Knock is a small town in County Mayo, Ireland, but it received international fame after local people reported seeing the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph and St. John the Evangelist at their parish church on August 21, 1879.
The Catholic Church has declared the visions trustworthy and in 1979 Pope John Paul II made a personal pilgrimage to Knock. Mother Teresa visited in 1993. Today, over one and a half million pilgrims visit the Knock Shrine every year.
History of Knock Shrine
On August 21, 1879, at about 7 pm, Mary McLoughlin, 45, housekeeper to Archdeacon Kavanagh, went to the nearby cottage of Mary Byrne, 29. On the way, she passed by the south gable of the parish church. Miss McLoughlin reported,
Miss McLoughlin thought that possibly the Archdeacon had been supplied with the figures from Dublin or elsewhere, and passed on to the home of the widow Margaret Byrne and her children, where she said nothing initially of her vision.
After half an hour, Mary McLoughlin returned to the church with Miss Mary Byrne to lock up the church. There they beheld the vision. Mary Byrne went to fetch her brother Dominick Byrne, 20. Mr. Byrne, who worked as an assistant to Archdeacon Kavanagh, was resting at the time after working in the fields. Then she sent her niece, Catherine Murray, 8, who was staying with them, to fetch her mother, Mrs. Margaret Byrne, and her sister Miss Margaret Byrne, 21.
The Byrnes alerted some of their neighbours to the apparition. Dominick Byrne ran to the home of his cousin, Dominick Byrne, Sr., who came with Patrick Hill, 13, a servant boy, John Durkan, 24, and a little boy called John Curry, six years old. Dominick Byrne also called to the house of Patrick Byrne, 16, who came and saw the apparition. Mary Byrne called to the home of Judith Campbell, 22, who also witnessed the apparition, as did Bridget Trench, 74 or 75 years old, who gave a vivid account of the apparition in Irish.
Those who witnessed the apparition stood in the pouring rain for up to two hours reciting the Rosary, a traditional Catholic prayer. 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 apparition 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. Afterwards, however the ground at the gable became wet and the gable dark.
Two other people also witnessed the apparition, although they did not realise its significance until later. Mrs. Hugh Flatley, 44, who happened to pass by the church at 8 pm and thought the parish priest "had been ornamenting the church, and got some beautiful likenesses removed outside." Patrick Walsh was working on his land around 9 pm some half a mile from the church:
Altogether, the accounts of the apparitions provided the following details. Virgin Mary, her husband St. Joseph, and St. John the Evangelist appeared at the south gable end of the local small parish church, the Church of St. John the Baptist. Behind them and a little to the left of St. John was a plain altar. On the altar was a cross and a lamb (a traditional image of Jesus, as reflected in the religious phrase The Lamb of God) with adoring angels.
An ecclesiastical commission of inquiry was established by the Archbishop of Tuam, Most Rev. Dr. John MacHale. The Commission's final verdict was that the testimony of all the witnesses taken as a whole is trustworthy and satisfactory. At a second Commission of inquiry in 1936, 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 what had up to then been a 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, while Queen Victoria asked her government in Dublin Castle to send her a report about the event. In later years, Catholic nationalists used the apparition to symbolically challenge Queen Victoria's authority in Ireland by dubbing Our Lady of Knock "Queen of Ireland."
Though it remained for almost 100 years a major Irish pilgrimage site, Knock established itself as a world religious site especially during the last quarter of the twentieth century, largely due to the work of its longterm parish priest, Monsignor James Horan. Horan presided over a major rebuilding of the site, with the provision of a new large Basilica (the first in Ireland) alongside the old church, which could no longer cope with visitor numbers.
In 1979, the centenary of the apparition, Pope John Paul II, a strong personal devotee of the Virgin Mary, visited Knock Shrine and stated that it was the goal of his Irish visit. On this occasion he presented a Golden Rose, a seldom bestoyed token of papal honour and recognition. Mother Teresa of Calcutta visited the Shrine in June of 1993.
Today, Knock Shrine attracts over 1.5 million visitors annually and is western Ireland's most popular attraction.
What to See at Knock Shrine
Quick Facts on Knock Shrine
|Dedication:||Virgin Mary (Our Lady of Knock)|
|Visitor and Contact Information|
|Coordinates:||53.792096° N, 8.917122° W|
|Phone:||+353 (0) 94 9388100|
|Lodging:||View hotels near Knock Shrine|
- "Knock Shrine" - Wikipedia (May 2005). This article incorporates some text from this source.
- Ireland's National Knock Shrine - Official site provides information on the Knock shrine, a pilgrim's guide and other information.
Map of Knock Shrine
Below is a location map and aerial view of Knock Shrine. 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.