The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Knock, usually named only as the Knock Shrine (Irish: Cnoc Mhuire, "Hill of Mary" or "Mary's Hill"), is a Roman Catholic pilgrimage site and National Shrine in the village of Knock, County Mayo, Ireland, where observers stated that there was an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, Saint John the Evangelist, angels, and Jesus Christ (the Lamb of God) in 1879.
|Basilica Shrine of Our Lady of Knock, Queen of Ireland|
Sanctuary of Our Lady of Knock
|Location||Knock, County Mayo|
|Country||Republic of Ireland|
|Denomination||Roman Catholic Latin Rite|
|Rector||Father Richard Gibbons (Knock Parish)|
The evening of Thursday, 21 August 1879, was a very wet night. At about 8 o'clock the rain beat down in driving sheets when Mary Beirne, a girl of the village, accompanying the priest's housekeeper, Mary McLoughlin, home, stopped suddenly as she came in sight of the gable of the little church. There she saw standing a little out from the gable, were three life-size figures. She ran home to tell her parents and soon others from the village had gathered. The witnesses stated they saw an apparition of Our Lady, Saint Joseph and Saint John the Evangelist at the south gable end of the local small parish church, the Church of Saint John the Baptist. Behind them and a little to the left of Saint John was a plain altar. On the altar was a cross and a lamb (a traditional image of Jesus), with adoring angels. A farmer, about half a mile away from the scene, later described what he saw as a large globe of golden light above and around, the gable, circular in appearance. For nearly two hours a group that fluctuated between two and perhaps as many as twenty-five stood or knelt gazing at the figures as rain lashed them in the gathering darkness.
The apparitions, for believing Catholics, held significant eschatological significance. Much work has been done to interpret the message received in the village by Catholic eschatological scholars such as Emmett O'Reagan.
|Our Lady of Knock|
Our Lady of Knock
The canonically crowned image enshrined within the Knock Shrine
|Location||Knock, County Mayo|
|Shrine||Sanctuary of Our Lady of Knock, Knock, County Mayo, Republic of Ireland|
The vision of Mary was described as being beautiful, standing a few feet above the ground. She wore a white cloak, hanging in full folds and fastened at the neck. She was described as "deep in prayer", with her eyes raised to heaven, her hands raised to the shoulders or a little higher, the palms inclined slightly to the shoulders.
Saint Joseph, also wearing white robes, stood at the Virgin's right hand. His head was bent forward from the shoulders towards the Blessed Virgin. Saint John the Evangelist stood to the left of the Blessed Virgin. He was dressed in a long robe and wore a mitre. He was partly turned away from the other figures. Some witnesses reported that St. John appeared to be preaching and that he held open a large book in his left hand. To the left of St. John was an altar with a lamb on it with a cross standing on the altar behind the lamb.
Those who witnessed the apparition stood in the pouring rain for up to two hours reciting the Rosary. When the apparition began there was good light, but although it then became very dark, witnesses could still see the figures very clearly – they appeared to be the colour of a bright whitish light. The apparitions did not flicker or move in any way. The witnesses reported that the ground around the figures remained completely dry during the apparition although the wind was blowing from the south.  Soon the entire apparition wall was torn apart by pilgrims chipping out the cement, mortar, and stones for souvenirs and to use for cures.
Church Commissions of inquiryEdit
An ecclesiastical Commission of inquiry was established by the Archbishop of Tuam, Most Rev. Dr. John MacHale, on 8 October 1879. The Commission consisted of Irish scholar and historian, Canon Ulick Bourke, Canon James Waldron, as well as the parish priest of Ballyhaunis and Archdeacon Bartholomew Aloysius Cavanagh. Depositions of witnesses were taken in the ensuing months. The deliberations of the Commission, referred only to the occurrence on 21 August 1879, which omitted "subsequent phenomena", and as a result, there exists no official record for events that occurred after that date.
The evidence which was the Commission's duty to record, satisfied all the members and was deemed trustworthy. Among the considerations were whether the apparition emanated from natural causes, and whether there was any positive fraud. In the first cited particular, it was reported that no solution as from natural causes could be offered; and in the second consideration, that such a suggestion had never, even remotely, been entertained. The Commission's final verdict was that the testimony of all the witnesses taken as a whole was trustworthy and satisfactory.
As most of the documents from the early years at Knock were assumed to have been lost, a second Commission of inquiry in 1936, was forced to rely upon interviews with the last of the surviving witnesses (who confirmed the evidence they gave to the first Commission), their children, press reports and devotional works printed in the 1880s, which portrayed the developing cult in a positive light. The surviving witnesses confirmed the evidence they gave to the first Commission.
The growth of railways and the appearance of local and national newspapers fueled interest in the small Mayo village. Reports of "strange occurrences in a small Irish village" were featured almost immediately in the international media, notably The Times (of London). Newspapers from as far away as Chicago sent reporters to cover the Knock phenomenon. Canon Ulick Bourke joined Timothy Daniel Sullivan and Margaret Anna Cusack in developing Knock as a national Marian pilgrimage site. Knock pilgrimages combined traditional Irish practices like rounds of the church and all night vigils with devotions like the stations of the cross, benediction, processions, and the recitation of litanies. Priests associated with the Fenian movement often led pilgrimages to Knock.
John White sees the silence of the apparition related to a cultural change occurring at that time. "It was necessary for Cavanagh to preach in English and Irish each Sunday as the schools saw to the replacement of Irish with English as the language of the young. This linguistic crisis may be connected with the silence of the Knock visions, as the oldest witness, Bridget Trench, had no English, while the youngest, six year old John Curry, was being educated with no Irish."
According to Joe Nickell, in addition to "serious discrepancies" in the witnesses' accounts, it is possible for natural phenomena to account for the apparition. With the help of an astronomer who recreated the sky of the time via computer, it was determined that the evening sun was above the horizon for the duration of the event. There was also a school near the site with a wall angled toward the south gable of the church. The suggestion is that the sun served as the light source, which reflected off the school's windows (presumed to have been there) and produced a "natural version of a magic-lantern effect". Nickell explains that "odd shapes [from diffuse reflections] could produce the requisite pareidolia ... effects in susceptible individuals, especially those who were motivated to see something "miraculous" and were familiar with similar holy pictures."
A number of cures and favors are associated with visitors to Our Lady of Knock’s Shrine and those who claim to have been cured here still leave crutches and sticks at the spot where the apparition is believed to have occurred. Each Irish diocese makes an annual pilgrimage to the Marian Shrine and the nine-day Knock novena attracts ten thousand pilgrims every August. The miracle is also known as Our Lady of Knock by the church.
- On All Saints’ Day, 1945, Pope Pius XII blessed the banner of Knock from St Peter’s Basilica in Rome and decorated it with a special medal.
- On Candlemas Day in 1960, Pope John XXIII presented a special candle to Knock.
- On 6 June 1974, the foundation stone for the Basilica of Our Lady, Queen of Ireland, at Knock, was blessed by Pope Paul VI.
- On 30 September 1979, Pope John Paul II visited the shrine to commemorate the centenary of the apparition. During that historic visit, the Pope addressed the sick and nursing staff, celebrated Mass, established the shrine church as a basilica, presented a candle and the Golden Rose to the shrine and knelt in prayer at the apparition wall.
- On 26 August 2018 Pope Francis visited the shrine at Knock as part of a visit to Ireland for the 9th World Meeting of Families
The complex incorporates five churches including the Apparition Chapel, Parish Church and Basilica, a Religious Books’ Centre, Caravan and Camping Park, Knock Museum, Café le Chéile and Knock House Hotel. Services at the Shrine include organised pilgrimages, daily Masses and Confessions, Anointing of the Sick, Counselling Service, Prayer Guidance and Youth Ministry. While the original church still stands, a new Apparition chapel with statues of Our Lady, St Joseph, the Lamb and St John the Evangelist, has been built next to it. Knock Basilica is a separate building showing a tapestry of the apparition.
Mother Teresa of Calcutta visited the Shrine in June 1993.
Ireland's National Eucharistic Congress was held at the Marian Shrine in Knock over 25 and 26 June in 2011. An estimated 13,000 pilgrims attended.
Though it remained for almost 100 years a major Irish pilgrimage site, Knock established itself as a world religious site in large measure during the last quarter of the twentieth century, largely due to the work of its longtime parish priest Monsignor James Horan. Horan presided over a major rebuilding of the site, with the provision of a new large Knock Basilica (the second in Ireland) alongside the old church. Horan secured from Irish Taoiseach Charles Haughey millions of pounds of state aid to build a major airport near Knock. The project was condemned by critics in the media. At the time the Irish economy was in depression with massive emigration. Contrary to the critics' expectation however, since 2003, flag-carrier, low-cost and regional airlines including Aer Lingus, MyTravelLite, Bmibaby, Ryanair, Aer Arann, flybe, Lufthansa and EasyJet have added routes to the UK and mainland Europe. Not all have proven successful, but by 2005 the airport was handling 500,000 passengers per annum. In 2004 and 2006 Ireland West Airport was voted the Republic of Ireland's best regional airport by the Chambers of Commerce of Ireland.
On May 13, 2017, Cardinal Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan celebrated a requiem mass when John Curry, the youngest witness to the Knock apparition, was reinterred in St. Patrick's Old Cathedral cemetery in Lower Manhattan after being disinterred from an unmarked grave on Long Island.
The parish priest at the time of the apparition was The Very Reverend Bartholomew Aloysius Cavanagh, who was also Archdeacon of the diocese. Widely considered a holy priest in spite of his siding with landlords against the growing Land League movement, he was appointed parish priest of Knock-Aghamore in 1867, and was about 58 at the time of the apparition. He died in 1897 and is buried in the Old Church.
- "The Story of Knock", Knock Shrine
- Fr. James OFM. "The Story of Knock", Knock Shrine Annual, 1950
- White, John. "The Cusack Papers; new evidence on the Knock apparition", 18th-19th Century Social Perspectives, 18th–19th - Century History, Issue 4 (Winter 1996), Vol. 4
- O'Reagan. "Our Lady of Knock and Opening of the Sealed Book". Unveiling the Apocalypse.
- "The Apparition at Knock", Knock Shrine Association of America
- Haggerty, Bridget. "Our Lady of Knock Shrine - Place of Mystery and Miracles", Irish Culture and Customs
- Carey, F. P. "Knock and its Shrine" (PDF). catholicpamphlets.net, 2012. Retrieved 12 May 2012.
- Nickell, Joe (2017). "Miracle Tableau: Knock, Ireland, 1879". Skeptical Inquirer. 41 (2): 26–28. Retrieved 28 October 2018.
- Geraghty, Joan. "Knock Shrine, the holy site", Mayo News, 18 July 2012
- "Ireland: new Parish Priest for National Shrine at Knock", Independent Catholic News, 3 February 2012
- "Knock Shrine", Tourism Ireland
- "Knock, Ireland's National Marian Shrine", Mayo, Ireland
- History of Ireland West Airport
- Barry, Dan (13 May 2017). "A Worldly Accomplishment Is Rewarded With a Heavenly One". The New York Times. p. A1. Retrieved 18 May 2017.
- Archdeacon Cavanagh
- John MacPhilpin. The Apparitions and Miracles at Knock. PJ Kennedy. 1904
- Sister Mary Francis Clare. Three Visits to Knock. PJ Kennedy. 1904
- Neary, Tom, I Saw Our Lady'