Orlando, Fla., Mar 25, 2023 / 06:00 am
Tens of millions of people visit the Orlando area each year, and while some only frequent the “altars” of Mickey Mouse and Harry Potter during their stay, others carve out time to worship the source of all blessings. They are welcomed with open arms at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe — a spiritual oasis nestled amid limitless dining, retail, and entertainment options.
“Let Mary Queen be your spiritual home while you are in Orlando,” said Missionary of Mercy Father Anthony Aarons, the church's rector. Visitors from every continent make up the majority of the congregation and often share where they are from after Mass or during confession. “Our priests are available to speak with you and our gift shop is your one-stop shopping place for religious gifts,” he said.
The large, 2,000-seat shrine commands attention from passersby on I-4, the region’s primary highway, and is situated near major attractions including Disney World, Universal Orlando, and retail outlets. It features many stained-glass windows and side chapels, including one devoted to Our Lady of Guadalupe. The broad main altar and gold-tone organ pipes behind it are bathed in natural sunlight, which bounces off the crystal backing of the crucifix suspended overhead. Marian-themed art on display includes a 17th-century painting of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the back of the basilica attributed to Spanish painter Bartolomé Murillo. A gift shop offers books, rosaries, statues, and other religious goods.