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Then and Now: The Apparition of Our Lady of Knock

Aug 21, 2016 By Gretchen Filz | 25 Comments

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

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Commentary by

Gretchen Filz Gretchen Filz

Gretchen is a Lay Dominican with a passion for fostering an increase in Catholic faith and devotion. After receiving her M.A. in Christian Apologetics, she converted to the Catholic Faith in 2011. She lives and works in the Diocese of Charlotte.

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