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VISIONARY(S: There were 15 official eye-witnesses


FIRST APPARITION: August 21, 1879

LAST APPARITION:  August 21. 1879

​APPROVED:  1879; 1936

Sworn Testimony of Patrick Hill:  "We saw figures:

the Blessed Virgin, St. Joseph and St. John, and an altar with a lamb on the altar,

and a cross behind the lamb... I went up closer; I saw everything."




  Knock has several special, if not unique, features. Firstly, it has a universal and timeless character. Secondly, the vision was not restricted to favored individuals; everyone present saw the event and there was a great range in the ages of the witnesses. Thirdly, there was no ecstasy; the witnesses remaining in their normal state. Fourthly, there was no spoken or written message and no exhortation or admonition. Fifthly, no one saw the vision either come or go. These characteristics are perfectly attuned to the theme of the apparition.


  The meaning of Knock is essentially simple. It symbolizes in a marvellously concise way the mystery of redemption. To quote from Fr. Berchmans Walsh, "The central figure is the Iamb 'standing slain' on the altar in front of a large cross. It is the Lamb of God slain for our salvation on Calvary but now 'standing' risen from the dead, glorious and immortal on the altar throne in front of his now victorious cross." The presence of the altar directs attention to the Mass as a re-presentation of the sacrifice of Calvary while the choice of a Thursday evening reminds us of the institution of the Blessed Eucharist on the first Holy Thursday.


  Mary is there as Mother of the Lamb. Fr. Berchmans states, "Knock illustrates the vital role of Mary in the Paschal Mystery, as indeed in all salvation history, but especially her present-day role at the eternal Wedding Feast of the Lamb in heaven," and goes on to say, "Not only does she appear as Queen at Knock but this is the only apparition in which she showed her two essential titles to queenship: that she is the Mother of the Lamb who won for us the kingdom; that she co-offered and still co-offers with the Lamb, the Supreme Sacrifice of Merciful Love that redeemed and saves us. This is admirably demonstrated by the posture she assumed" {the same as that which the priest assumes as he prays during the Canon or Eucharistic Prayer of the Mass).


  St. Joseph had been declared Patron of the Universal Church just nine years earlier. He is present here as adoptive and legal father of the Lamb and spouse of Mary. Fr. Berdimans points out that Joseph was the very first to consecrate himself totally to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and through her to the Sacred Heart of the Lamb of God; also, that we find him at Knock with head reverently inclined to Our Lady, "inviting us to join him in venerating the Mother of the Church, the living ‘Gate of Heaven', through whom the Lamb came out to us and through whom we have access to Him."


  St. John fits perfectly into the scene. It is he who records (John 1:29) the dramatic words of St. John the Baptist, "Behold the Lamb of God; behold him who takes away the sin of the world." For John, all history revolves around the Lamb, as witnessed by the twenty-nine references to "the Iamb" in the Book of Revelation (Apocalypse). Also, St. John represents us as beneficiaries of the words from the cross, "Behold thy son; behold thy mother", which established the union of Mary and the Church.


  At Knock, angels were visibly present in adoration of the Lamb just as they are invisibly present in adoration at every Mass. They complete the perfection of the Knock tableau.



  Tradition has it that St. Patrick stopped at Knock while on his way to begin a 40-day fast on the nearby mountain of Croagh Patrick, now named after him. He blessed the place and predicted that it would one day become a place of devotion, bringing large numbers of pilgrims from far and near. Also, seemingly prophetic was the dedication of the church to St. John the Baptist, the great precursor who drew attention to Jesus as the Lamb of God (John 1:29). A further prophecy might be inferred from the inscription cut into the stonework of the western wall: "My house shall be called the House of Prayer to all nations" {Isaiah 56:7).


  In 1879, Knock, Ireland was a little hamlet consisting of a dozen houses or so, along with the little parish church, the rectory, a school-house, a post office and a few small shops. The village and the condition of its people at the time, was in many respects like that of the little village of Nazareth in the days of our Lord Jesus. It was poor, peaceful and unknown. Both were under the oppression of a foreign occupier—for Nazareth two thousand years ago it was the Romans, and for Knock a century and a half ago it was the English. The Penal Laws were imposed upon the Irish in attempt to stamp out their Catholic faith; those laws were as degrading as they were oppressive.


  Just as they began to be relaxed though not repealed, more misery struck the people of western Ireland. The Great Famine which was caused by potato blight but worsened on account of the repression imposed by the occupying government, resulted in the deaths of one million while another million were to emigrate, reducing the island’s population dramatically. The Great Famine took place between 1845 and 1849, but its last waves continued up until the time of the astonishing event that took place in Knock. Further potato blight was always the great fear. And in that year of 1879, that fear was realized when the crop was found to be a complete failure. The only prospect in the time ahead was further hunger and misery. It was in the midst of this struggle and sorrow that the miraculous

message appeared before the villagers of Knock in front of the gable wall of their parish church.


  Knock in 1879 had a worthy parish priest in Archdeacon Bartholomew Cavanagh, who lived in one of the village's thatched cottages, a humble abode with an earthen floor, kitchen and three other small rooms. Born in 1821, Father Cavanagh was ordained to the priesthood in 1846 during the Great Irish Famine, and his first experiences as a priest were mainly those of bringing relief to the starving, sharing their hunger, consoling the bereaved and bringing Viaticum to the dying. These experiences made a profound impression on him and could account for his devotion, along with the Blessed Virgin, to the souls in Purgatory. In the morning of August 21, 1879, Father Cavanagh had said the last of a planned 100 Masses for the Holy Souls.



  In the evening of August 21, 1879, another unspoken message from heaven came to our world! Most of that day had been dry, but, as evening approached, rain began to fall, borne on a fresh southerly wind and it was in these unpleasant conditions that the extraordinary thing happened. At about 7 pm, a Mrs. Carty saw what she took to be a collection of statues near the southern gable of the church but passed by without investigating. Shortly afterwards, Margaret Beirne, sister of the sacristan, Dominick Beirne, after locking up the church for the night, noticed "something luminous" at the averted southern gable but failed to realize its significance. She said later, "It never entered my mind to see what it was."

  The Archdeacon had been on a sick call that afternoon and arrived home thoroughly drenched. His housekeeper, Mary McLoughlin, provided a blazing turf (i.e., peat) fire to help him dry out. Then, shortly after 7 o'clock, she went to visit a friend, Mrs. Margaret Beirne, (not the Margaret Beime mentioned earlier) who had just returned from a holiday at the seaside village of Lecanvy. As she passed the church, she saw what she described as "a wonderful number of strange figures or appearances at the gable" but, probably due to the rain and an eager desire to hear about the holiday, did not stop. When, shortly before 8 o'dock, she left for home, Mrs. Beime's daughter, Mary, offered

to accompany her. As the women approached the church, Mary Beime cried out, " Look at the beautiful figures! When did the Archdeacon put those figures at the gable?" Mary McLoughlin replied that, "whoever put them there, it certainly was not the Archdeacon."


  As they drew closer, they took notice of the brilliant light surrounding the figures. Mary Beime exclaimed, "They're not statues, they're moving." They saw, adjoining the gable but a foot or two from it, the figures of three persons, as well as an altar on which was the figure of a lamb and, behind the altar, a large cross. The figures seemed to be standing on top of the tall grass but not pressing down on it. Mary McLoughlin noted that the rain did not wet the gable or the ground nearby. Two of the figures —those of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph—were immediately identified. The rapid identification of the third figure suggests divine planning: Mary Beime thought that it greatly

resembled a statue of St. John the Evangelist that she had seen in the church at Lecanvey except that, unlike that statue, the figure here bore a mitre. The figure of Mary was brighter than that of the other two saints while that of the lamb was brighter yet. After viewing the figures for a little while, Mary Beirne called members of her family to the scene and others soon joined them.


  A notable absentee was the parish priest. When his housekeeper returned in an excited state and told the strange story of the apparition at the gable, he declined her suggestion to go and see for himself. It seems that he was under the impression that the phenomenon, whatever it was, had disappeared. His absence seems regrettable but, perhaps, it was better that way. There would, no doubt, have been people who would have seized upon his involvement to suggest that he had organized the whole affair. Also, it is undeniable that Knock would have lost something of its simple character if the witnesses had not all been unlearned country folk. At any rate, the Archdeacon regretted his decision to the end of his days. He died eighteen years later on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, 1897.


  Just as nobody saw the appearance of the tableau, so nobody would see it disappear. The male witnesses had already drifted away before one of the women, Judith Campbell, left for home because of concern for her elderly dying mother. It was then about 10 o'clock. She soon rushed back, calling out that her mother had died. In fact, she hadn't died; she had only collapsed in an unconscious state although death was to come on the following day. At this point, those still at the gable left for the Campbell house. When they returned after a quarter of an hour, there was nothing to be seen—nothing, that is, but darkness and the rain lashing the grass and gable that had previously been so dry.






  About eighteen people had seen the apparition of whom fourteen gave evidence before a diocesan commission established seven weeks later by the Archbishop of the Tuam Diocese, Dr. John McHale. The fourteen, aged from six to seventy five, comprised three men, seven women, two juveniles and two children. A fifteenth witness, Patrick Walsh, aged sixty, who lived a mile away, told the Commission that he had been walking in the fields half a mile from the church at about 9 o'clock that night and had seen a large globe of light around the gable of the church.


  The commission reported that, "the testimony of each of the fifteen official witnesses to the apparition was trustworthy and satisfactory." A second commission was set up in 1936 by the then Archbishop, Dr. Kihnartin, to examine the three surviving witnesses. All three confirmed their statements of 1879.

Sworn Testimony of Patrick Hill


  Following is the testimony of Patrick Hill, fourteen, the first of the witnesses to make a deposition to the Commission: "I remember the twenty-first of August last; on that day I was drawing home turf, or peat, from the bog, on an ass. While at my aunt's at about 8 o'clock in the evening, Dominick Beirne came into the house; he cried out: 'Come up to the chapel and see the miraculous lights, and the beautiful visions that are to be seen there!' I followed him, another man by name of Dominick Beirne {senior) and John Durcan. A small boy named John Curry, came with me. We ran over towards the chapel and when the gable came into view, we immediately saw the lights; a dear white light covering most of the gable from the ground up to the window and higher. It was a kind of changing bright light, going sometimes up high and again not so high. We saw figures: the Blessed Virgin, St. Joseph and St. John, and an altar with a Iamb on the altar, and a cross behind the lamb...l went up closer; I saw everything distinctly. The figures were full and round as if they had a body and life; they said nothing but as we approached they seemed to go back a little towards the gable.


  I distinctly beheld the Blessed Virgin Mary, life size, standing about two feet above the ground, clothed in white robes which were fastened at the neck; her hands were raised to the height of the shoulders, as if in prayer, with the palms facing one another, but slanting inwards towards the face...Her eyes were turned, as I saw, toward Heaven. She wore a brilliant crown on her head, and over the forehead where the crown fitted the brow, a beautiful rose....l saw the figures move, but she did not speak.... One old woman went up and embraced the Virgin's feet, and she found nothing in her arms or hands; they receded, she said, from her.


  I saw St. Joseph to the Blessed Virgin's right hand; his head was bent, from the shoulders forward; he appeared to be paying his respects. I noticed his whiskers; they appeared slightly gray....His hands were joined like a person in prayer. The third figure that stood before me was that of St. John the Evangelist. He stood erect at the Gospel side of the altar and at an angle with the figure of the Blessed Virgin, so that his back was not turned to the altar, nor to the Mother of God....


  St. John was dressed like a bishop preaching; he wore a small mitre on his head; he held a Mass book or Book of Gospels in his left hand; the right hand was raised to the elevation of the head.... I came so near that I looked into the book. l saw the lines and the letters. St. John wore no sandals; his left hand was turned toward the altar that was behind him. The altar was a plain one, like any ordinary altar, without any ornaments.


  On the altar stood a lamb, the size of a lamb eight weeks old; the face of the lamb was fronting the west and looking in the direction of the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph; behind the lamb a large cross was placed erect or perpendicular on the altar. Around the lamb I saw angels hovering during the whole time, for the space of an hour and a half or longer. l saw their wings fluttering but l did not perceive their heads or faces which were not turned to me. For the space of an hour and a half we were under the pouring rain; at this time l was very wet. l noticed that the rain did not wet the figures..."


Miracles of Authentication


  Proofs of the authenticity of the apparition through miracles of healing and conversion were not slow in coming and they have continued into modem times. In the early days, many came through the application (often in faraway parts of the world) of pIaster from the apparition gable. Indeed, removal of the plaster took place to the extent that the parish priest was obliged to have the gable sheathed in protective timbers.


  One of the first to benefit was a man from the Irish midlands who had been deaf from the age of three. After consulting several doctors without avail he went, as a last resort, to Sir William Wilde {father of Oscar Wilde), who was an ear specialist. This visit, too, was unavailing. Sir William declared the condition incurable. Rather than return home immediately, the deaf man decided to go to Knock, news of which had just come to his notice. He had not been long in the little church when he became aware of the background noises characteristic of a church: sounds of movement, occasional coughing, etc. He was completely cured. A little later, he returned to Dr. Wilde who was unable to give any

explanation for the cure. It was beyond his comprehension.


  Also among the first beneficiaries was Jane O'Neill, who suffered from a serious spinal affliction. She was of Irish birth but living in the United States. Overcoming great difficulties, she made the long and arduous journey to Knock. For several days, she was carried from her lodgings into the church on an improvised couch and placed before Our Lady's altar. Except that her lips moved in prayer, she seemed as inanimate as a corpse. On September 8, 1880, she was suddenly cured. She began to walk normally without a trace of her terrible malady. Her plaster spinal jacket with its iron rod was hung at the apparition gable, where it remained for many years.           


  Although most of the clergy held aloof during the initial years and while cynics and scoffers were not lacking, the Catholic people of Ireland—and further afield— were not slow in responding to the heavenly visitation. From the start, pilgrims came in great numbers, despite the hardships attached to travel in those days, and they have continued corning to the present day. Tens of thousands of pilgrims can be found there on special days. Many new buildings have been provided, most notably a new church dedicated to Our Lady Queen of Ireland that can accommodate 10,000 people. When the late Pope John Paul II visited Knock on September 30, 1979, its centenary year, he raised the status of the church to that of Basilica. The apparition site is now enclosed within a superbly designed chapel where the figures of the original tableau are represented by finely carved figures in Carrara marble.


  The Knock shrine complex incorporates five churches including the Apparition Church, Parish Church, Basilica, Blessed Sacrament Chapel and Chapel of Reconciliation. Other facilities include a religious book centre, caravan and camping park, hotel and the Knock Museum. The entire complex is set within 100 acres of landscaped gardens.


Why Ireland?


  Having regard to its universal character, the Knock tableau could have been appropriately manifested in any Catholic country. So, why Ireland? The answer is God's secret and His favors are always gratuitous but it is not unreasonable to suppose that the favor was connected with Ireland's disproportionately large role in spreading the Gospel and its fidelity to the faith through severe and protracted persecution. In the course of a lecture delivered in St. Bridget's Church, New York, on Thursday evening, June 6, 1872—seven years before the apparition—renowned preacher, Fr. Thomas Burke, O.P. said, "The Irish fought for three hundred years for something they had never seen." He was referring to the Blessed Eucharist hidden under the sacramental veils, to Mary the Mother of God in Heaven and to the angels and saints. How remarkable it is that, so soon after the utterance of those words, a glimpse of the "something-they-had-never-seen" should be so wondrously accorded! To be sure, the event at Knock gives no grounds for complacency, least of all at the present time. As long as we remain on Earth, spiritual rewards, though received with gratitude, must be taken simply as helps and encouragements towards further effort.




Prayer to Our Lady of Knock (Ireland): 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, remembering his promise, "Ask and you shall receive, seek and you will find." Help me to remember that we are pilgrims on the road to heaven. Fill me with love and concern for my brothers and sisters in Christ, especially those who live with me. Comfort me when I am sick, lonely, or depressed. Teach me how to take part even more reverently in the Holy Mass. Give me a greater love of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Pray for me now and at the hour of my death. Amen. 


Through the intercession of Our Lady of Knock the Queen of Ireland, may the Church in Ireland begin the process of healing and may the Irish people return to their greatest legacy—the Catholic faith.


Garabandal Journal, May-June 2011, Knock-Shrine of the Lamb of God, Seamus O’Connor; By Michael McLaughlin Photography - Supplied from Photographer, CC BY-SA 4.0,




NOTE 1:  The unique tableau of the vision perfectly symbolizes the Paschal Mystery around which all Salvation History gravitates...(namely), the accomplishment of our salvation by the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Our Divine Savior. It is the supreme manifestation of God's merciful love made visible to us by the immolation of the Lamb of God on Calvary and the Father's acceptance of it as the price of our salvation in the Resurrection, all of which is made sacramentally present to us in every Mass."

 —from Knock: Mary's International Shrine of the Lamb of God by Fr. Berchmans Walsh, OCSO


NOTE 2: Christopher Altieri described the current situation of the Church in Ireland in an essay for The Catholic Herald: “It is sad to say, but the once proudly, fiercely Catholic people of Ireland are reeling and bitterly angry over the years of systematic abuse committed by priests and religious, and the coverup of that abuse by Church leaders. They’ve stopped going to Mass. They voted to amend their constitution to allow same-sex marriage in 2015—even while marriage itself declines…Just this year, the Irish people voted to remove a constitutional protection on children in the womb. It would be hard—but fair—to say that the Irish people are in rebellion against the Faith—though it is not hard to understand the roots of that rebellion”.


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