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Then and Now: The Apparition of Our Lady of Knock

Aug 21, 2016 By Gretchen Filz

August 21st is the anniversary of the apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary at a small village church in 1879 in Knock, Ireland. Known as Our Lady of Knock, it is one of the major Marian apparitions approved by the Church and the one dearest to the Irish people.


Mary's miraculous appearance was a great consolation to those who suffered through the terrible famines and extreme hardships of that era in Ireland's history. Although Our Lady of Knock was silent, the peace and healing she brought was real and lasting.

On the 21st August, 1879, at about 8 o’clock, Our Lady, St. Joseph, and St. John the Evangelist appeared in a blaze of Heavenly light."

Interestingly, a few months prior to the apparition, Archdeacon Cavanagh, the parish priest, announced to his parishioners his plan to say 100 Masses for the Holy Souls in Purgatory whom Our Lady wished to release. The last of these Masses was completed shortly before the apparition occurred.

In addition to the figures of the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, and St. John the Evangelist, the vision also included a Christ as the Lamb of God standing on an altar surmounted by a cross—a symbol of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the Holy Eucharist. St. John was standing with a gesture of teaching while holding a book, presumably the Book of the Revelation he authored, in which he described his vision of the heavenly liturgy.

The apparition occurred outside against the south wall of the parish church, as seen in the photograph below where the people are gathered. Today the church has been extended with a partial-glass ceiling to incorporate this outside wall as an inside wall. Erected against the south wall are statues resembling as closely as possible the vision as it appeared to eyewitnesses on that August night.

Before and after photos of the Marian apparition site in Knock, Ireland. Before and after photos of the Marian apparition site in Knock, Ireland.

According to the official Knock Shrine, here is what happened:

The Story of Knock began on the 21st August, 1879 when, at approximately 8 o’clock in the evening, fifteen people from the village of Knock in Co. Mayo, witnessed an Apparition of Our Lady, St. Joseph, St. John the Evangelist, a Lamb and cross on an altar at the gable wall of the Parish Church.

The witnesses watched the Apparition in the pouring rain for two hours, reciting the Rosary. Although they themselves were saturated not a single drop of rain fell on the gable or vision. There were fifteen official witnesses to the Apparition, most of whom were from the village of Knock and surrounding areas and ranged in age from just 5 years old to 74 years old. Each of the witnesses gave testimonies to a Commission of Enquiry in October 1879. The findings of the Commission were that the testimonies were both trustworthy and satisfactory.

The vision lasted for approximately three hours before fading.

Our Lady of Knock Shrine The Knock Shrine as it looks today.

The Knock Shrine website also exhibits historic photos, the hand-written testimonies of all 15 eyewitnesses, and stories of pilgrims who have visited the apparition site. Here is one eyewitness testimony:

"The Virgin stood erect, with eyes raised to heaven, her hands elevated to the shoulders or a little higher, the palms inclined slightly towards the shoulders or bosom. She wore a large cloak of a white colour, hanging in full folds and somewhat loosely around her shoulders, and fastened to the neck. She wore a crown on the head, rather a large crown, and it appeared to me somewhat yellower than the dress or robes worn by Our Blessed Lady."

Our Lady of Knock Shrine in Ireland

Ten days after the apparition the first miraculous cure occurred. By 1880, Fr. Cavanagh had over 300 cures recorded. Ever since, Knock has been a place of pilgrimage known for bringing healing, peace, and conversion of heart. Here is a testimony of one modern pilgrim to the Knock Shrine:

“This is my first visit to Knock. I came because my 84 year old mother wanted to come so my wife, my sister and I came with her. I was nonplussed at the idea but have been taken completely by surprise by the wondrous peace that engulfs this magical place. This visit has renewed and strengthened my faith. I leave, I hope, a better person.”

Have you been to the Shrine of Our Lady of Knock? If so, please comment below and tell us about your experience.

Read next Ancient Irish Litany to the Blessed Virgin Mary

Learn about the Apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Ireland.

This article has been updated and was originally published in August 2015. ©The Catholic Company


Mary says
Nov 13 2018 9:05PM
I am very sick with 2 rare incurable diseases with one CRPS being the most painful disease that exists. Ive always felt very close to our Mother Mary and feel if I could just afford to get to Knocks Ireland I would be healed. I have total faith it would happen but after a year of begging and pleading to those with faith no one will send me. I know I will die the most painful death that exists on this planet if I dont get there. I want to be healed so badly. I'm an artist and im loosing my hands and feet from SFPN . Poly neuropathies is another i suffer from. I offer my suffering up for others but Im so scared now and just need to get to Knocks from Thiells N.Y.. If anybody reads this I ask for your prayer. They say where there is a will there is a way. Im so tired and almost bed bound. Please pray i get there in time. God Bless you all and im so happy to read in the comments about the love and peace you all felt there. Through our mothers Grace we can feel like that all the time but its very hard but oh so worth it.
Marilyn Brennan Brandel
Marilyn Brennan Brandel says
Jun 24 2018 2:25PM
My stepfather and I visited the Knock shrine in the pouring rain on a trip to Ireland in 1979. My mother stayed back in the hotel, very ill with a terrible cold. When we returned, after both praying for her there, she was eating in the restaurant, perfectly well, illness totally gone. AND she never got another cold!! She died in 1966 at age 88.
Emma says
Jun 4 2018 7:35PM
We joined a pilgrimage to Ireland on May 23, 2018 and it was the most wonderful travel me and my husband experienced! We went to the Our Lady of Knock and we had a Mass. We pray that we can go back to this beautiful and Holy Place again someday.
Thanks for the above about Our Lady of Knock
Mark Mathews
Mark Mathews says
Oct 7 2017 1:38PM
My wife and I visited the Knock Shrine the first week of September 2017. It was my favorite part of our two week visit to Ireland. Like others have said the peace I felt there was like no other I have ever experienced. I would make the trip again just to visit Knock.
Linda Gatwood
Linda Gatwood says
Aug 22 2017 9:47AM

Thank you for sharing this beautiful story with us! I really enjoyed reading it. I have never been to Knock and unfortunately, I probably never will, but I love reading the stories about Our Lady of Knock. I am glad you will be able to go there. I'm sure it will be a very special time for you.
Grace E Bukowski
Grace E Bukowski says
Aug 21 2017 6:00PM
Today August 21, 2017 is my sisters 87th birthday..She is in Heaven with our mother..My grandparents Patrick McGonagle and Grace McGonagle(her birth name) were both born in Ireland..but didnt meet until both were in Malden Massachusetts, They married and had had 5 children. I am planning a trip to Ireland next spring and I want to visit Our Lady of Knock. When my mother passed in 1998 I had the organist play Our Lady of Knock as one of her cousin, who attended the service handed me a medal of Our Lady of Knock while the song was playing....All this is so meaningful to me..I must visit this HOLY PLACE! Thank you for letting me share this wonderful story! Grace Bukowski Newton NH
Moira says
Aug 11 2017 8:35PM
My grandmother Lucy spoke about Knock all the time when I was a little girl. She was in such awe of it having been born in Galway about ten years after the apparition. It was the talk of Ireland.

Even though she moved to America in her teens, she never forgot about this miracle, and wanted us to know how awesome it was.

I had the opportunity to go with my brother Tom recently and hope up in heaven she knows we were there.

By the way, I highly recommend the museum. What a story.

It brings it all to life.
I was there as a child - the memories are faint, but I do remember it as being very beautiful. Me and my sisters still have the rosary beads that were purchased there, and when any family members go to visit Knock, we are blessed with bottles of holy water from Knock. This holy water is shared with our family and friends that are ill.
Kathleen DeAngelo
Kathleen DeAngelo says
Aug 21 2016 4:17PM
My daughter and I visited the Shrine of Knock and prayed that through the Virgin my daughter would be blessed with a child. My daughter tried for many years without success to bring a baby into their marriage. Our Lady answered our prayers as my daughter now has 5 children. In thanksgiving for Our Lady's help I have made a grotto in my yard for her. We thank Our Lady so very much. She has proved that She hears our prayers and intervenes for us.
T.VM says
Aug 21 2016 4:02PM
Like at The Transfuguration,were there any introductions needed for Peter to know who was who...just wondering too
Helene Darmer
Helene Darmer says
Aug 21 2016 11:34AM
So unworthy and small Mary, i desire to be closer!
Rebecca B
Rebecca B says
Aug 21 2016 11:02AM
For Nancy Muller Grehan: Hi! I've never been to Knock, unfortunately, but in looking at the picture, it appears that the St. John statue is holding a book of some kind in his left hand. I figured that was a symbol of his extensive writing, the Revelation. Anyway, that was my take on it!
Shamrock says
Aug 31 2015 2:10AM
To Nancy,

In my heart I believe the people who saw Our Lady, St. Joseph and St. John just knew. This was, after all, Divine Intervention. I can't imagine introductions were necessary and that communication was made without speaking. I can only imagine what a glorious moment in time it was for those very fortunate fifteen people. I too, have been to Knock. If you let yourself go in the surroundings it is truly magical, the thought of the three of them having been there is overwhelming.
Nancy Muller Grehan
Nancy Muller Grehan says
Aug 22 2015 9:45AM
My husband and I have a home in Ireland and spend 4-5 months there each year. We visit Knock often as it's only an hour's drive from our place and we love to take our American visitors there. I have always had a question about the apparition - - - - if no words were spoken, how did the people know it was St. Joseph and St. John the Evangelist ??????? I truly believe in the apparition but have always wondered about this.
Elizabeth Costello
Elizabeth Costello says
Aug 22 2015 9:02AM
I have visited Knock many times during my trips to Ireland. It is a beautiful and peaceful place and the statuary is simply magnificent. The statue of Our Lady inside the church is simply the most beautiful I have ever seen. Such a great place to visit while touring the West of Ireland!
Susie Imel
Susie Imel says
Aug 21 2015 9:08PM
I went with a group of about 40 people on a pilgrimage to Ireland in June 2012.

Our priest said mass for our group at the Knock Shrine. It was absolutely breathtaking! I could feel Our Lady's presence and an overwhelming peace came over me. I will always remember being there. I brought back holy water from there and bless myself every day. Virgin Mary pray for us.
Margaret Kelly
Margaret Kelly says
Aug 21 2015 5:03PM
My husband and I visited the church at Knock several years ago and were very impressed by the sense of peace that envelops the whole place. It was similar to the atmosphere at Lourdes. Definitely 'Holy Ground'.
Sister Lalemant Pelikan, RSM
Sister Lalemant Pelikan, RSM says
Aug 21 2015 5:02PM
I was blessed to be able to visit Knock in 1998 with a large group of Sisters of Mercy and Mercy Associates from St. Louis, Mo., and was very much impressed with the reverence of all who were at the shrine. I really did not know that much about Knock then, but have since read several books about this special appearance of Mary. Thank you for publishing this story and the photos!
Beatrice Harrigan
Beatrice Harrigan says
Aug 21 2015 2:35PM
My husband John & I were there last June for my 65th birthday. We were on a pilgrimage from New Jersey. I remember thinking this is where Heaven touched earth. Very peaceful & beautiful.
Nancy McMenaman
Nancy McMenaman says
Aug 21 2015 11:06AM
My husband of 50 years and I visited Our Lady of Knock Shrine and found great Peace and Love there.
Catherine Ghrist
Catherine Ghrist says
Aug 21 2015 11:06AM
I had the honor of visiting the shrine in 1993 on my first visit to Ireland. It was also my first visit to a shrine honoring Our Lady and I must say it was amazing. I wanted to touch everything just incase something would physically reach out to me from Mary. Silly I know but I felt something that day. Tranquility and peace at the thought of just being there. I would love to go again.
Nancy McMenaman
Nancy McMenaman says
Aug 21 2015 10:20AM
My wonderful husband and I were blessed to visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Knock on our last trip to Ireland. We found great Peace and Love there and are so grateful for the blessings we felt.
Mary Fitzgerald
Mary Fitzgerald says
Aug 20 2015 10:38AM
I purchased a plaque-type 3-D depiction of the shrine of Our Lady of Knock a few years ago. I gave it to my mother and expected to be able to buy another, but they were discontinued. It was just like a miniature shrine. Any chance of getting them in stock. Couldn't find anywhere when I searched a few years ago.

Marie Kelly
Marie Kelly says
Aug 20 2015 9:25AM
We were there in August 2014. Went to Mass in the a Church. It was my favorite experience of our trip.

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Gretchen Filz Gretchen Filz

Gretchen is a Lay Dominican with a passion for fostering an increase in Catholic faith and devotion through content writing and journalism. She works as a digital content writer, creator, and marketer for The Catholic Company. In addition to blogging at, she is also editor of the daily devotional email and author at She holds an M.A. in Christian Apologetics and converted to the Catholic Church in 2011. She is also active in R.C.I.A., pro-life work, and various faith-based web projects.

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