The Story of Knock began on the 21st August 1879 when, at approximately 8 o’clock in the evening, fifteen people from the village of Knock in Co. Mayo, witnessed an Apparition of Our Lady, St. Joseph, St. John the Evangelist, a Lamb and cross on an altar at the gable wall of the Parish Church.The witnesses watched the Apparition in the pouring rain for two hours, reciting the Rosary. Although they themselves were saturated not a single drop of rain fell on the gable or vision. There were fifteen official witnesses to the Apparition, most of whom were from the village of Knock and surrounding areas and ranged in age from just 5 years old to 74 years old. Each of the witnesses gave testimonies to a Commission of Enquiry in October 1879. The findings of the Commission were that the testimonies were both trustworthy and satisfactory.
Pilgrimage is a sacred and ancient custom in Ireland. Today, pilgrims from all over the world make their way to Knock Shrine. Some deliberately set out to make a pilgrimage, others find themselves drawn here without knowing why. The Apparition of August 1879 transformed Knock from an ordinary village in Co. Mayo, into an international Marian Shrine. On hearing of the Apparition, people from all over Ireland began to come on pilgrimage. The first pilgrims reflected the deep devotion of Irish people to the Blessed Virgin. Many prayed for an end to famine and poverty, others came in search of cures. By leaving ordinary life behind, pilgrims gain time and space for reflection. They join others in a quest to experience the presence of God. They grow in awareness that, on life’s journey, there are no strangers only fellow pilgrims.
Text courtesy of Knock Museum (Source: The Meaning of Knock, edited by Donal Flanagan, pub. 1997 by the Columba Press)