Florida Guide > Miscellaneous
Mary Queen of the Universe
When on holiday in central Florida one of our favourite shopping experiences is a visit to Orlando Premium Outlets, just off International Drive on Vineland Avenue. The number of times we have passed the Mary Queen of the Universe Shrine without so much as a second glance on our way to indulging in some retail therapy must be staggering.
However, on the last occasion we were over in Florida my curiosity got the better of me and I decided to look into the history of the shrine and was surprised to find that it only opened its doors as recently as 1993.
The original ground breaking ceremony took place in 1984 and over the next nine years through different phases of construction, including the addition of an outdoor chapel, an eighty-foot bell tower and, of course, the main shrine, the work was finally completed.
It all started back in 1979 with the influx of visitors into central Florida looking for a new type of holiday, and especially attracted to Walt Disney World. As the numbers increased the spiritual needs of many Catholics were unable to be met, so the Diocese of Orlando arranged for masses to be held in a hotel on International Drive. Within a short period of time numbers were so great that several hotels were soon asked to provide facilities in order that additional masses could be celebrated.
With projections showing up to thirty million visitors a year to the Orlando area it quickly became apparent that the makeshift hotel accommodation would be woefully inadequate so on December 8th 1984 work on the Mary Queen of the Universe Shrine began.
Today the Shrine has seating for two thousand worshippers and holds daily masses. The main features of the church are its fourteen aisle windows in stained glass and a magnificent eight-foot high depiction of the Virgin Mary in white marble. In the outside chapel there is a bronze sculpture of the Mother and Child
Visitors are actively encouraged and the Audio Visual Center provides the opportunity to learn more about the history of the Church in the United States.
Additionally the Shrine has a museum and gift shop selling religious articles and books.
Although only a stone’s throw from the interstate, the gardens, interspersed with fountains, provide a tranquil haven for contemplation and reflection.
This may not appeal to everyone, but at least my curiosity was satisfied and I was glad
I made the effort.
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