catholic faith before a Roman soldier. She was also beheaded, thank heavens they didn’t show THAT!) This was my favorite shrine when I was a kid & we would visit my Memere in Fall River. She was shipped off somewhere for a few decades, but she’s back.

  6. Ramelle Flory Richardson

    May 17, 2016 at 2:44 PM

    My mom Edmee Gaucher was born in Fall River (1921) lived on Elsbree St. She walked to and from St. Anne’s every day to attend Mass–a round trip of over 5 miles! Then she’d go to school at Durfee High. She had to walk past the Oak Grove Cemetery, and said it always gave her the creeps. I’ll bet that effigy of St. Concordia (and the nearby Borden House) added to her heebee-jeebees!

  7. sbellbois

    March 12, 2018 at 9:58 AM

    An interesting read. My husband’s grandfather went to Fall River just after his marriage in 1892. He was a wood merchant and weaver and I imagine was looking for work. Your article sheds more light on why they chose Fall River. Also it lets me know he would be one of the first to start this trend that lasted for several decades. I plan to write an article on my website about their migration and this will add incite.

    • phayemuss

      March 14, 2018 at 1:46 AM

      Please be sure to follow up here with a link to your article. I would very much like to read it. 🙂

  8. phayemuss

    October 19, 2018 at 9:16 AM


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