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Our Lady of Knock

Knock Outdoor Image_edited.jpg

View of the gable wall where the apparition occurred. 

Short & Long Versions

This apparition story is presented in two ways: 

  • Summarized version

  • Full story that includes testimony in their own words by four witnesses of the apparition. This is lengthy and may be easier to read on a computer screen.


The Virgin Mary apparition in Knock, Ireland, took place on the evening of August 21, 1879, in the small village of Knock, County Mayo, in the western part of Ireland. The setting was the parish church of St. John the Baptist, a modest structure in a rural community. That evening, at least 22 witnesses, ranging in age from five to 75, reported the appearance of a tableau of celestial figures on the gable wall of the church: including the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, and St. John the Evangelist. Additionally, a lamb standing on an altar with a cross completed the scene.

What made the Knock apparition distinct was its silence as well as the inclusion of the Paschal lamb. Despite the rainy weather, the witnesses reported that the area around the figures remained dry, adding to the miraculous nature of the event.

Upon discovering the apparition, the residents of this small village gathered in prayer, transfixed by the celestial scene before them that lasted more than two hours. 

In the aftermath of the apparition, the ecclesiastical authorities launched an investigation to examine the credibility of the witnesses and the details of the event. The testimonies (read four of them below) were found to be consistent and convincing, leading the Church to officially recognize the Knock apparition as miraculous on October 3, 1879.

As word spread about the event, Knock evolved into a major pilgrimage site, drawing believers seeking solace, miracle healing, and spiritual nourishment. A shrine was established to honor Our Lady of Knock, and the original parish church, where the apparition occurred, became known as the Apparition Chapel.


Thursday, August 21, 1879 was a rain-soaked evening in the small Irish village of Knock when the apparition appeared. 


The first witness, Mary McLoughlin, was the parish priest's housekeeper. It was still dusk at 7 p.m. when she noticed the glowing light and what looked like three statues adjacent to the church's large gable. The 45-year-old housekeeper paused on her way to visit the Byrne family and rationalized that the figures must be statues purchased to replaced ones that had toppled and broken in a storm the previous year. 

About 30 minutes later, Margaret Byrne, age 21, excused herself from Mary's visit and left to lock up the parish church. As she approached the church in a driving rainstorm. Margaret saw something glowing near the south gable of the church. She did not investigate and quickly returned home to get out of the rain.

At around 8 p.m., Mary McLoughlin departed the Byrne household accompanied by Margaret's older sister, 29-year-old Mary Byrne. When the two Marys saw the brightly lit scene, they went to investigate. After a brief stay, Mary Byrne ran home to alert her family to this fantastic sight.


In total, at least 22 people were believed to have been present that evening, which lasted more than two hours.

1879-80 Witness Testimonies

The first commission interviewed and collected statements from fifteen visionaries. Some of the testimonies were brief and simply reiterated what others had said. Below are four of the more detailed testimonies that, taken together, are a powerful source for understanding what occurred in Knock. 

Testimony of Mary Byrne

“I live in the village of Knock, to the east side of the chapel. Mary McLoughlin came on the evening of the 21st August to my house at about half past seven o’clock. She remained some little time.


"I came back with her as she was returning homewards. It was either eight o’clock or a quarter to eight at the time. It was still bright. I had never heard from Miss McLoughlin about the vision, which she had seen just before that.


"The first I learned of it was on coming at the time just named from my mother’s house in company with Miss Mary McLoughlin, and at the distance of three hundred yards or so from the church. I beheld, all at once, standing out from the gable, and rather to the west of it, three figures which, on more attentive inspection, appeared to be that of the Blessed Virgin, St. Joseph and St. John.


"That of the Blessed Virgin was life-size, the others apparently either not so big or not so high as her figure.


"They stood a little distance out from the gable wall, and, as well as I could judge a foot and a half or two feet from the ground.


"The Virgin stood erect, with eyes raised to heaven, her hands elevated to the shoulders or a little higher, the palms inclined slightly towards the shoulders or bosom. She wore a large cloak of a white colour, hanging in full folds and somewhat loosely around her shoulders, and fastened to the neck.


"She wore a crown on the head, rather a large crown, and it appeared to me somewhat yellower than the dress or robes worn by Our Blessed Lady.


"In the figure of St. Joseph the head was slightly bent, and inclined towards the Blessed Virgin, as if paying her respect. It represented the saint as somewhat aged, with grey whiskers and greyish hair.


"The third figure appeared to be that of St. John the Evangelist. I do not know, only I thought so, except the fact that at one time I saw a statue at the chapel of Lecanvey, near Westport, Co. Mayo, very much resembling the figure which stood now before me in group with St. Joseph and Our Blessed Lady, which I beheld on this occasion.


"He held the Book of Gospels, or the Mass Book, open in his left hand, while he stood slightly turned on the left side towards the altar that was over a little from him. I must remark that the statue which I had formerly seen at Lecanvey chapel had no mitre on its head, while the figure which now beheld had one, not a high mitre, but a short set kind of one.

"The statue at Lecanvey had a book in the left hand, and the fingers of the right hand raised. The figure before me on this present occasion of which I am speaking had a book in the left hand, as I have stated, and the index finger and the middle finger of the right hand raised, as if he were speaking, and impressing some point forcibly on an audience.


"It was this coincidence of figure and pose that made me surmise, for it is only an opinion, that the third figure was that of St. John, the beloved disciple of Our Lord, but I am not in any way sure what saint or character the figure represented.


"I said, as I now expressed, that it was St. John the Evangelist, and then all the others present said the same – said what I stated.


"The altar was under the window, which is in the gable and a little to the west near the centre, or a little beyond it. Towards this altar St. John, as I shall call the figure, was looking, while he stood at the Gospel side of the said altar, which his right arm inclined at an angle outwardly, towards the Blessed Virgin.


"The altar appeared to be like the altars in use in the Catholic Church, large and full sized. It had no linens, no candles, nor any special ornamentations; it was only a plain altar.


"Above the altar and resting on it, was a lamb, standing with the face towards St John, thus fronting the western sky. I saw no cross or crucifix. On the body of the lamb and around it, I saw golden stars, or small brilliant lights, glittering like jets or glass balls, reflecting the light of some luminous body.


"I remained from a quarter past eight to half past nine o’clock. At the time it was raining."


Testimony of Mary McLoughlin

“I Mary McLoughlin, live in Knock; I am housekeeper to the Rev. Archdeacon Cavanagh. I remember the evening of the 21st August; at the hour of seven or so or a little later, while it was yet bright day, I passed from the Rev. the Archdeacon’s house on by the chapel, towards the house of Mrs. Byrne, widow.


"On passing by the chapel, and at a little distance from it, I saw a wonderful number of strange figures or appearances at the gable; one like the blessed Virgin Mary, and one like St. Joseph; another a bishop; I saw an altar. I was wondering to see there such an extraordinary group; yet I passed on and said nothing, thinking that possibly the Archdeacon had been supplied with these beautiful figures from Dublin or somewhere else, and that he had said nothing about them; but had left them in the open air; I saw a white light about them; I thought the whole thing strange.


"After looking at them I passed on to the house of Mrs. Byrne’s in the village; after reaching widow Byrnes house I stayed there half an hour at least. I returned then homewards to the Archdeacon’s house accompanied by Miss Mary Byrne, and as we approached the chapel, she cried out ‘Look at the beautiful figures.’ 


"We gazed at them for a little while, and then I told her to go for her mother, widow Byrne, and her brother and her sister, and her niece who were still in the house which she and I had left. I remained looking at the sight before me until the mother, sister, and brother of Mary Byrne came; at the time I was outside the ditch and to the south – west of the school – house near the road, about thirty yards or so from the church; I leaned across the wall in order to see, as well as I could, the whole scene.


"I remained now for the space of at least a quarter of an hour, perhaps longer. I told Miss Byrne then to go for her uncle, Brian Byrne, and her aunt, Mrs. Brian Byrne, or any of the neighbours whom she should see, in order that they might witness the sight that they were then enjoying. It was now about a quarter past eight o’clock, and beginning to be quite dark. The sun had set; it was raining at the time.


"I beheld, on this occasion, not only the three figures, but an altar further on to the left of the figure of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and to the left of the bishop and above the altar a lamb about the size of that which is five weeks old. Behind the lamb appeared the cross; it was away a bit from the lamb, while the latter stood in front from it, and not resting on the wood of the cross. Around the lamb a number of gold–like stars appeared in the form of a halo.


"This altar was placed right under the window of the gable and more to the east of the figures, all, of course, outside the church at Knock.


"I parted from the company or gathering at eight and a half o’clock. I went to the priest’s house and told what I had beheld, and spoke of the beautiful things that were to be seen at the gable of the chapel. I asked him or said, rather, it would be worth his while to go to witness them. He appeared to make nothing of what I said, and consequently he did not go. Although it was pouring rain the wall had a bright, dry appearance, while the rest of the building appeared to be dark.

"I did not return to behold the visions again after that, remaining at my house. I saw the sight for fully an hour. Very Rev. B. Cavanagh heard the next day all about the apparition from the others who had beheld it; and then it came to his recollection that I had told him the previous evening about it, and asked him to see it.”

Testimony of Patrick Hill

“I am Patrick Hill; I live in Claremorris; my aunt lives at Knock; I remember the 21st 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 eight o’clock in the evening, Dominick Byrne 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 Dominick Byrne, and John Durkan, and a small boy named John Curry, came with me; we were all together; we ran over towards the chapel. When we, running southwest, came so far from the village that on our turning, the gable came into view, we immediately beheld the lights; a clear 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 the figures – the Blessed Virgin, St. Joseph and St. John, and an altar with a Lamb on the altar, and a cross behind the lamb. At this time we reached as far as the wall fronting the gable: there were other people there before me; some of them were praying, some not; all were looking at the vision; they were leaning over the wall or ditch, with their arms resting on top.


"I saw the figures and brightness; the boy, John Curry, from behind the wall could not see them; but I did; and he asked me to lift him up till he could see the grand babies, as he called the figures.


"It was raining. Some, amongst them Mary McLoughlin, who beheld what I now saw, had gone away; others were coming. After we prayed a while I thought it right to go across the wall and into the chapel yard. I brought little Curry with me; I went then 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 or so 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; the palms were not turned towards the people, but facing each other as I have described; she appeared to be praying; her eyes were turned as I saw towards heaven.


"She wore a brilliant crown on her head, and over the forehead where the crown filled the brow, a beautiful rose; the crown appeared brilliant, and of a golden brightness, of a deeper hue, inclined to a mellow yellow, than the striking whiteness of the robes she wore; the upper parts of the crown appeared to be a series of sparkles, or glittering crosses.


"I saw her eyes, the balls, the pupils and the iris of each. (The boy did not know the special names for those parts of the eye, but he pointed to them, and described then in his own way). I noticed her hands especially, and face, her appearance. The robes came only as far as the ankles; I saw her feet and the ankles; one foot, the right, was slightly in advance of the other.

"At times she appeared, and all the figures appeared, to move out and again to go backwards; I saw them move; she did not speak; I went up very near; one old woman went up and embraced the Virgin’s feet., and she found nothing in her arms and 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 grey; there was a line or dark mearing between the figure of the Blessed Virgin and the spot where he stood. I saw the feet of St. Joseph, too. His hands were joined like a person at prayer.


"The third figure that stood before me was that of St. John the Evangelist. He stood erect at the 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. His right arm was at an angle with a line drawn across from St. Joseph to where Our Blessed Lady appeared to be standing.


"St. John was dressed like a bishop preaching; he wore a small mitre on his head; he held a Mass Book, or a Book of Gospels, in his left hand; the right hand was raised to the elevation of the head; while he kept the index finger and the middle finger of the right hand raised; the other three fingers of the same hand were shut; he appeared as if he were preaching, but I heard no voice; I came so near that I looked into the book. I saw the lines and the letters. St. John did not wear any sandals. His left hand was turned towards 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 one hour and a half or longer; I saw their wings fluttering, but I 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 I was very wet; I noticed that the rain did not wet the figures which appeared before me, although I was wet myself. I went away then."

Testimony of Bridget Trench

“My name is Bridget Trench; I live near the chapel at Knock. About half past seven o’clock on the night of the 21st of August, I was in the house of Mrs. Campbell, which was quite near to the chapel, while I was there Mary Byrne came in and said there was a sight to be seen at the chapel such as we never before beheld, and she told us all to come and see it, I asked her what it was, and she said that the Blessed Virgin, St. Joseph and St. John were to be seen there.


"I went out immediately and went to the spot indicated. When I arrived there I saw distinctly the three figures, I threw myself on my knees and exclaimed 'A hundred thousands thanks to God and to the glorious Virgin that has given us this manifestation.' 


"I went in immediately to kiss, as I thought, the feet of the Blessed Virgin, but I felt nothing in the embrace but the wall, and I wondered why I could not feel with my hands the figures which I had so plainly and so distinctly seen.


"The three figures appeared motionless, statue-like, they were standing by the gable of the church in the background, and seemed raised about two feet above the ground. The Blessed Virgin was in the centre, she was clothed in white, and covered with what appeared one white garment, her hands were raised to the same position as that in which a priest holds his hands when praying at holy Mass. I remarked distinctly the lower portions of her feet, and kissed them three times, she had on her head something resembling a crown, and her eyes were turned up heavenwards.


"I was so taken with the Blessed Virgin, that I did not pay much attention to any other, yet I saw also the two other figures. St. Joseph standing to the right of the Blessed Virgin, or to the left, as I looked at him, his head bent towards her and his hands joined, and the other figure, which I took to be St. John the Evangelist, was standing at her left. I heard those around me say that the image was St. John.


"It was raining very heavily at the time, but no rain fell where the figures were. I felt the ground carefully with my hands and it was perfectly dry. The wind was blowing from the south, right against the gable of the chapel, but no rain fell on that portion of the gable or chapel in which the figures were.


"There was no movement or active sign of life about the figures, and I could not say whether they were what living beings would in their place appear to be or not, but they appeared to me so full and so lifelike and so life-size that I could not understand why I could not feel them with my hands such as I beheld them with my eyes.


"There was an extraordinary brightness about the whole gable of the chapel, and it was observed by several who were passing along the road at the time. I remained there altogether about an hour, and when I came there first I thought I would never leave it. I would not have gone as soon as I did, but that I considered that the figures and that brightness would continue there always, and that on coming back I would again behold them.


"I continued to repeat the rosary on my beads while there, and I felt great delight and pleasure in looking at the Blessed Virgin. I could think of nothing else while there but giving thanks to God repeating my prayers.”


Unlike many other Marian apparitions, the figures at Knock did not convey spoken messages or instructions. Instead, they stood in silent prayer, presenting a contemplative scene that invited the witnesses and subsequent pilgrims to reflect on the mysteries of the faith.


The silence is interpreted as a sign of Mary’s blessing and an urgent call for renewed faith, prayer and penance.

Witnesses say Mary was praying the Rosary, which was commonly prayed among Irish Catholics who often no longer had churches to attend. The English had closed or destroyed many Catholic churches in Ireland over the centuries preventing worship at Mass. 

That explains why St. John is shown holding the Scriptures in one hand and preaching. He is celebrating Mass in the presence of the altar and Paschal Lamb.


Just one year earlier, St. Joseph was publicly recognized by Pope Pius IX as "Patron of the Universal Church." St. Joseph's role in the apparition is believed to emphasize an ultimate trust in his protection over the Irish people who had suffered from famine and poverty, early death, and religious persecution. It gave struggling Catholics hope that even if the earthly powers had abandoned them, Heaven had not.


In the aftermath of the Marian apparition at Knock several significant developments occurred that shaped the ongoing spiritual legacy of the site.

Commission Inquiries

The Apparition at Knock in 1879 underwent ecclesiastical scrutiny, prompting two distinct Commissions of Inquiry to examine the witnesses. The initial Commission convened during 1879-80, while the second Commission met in 1935-36. The primary objective of these investigations was to ascertain the particulars of the Apparition and assess the credibility of the witnesses.

The 1879-80 commission held multiple sessions to consider all the evidence presented. Their final assessment asserted that "the testimonies of all, considered collectively, are reliable and satisfactory." 

The 1935-36 commission held 15 sessions. They interviewed and received sworn statements from three surviving witnesses: 86-year-old Mary O'Connell, previously Mary Byrne; 71-year-old Patrick Byrne; and 62-year-old John Curry who was only five years old at the time of the apparition. Mary Byrne said: "I am quite clear about everything I have said, I make this statement knowing I am going before my God." Like the earlier commission, this one also concluded the witnesses were "upright" and gave "satisfactory" testimony. 


Building the Shrine
In response to the growing number of pilgrims visiting the site, plans were made to build a new church and shrine. The Shrine of Our Lady of Knock was established, and the original parish church became known as the Apparition Chapel. The new church, completed in 1976, is a significant pilgrimage destination and can accommodate a large number of worshipers.

Pilgrimages and Devotion
Knock quickly became a major pilgrimage site, drawing believers from Ireland and around the world. Pilgrims came seeking solace, healing, and spiritual renewal. The Shrine of Our Lady of Knock hosts regular pilgrimages, especially on the anniversary of the apparition, drawing large crowds for prayer, processions, and devotional activities.

Canonical Coronation
In 1979, on the centenary of the Knock apparition, Pope John Paul II visited the shrine during his apostolic visit to Ireland. During this visit, he celebrated Mass at the shrine and bestowed a golden rose, a papal honor, on the statue of Our Lady of Knock. In 1993, the Vatican granted a canonical coronation to the statue, further emphasizing the significance of Knock in the eyes of the Catholic Church.

Papal Designation

Pope Francis designated the Knock shrine as an "International Marian and Eucharistic Shrine" in 2021. This action acknowledges the thousands of pilgrims who visit Knock here each year. It is the first time the shrine has been officially designated as a National Shrine as well. 


There have been many reported miracles at the Shrine of Our Lady of Knock over the years. Miraculous healings were reported within days, including a bedridden young girl named Delia Gordon who was healed and able to walk again after being placed where the vision appeared.


The springs and streams nearby also suddenly gained healing properties. Pilgrims flocked to the village seeking cures and blessings.

Other miraculous healings and events said to have occurred at Knock include:

  • Healing spring waters - The rainwater flowing from the gable wall where the apparition hovered gained healing properties and cured many sick pilgrims who drank it. 

  • Believe by Sceptic - Archdeacon Bartholomew Cavanagh was a local priest who initially was skeptical of reports about the apparition. But after witnessing a dying man instantly healed by drinking the gable rainwater, the Archdeacon became convinced it was miraculous.

  • Healing of Sr. Margaret's wrist - In the 20th century a nun named Sr. Margaret was healed of chronic pain and paralysis in her wrist after praying intensely in the basilica at Knock.

  • Survival in a plane crash - In 1976, a pilot named Fr. Emmet O'Hara survived a major plane crash, crediting his lack of injuries to a promise he had made to promote Knock if he lived.

  • Cancer remissions - Over the years many visitors to Knock have reported experiences of being cured or going into remission from terminal cancer shortly after visiting the shrine and praying for healing.

Prayer to Our Lady of Knock

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 shall find."


Help me to remember that we are all 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 or lonely or depressed. Teach me how to take part ever 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. Our Lady of Knock, pray for us.


Our Lady of Knock's Feast Day is celebrated on November 17, which is four days prior to the apparition date. The reason for this is November 21 is already dedicated to St. Pius X, the Pope of the Eucharist. 


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