About Knock Shrine
‘I saw everything distinctly. The figures were full and round as if they had a body and were alive. They said nothing, but as we approached, they seemed to go back a little towards the gable.’
Patrick Hill, aged 11 years, Apparition Witness.
At the time of the Apparition, Knock was typical of the villages in the West of Ireland. It was a small collection of thatched houses with the parish church at its centre.
On the evening of the 21st of August 1879, Our Lady appeared at the gable of the church with St. Joseph and St. John the Evangelist. Our Lady was dressed in white robes, with a cloak fastened at the neck. Her eyes and hands were raised in prayer towards Heaven. She wore a large crown and where the crown fitted her brow, a single golden rose. On her right stood St. Joseph, head bowed respectfully towards her. On her left, St. John the Evangelist holding a book of Gospels. He appeared to be preaching although no words were heard. He so stood that his back was neither turned to the Mother of God nor to the Lamb that stood upon a plain altar. Some saw angels hovering around the Lamb, while all present noticed that the light from the Lamb was brighter than the light from all the others present. The witnesses watched and prayed for over two hours in the pouring rain and while the wind from the south was driving against the gable, it remained perfectly dry.The witnesses present testified that the Apparition seemed to be so alive that they could not understand why they could not touch with their hands what they so clearly saw with their eyes.
On 8 October 1879, Archbishop Mac Hale of Tuam set up an ecclesiastical Commission of Enquiry to investigate the Apparition. It consisted of Canon Ulick Burke, PP Claremorris, Canon James Waldron of Ballyhaunis, Archdeacon Cavanagh, PP, Knock and 6 local curates. The testimonies of all 15 official witnesses to the Apparition were found to be trustworthy and satisfactory.
‘In those days the railway was not constructed beyond Tuam and the journey thence to Knock was made in nine open side-cars, which must have been a trying ordeal in March weather.’
Liam O’Cadhain, ‘Cnoc Mhuire in Picture and Story’ ( 1945)
News of the Apparition at Knock spreads very quickly and pilgrims begin to gather at the parish church within weeks . The first organised pilgrimages begin as early as 1880.
In March, a group of 50 pilgrims from Limerick travel by train to Tuam and then onwards by horse drawn open side car to Knock. In June, 240 young men come on pilgrimage from Cork and 1000 Irish emigrants travel from Manchester in August 1880 and Knock begins to attract large crowds.
‘Above all else, and this is I something that I would like to stress, I have always had a firm conviction that Providence guided our every step.’
Dame Judy Coyne, ‘Providence, my guide.’ December 2001
Knock Shrine Society is established on the 21st August 1935 by Dame Judy Coyne and her husband Liam Ua Cadhain with the approval of the then Archbishop of Tuam, Most Rev. Dr. Thomas P. Gilmartin. On that day, the principal witness to the Apparition at Knock, Mrs. Mary O’Connell (nee Byrne), is present at the Shrine for the ceremonies. The main reason for its establishment is to promote the Shrine of Knock at home and abroad so that it could take its rightful place with the other important Marian Shrines in Europe and elsewhere. Its first members also want to bring some formality into the ceremonies at Knock Shrine and to provide facilities for the protection and care of the Sick who were coming to the Shrine in large numbers.
‘I am clear about everything that I have said and I make this statement knowing that I am going before my God.’
Mary Byrne O’ Connell, sworn statement, 1936.
A Second Commission of Enquiry is established by Archbishop Gilmartin of Tuam to examine the two surviving witnesses still living in Ireland – Mary Byrne O’Connell and Patrick Byrne.
At this point in time, the two remaining witnesses are elderly people. Mary Byrne O’Connell gives her sworn testimony from her bed as she is too ill to leave it. She passes away six weeks later.
‘I remember the 21st of August 1879 as well as I do last night…we sitting around the fire in B.Byrne, my grandfather’s house when Dominick Byrne called to my uncle… ‘Come up to the Chapel’
John Curry, Apparition Witness , 1937
In New York, John Curry, the youngest witness to the Apparition gives his evidence to a special tribunal set by the Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Hayes.
John Curry emigrated to the United States in the 1890’s and when he reads in the papers about the second Commission of Enquiry, he makes contact with the priest in his home parish of Knock. A special tribunal is convened in 1937 to hear his evidence.
Knock Shrine Society members attending the Marian Year ceremony in St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome on 1 November 1954
The Marian Year of 1954 , Pope Pius XII blesses the Knock Shrine banner and presents it with a commemorative medal. This is the first of many Papal honours received by the Shrine in recognition of its importance as a place of Marian devotion.
On December 8th, the last day of the Marian Year, the processional statue of Our Lady of Knock is canonically crowned by kind permission of the Vatican Chapter.
By the end of the Marian Year, the number of annual pilgrims exceeds one million for the first time.
‘It gives me great pleasure to announce that in honour of Our Blessed Lady, on this Centenary Year at Knock, the new Church recently built in her honour will from this day forward be known under the title of the Basilica of Our Lady Queen of Ireland.’
Pope John Paul II
(Credit: The Irish Press Newspaper for photo)
The Church of Our Lady, Queen of Ireland is completed and opens for public ceremonies. The Church is elevated to the status of Basilica by Pope John Paul II when he visits Knock in 1979.
‘Our Lady of Knock, Queen of Ireland, You gave hope to Your people in a time of distress and comforted them in sorrow. You have inspired countless pilgrims to pray with confidence to Your Divine Son..’
The first National Novena to Our Lady of Knock takes place in Knock Basilica. The inaugural Novena was officially opened by Joseph Cunnane, Archbishop of Tuam and a native of Knock.
The Novena prayer was composed by Fr. Joe Quinn who was later appointed as parish priest at Knock in 2002. The National Novena takes place annually from August 14th to 22nd each year and has expanded to include two daily sessions , workshops and seminars.
‘Here I am at the goal of my journey to Ireland – the Shrine of Our Lady at Knock. I am here then as a pilgrim, a sign of the pilgrim church throughout the world…’
Pope John Paul II
This year marks the centenary of the Apparition at Knock and Pope John Paul II visits Knock Shrine on 30 September . He celebrates an outdoor Mass to an assembled congregation of 450, 000. He presents a Golden Rose to the Shrine as a gift, one of only 9 that he gifted during his 25 year papacy. during his visit he raised the Church of Our Lady, Queen of Ireland to the status of basilica.
‘We will complete this project with the help of the ordinary people of Ireland.’
Monsignor James Horan
Knock Airport opens on October 25th . The first flights from the airport are three Aer Lingus Boeing jet aircraft (737s and a 707) flying to Rome. The first airline ticket produced at the Airport was an Aer Lingus ticket for passenger Monsignor James Horan. Monsignor Horan is often referred to as the ‘Builder of Knock’ and is perhaps best known for the building of Knock Airport which was completed against incredible odds and difficulties.
‘Jesus came to give us the good news that God loves us, and that he wants us to love one another as He loves each one of us.’
Mother Teresa at Knock Basilica.
Mother Teresa is welcomed to Knock Shrine in June. She greets the large crowd from the Outdoor Altar at Knock Basilica and addresses the Sick during concelebrated Mass. More than 50,000 people gather to hear her.
‘The magnificently refurbished Basilica will ensure that pilgrims can come together at Knock in a sacred space that is warm and comfortable to celebrate their faith.’
Fr. Richard Gibbons, PP, Rector, Knock Shrine.
Knock Basilica undergoes extensive redevelopment for its 40th anniversary. The Apparition Mosaic is unveiled. Based on an illustration by Irish illustrator PJ Lynch, it was crafted by Travissanutto Mosaics in Spilimbergo, Italy. It consists of 1.5 million pieces of glass and is one of the largest of its kind in Europe. The redevelopment of this iconic building formed a central part of the “Witness to Hope” fundraising initiative.
‘Our cherished visitors from Ireland, led by the Parish Priest of Knock, Fr Richard Gibbons, the real spark behind this magnificent day.’
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York
In May 2017, Fr Richard Gibbons leads the first ever pilgrimage from Knock to the Archdiocese of New York. It is a momentous day as 180 pilgrims board a flight from Ireland West Airport to JFK.
The purpose of the trip is to have the remains of John Curry (the youngest witness to the Knock Apparition of 1879) reinterred in the ground of old St Patrick’s Cathedral, NYC. John Curry died in 1943 in the care of the Little Sisters of the Poor.
The remarkable story of John Curry and the Knock pilgrimage makes the front page of the New York Times as well as many other American newspapers. It touches the hearts of many of the Irish diaspora in the States.
‘The opportunity to spend time in prayer and contemplation at this sacred place dedicated to the Mother of God was a reminder that prayer is the essential dimension to all that we seek to do for the Lord and the Church, and that we rely on His goodness and mercy. God’s grace is everything!’
Pope Francis (Letter of thanks )
After months of anticipation, Pope Francis visits Knock Shrine in August as part of the World Meeting of Families. His Holiness flies into Ireland West Airport and then makes his way by motorcade to Knock Shrine.
Pope Francis spends some time in silent prayer in the Apparition Chapel. As he prays, silence descends on the large crowd that has gathered to greet him. Following an address to the gathered congregation, His Holiness leads The Angelus prayer which is broadcast globally from Knock Shrine.
‘In the silence of the Shrine the peace of the whole place descended on my shoulders and as if a cloak of their beauty and love covered me, I relaxed and sat still, safe and secure in this Blessed place. It has been a privilege and will live in me forever.’
Pilgrims’ Stories, Knock Museum Collection
2019 marks the 140th anniversary of the Apparition at Knock. The theme for the special year is’ Continuing Our Journey’ as we celebrate this milestone. Within weeks of the Apparition, pilgrims began to make the journey to this special place as news spread. This year we remember the countless numbers of pilgrims who have been a part of our journey so far. We also commemorate, in particular, the fifteen local people who witnessed this heavenly vision on a wet August evening in 1879.