August 21st is a special day here in Knock as we celebrate the anniversary of the Apparition that took place here in 1879. Knock Museum is an ideal starting point for your visit to Knock Shrine, where you can learn more about the compelling story of how this small rural village grew to become Ireland’s International Eucharistic and Marian Shrine. The award-winning Knock Museum is accredited to the Museum Standards Programme of Ireland.
The story of Knock…
The village of Knock was typical of any rural village in the West of Ireland in the late 19th century. At the centre was the local Parish Church with two School Houses nearby and a scattering of small thatched houses. 1879 was a year of uncertainty and unrest in Ireland where conflict erupted over land and landownership. In the West of Ireland, matters were even more stark with the threat of another famine. A combination of excess rain that year and a swift and devastating potato blight added to the fears of those people for whom the Great Famine of the 1840s was still a painful memory. It was against this backdrop that the Apparition at Knock took place.
The 21st of August 1879 fell on a Thursday. The people of the village had spent the day doing the work of the harvest time of year. Some brought turf home from the bog to keep their homes warm; others gathered hay to feed their livestock during the winter months and the Parish Priest, Fr. Cavanagh, made his way on horseback to the far end of the parish to a parishioner in need. A typical day in Knock.
In the evening, Mary McLoughlin, Fr. Cavanagh’s housekeeper, visited her neighbours – Mrs Byrne and family. Mary was a woman who liked a good chat and when events of the day were discussed in detail she took her leave and started out on her way home. Mary Byrne, the oldest of the family, kept her company along the way. As they walked and chatted on their way past the Church, they suddenly noticed that something very unusual was happening there. Excitedly they ran to the nearby houses to spread the word and very quickly a crowd gathered at the wall of the Church.
The group of people who gathered that evening are known to us today as the Knock Witnesses. Dominick Byrne said that it was the biggest sight that he had ever witnessed in his life and John Curry, the youngest child there simply didn’t have the words to describe what he saw.
In the centre of the Apparition was a lamb and cross on an altar. Bridget Trench, a native Irish speaker and the oldest Witness, fell to her knees and thanked God for sending Our Lady to Knock; Judith Campbell said that the crown on her head was the most beautiful she had ever seen. St. Joseph, was by Our Lady’s side and Patrick Hill noticed that his hands were joined like a person in prayer. Young Margaret Byrne who was ill with TB tells us that St. John the Evangelist was standing to the other side of Our Lady with a book in his hand and appeared to be preaching. The entire scene was so bright that Patrick Walsh could see it from his farm a mile and a half away.
The people of the village who came on that wet August night from their small thatched houses gathered together and prayed in heavy rain for about two hours.
– Courtesy of Knock Museum
Highlights at Knock Museum include:
Knock Village Model
This stunning three dimensional model depicts Knock village exactly as it was on the 21st of August 1879, the evening of the Apparition. The village recreation is filled with wonderful miniature details. It offers a fascinating insight into village life in Knock and into the historical and social context of the Knock Apparition.
A delight for all ages!
Archdeacon Cavanagh’s Diary
Archdeacon Bartholomew Cavanagh was parish priest in Knock at the time of the Apparition. Over the course of two years, the Archdeacon kept a detailed diary of the cures attributed to Our Lady of Knock. Copies of the fascinating entries in this diary are available in the reading room at the museum.
Sit a while and read these amazing stories of faith and hope.
‘Memories of Knock’ Collection
Knock Museum is dedicated to the memory of all pilgrims who have come to Knock since 1879 and in the museum you can listen to personal stories of faith, pilgrimage and devotion to Our Lady of Knock down through the years.
Why not leave your own special memories of Knock as a legacy for future generations?
Testimonies of The Apparition Witnesses
On the 8th of October 1879, Archbishop John MacHale of Tuam set up an ecclesiastical Commission of Enquiry to investigate the Apparition. The 1879 statements of the witnesses to the Apparition are available to read at the museum.
You can also read these testimonies online here.
New Temporary Exhibition at Knock Museum
‘Iconic Representations of the Blessed Virgin Mary with decorative Embroidery by Sheelagh Duff’ is the latest temporary exhibition at Knock Museum. This exhibition features copies of celebrated paintings of the Blessed Virgin Mary, mainly from the Italian Proto and Early Renaissance periods, that have been embellished with decorative embroidered designs by Sheelagh, an accomplished artist and embroiderer.
Knock Museum is open daily from 10am to 6pm. Admission is free.