Medjugorje ("Between the Hills") is a village in the southern part of Herzegovina in the present-day state of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The small parish of about 4,000 has become famous due to a series of reported visions of the Virgin Mary that began in 1981 and still continue today.
Although the apparitions have not been validated by the Catholic Church and therefore official pilgrimages are not allowed, the Shrine of the Queen of Peace at Medjugorje attracts thousands of pilgrims and tourists each year.
The reported visions at Medjugorje began on June 24, 1981. At about 6pm on that day, near the area now called Apparition Hill, six Croatian children saw a beautiful young woman with a child in her arms. She was silent, but gestured for them to come closer. The children were afraid and did not do so.
The following day, four of the same children and two different ones returned to the hill in hopes of seeing the lady again. There was a sudden flash of light, and the lady appeared again, this time without the child. The children kneeled and prayed the rosary, and the lady prayed with them except for the Hail Mary.
On the third day, the vision identified herself as the Blessed Virgin Mary. On the fifth day, a large crowd gathered for the apparition but only the children saw it. On the sixth day, a miraculous healing occurred. On the seventh day, the Virgin appeared to the children away from the original apparition site.
The messages of the Queen of Peace, as the apparition became known, usually center on such themes as peace, the importance of belief, and the efficacy of fasting. Each of the visionaries has also reported that the Virgin has disclosed either 9 or 10 "secrets" to them. The three visionaries who have received all 10 secrets no longer receive daily visions, but annual visions on their birthday, anniversary of the visions, or Christmas, respectively.
Beginning on March 1, 1984, the apparition of Mary began to give "special messages" to the parish of Medjugorje and the pilgrims who come there. These messages were originally given every Thursday through one of the original visionaries, Maria Pavlovic, but they now come on the 25th of every month.
Unlike most reported apparitions of the Virgin Mary, which are local and short-lived, the children of Medugorje reported that she appeared to them regularly for more than a decade, no matter where they traveled. Also different from other Marian apparitions is the fact that none of the visionaries has become a monk or nun. Several of them are married with children, and one lives part-time in Massachusetts.
Currently, the Roman Catholic Church has neither affirmed as valid nor denounced as false the apparitions reported at Medjugorje. It is likely that more investigations and official decisions will occur after the visions cease. The general position of the church concerning Medjugorje was expressed by the bishops of the former Yugoslavia in the Declaration of Zadar on April 10, 1991:
In 1992, Fr. Jozo Zovko, a Franciscan priest and strong supporter of the Medjugorje visions, received a personal thank-you note and special blessing from Pope John Paul II, known to have a special devotion to the Virgin Mary. The note said, "Our Poland is grateful for your every word, for every thing that you have done for us."
Scientific-theological studies were carried out on the visionaries and their visions in both 1993 and 1998. In June 1998, a letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at Rome quoted the decision by the former Yugoslavian bishops and added,
One of the local bishops, Msgr. Ratko Peric, has vehemently opposed the validity of the apparitions for some time. His latest statement on the matter, a talk given in Dublin, can be read here. In March 2010, the Vatican announced that a commission is officially studying the apparitions and will issue a report to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (see news article).
In 1897, the parish church of St. James (coincidentally the patron saint of pilgrims) in Medjugorje was completed. Built on earthquake-prone ground, it soon began to sink and crack.
A new church was built and consecrated on January 19, 1969. After the apparitions began in 1981, the church and the surrounding area were gradually developed and expanded. The remains of the old 1897 church are preserved in a park inside the traffic circle on the left side of the current shrine.
What to See
The St. James Parish Church of Medjugorje, consecrated in 1969, is the focus of worship and prayer for both the local parish and visiting pilgrims. A marble statue of the Queen of Peace, which became a symbol of the Medjugorje Shrine, was erected in 1987 at the square in front of the church.
Outside the church is the exterior altar, which functions as an outside church during the summer and large festivals, when the church will not accommodate all the crowds. There are about 5,000 seats surrounding the exterior altar.
The Adoration Chapel was built in 1992 as a place for private prayer and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. The Shrine also includes various prayer areas, a meeting hall for pilgrims, a cemetery, a gift shop, a first aid station, and an information booth.
Apparition Hill, a few hundred meters above the hamlet Podbrdo, is the site of the first apparitions of the Virgin of Medjugorje. In 1989, bronze reliefs signifying the joyful and sorrowful mysteries of the rosary were placed along the path. Also along the path, a large wooden cross marks the site where the Virgin first made the call to peace.
At the main site of the apparitions is a statue of Mary, erected in 2001 to mark the 20th anniversary of the apparitions. On the path descending to the Blue Cross is another set of bronze reliefs. These were added in June 2002 and depict the glorious mysteries of the rosary.
Cross Mountain is a 520-meter-high hill above Medjugorje. On March 15, 1934, the local parishioners constructed a concrete cross 8.56 m high, built in remembrance of the 1900 years since the death of Jesus. On the cross is written: "To Jesus Christ, Redeemer of the human race, as a sign of their faith, love and hope, in remembrance of the 1900 years since the death of Jesus."
Relics received from Rome are embedded in the cross bar. After the cross was erected, it became customary for the parishioners to celebrate Mass there each year on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross.
According to the visionaries of Medjugorje, the Queen of Peace said on August 30, 1984, "The cross was also in God's plan when you built it." After the apparitions began, the faithful began to pray the Stations of the Cross on Cross Mountain. The stations were originally marked by wooden crosses, but now feature bronze reliefs.
Quick Facts on Medjugorje
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|Coordinates:||43.190499° N, 17.677485° E (view on Google Maps)|
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Map of Medjugorje
Below is a location map and aerial view of Medjugorje. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.
- Medjugorje Web - a useful website in English
- Medjugorje Shrine of the Queen of Peace - official website
- Medjugorje.com - information about the visions, pilgrimages, and news
- "Vatican ruling on disputed Medjugorje shrine expected soon" - Reuters (October 7, 2009).
- "Vatican studies visions of Virgin at Medjugorje" - Associated Press (March 17, 2010).
- Catholic Pilgrimages with 206 Tours - Offering all-inclusive, superior quality Catholic pilgrimages to sacred shrines and sites around the world. All pilgrimages are escorted by a Catholic priest! Celebrating our 25th Jubilee in 2010!
- Photos of Medjugorje - here on Sacred Destinations
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