Ireland, The Holy Shrine at Knock

Holy Shrine of Knock

“The official Pilgrimage Season at Knock Shrine begins on Sunday 30th April.  The 12 noon & 3pm Sunday Masses in the Basilica can be viewed live on the Watch page and can also be viewed afterwards on the Knock Shrine YouTube Channel”. – Knock Shrine Official Web Page.

Knock (or West Ireland Airport) is built in the middle of almost nowhere, the nearest cities are Galway to the south and Sligo to the north, both over forty miles away.  It was built here following a campaign by Monsignor James Horan who had a sort of evangelical business plan to bring pilgrims to the nearby religious site of the Knock Shrine.

Greetings From Knock

The Shrine is probably the most religious place in all of Ireland and as we were close by we thought that perhaps we should pay a visit ourselves.

The most religious country in Europe is Malta where in a survey in 2010 95% of the population said that they were practicing Catholics.  Nearby Italy (where the Pope lives) only managed 74%.  Ireland registered 54%.  The least religious countries are all in the north where over 80% of respondents in Estonia, Norway, Denmark and Sweden all said that religion isn’t very important at all.

Interestingly this survey didn’t seem to include the Vatican State where I imagine the response would surely have been 100%.

Knock Postcard

The remarkable story of Knock began on the 21st August, 1879 when, at approximately eight o’clock in the evening, fifteen people from the village claimed that they witnessed a Marian Apparition* on an altar at the gable wall of the Parish Church. An Apparition of The Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, Saint John the Evangelist, a choir of angels, the Lamb of God (Jesus Christ) and a cross.

The witnesses watched the Apparition in the pouring rain for two hours whilst reciting the Rosary. Although they themselves were saturated not a single drop of rain fell on the gable or vision. Each of the witnesses gave testimonies to a Commission of Enquiry in October 1879 and the findings of the Commission were that the testimonies were both trustworthy and satisfactory.  Hmmm!

Knock Parish Church

As a consequence of this the site is now an important Pilgrimage centre with a four thousand seat Basilica, a Museum, a Research centre, the original Parish Church and the Holy Shrine itself.   With an estimated million and a half visitors a year this makes it the most visited place in Ireland just ahead of the Guinness Brewery in Dublin.

Most of these visitors are genuine Pilgrims, not just nosey parkers like us, who come to celebrate Mass, make Confession, seek spiritual guidance or simply to lay hands on the wall where the Apparition took place. Actually there is only a small portion of the wall these days because so many people were chipping bits off for a souvenir that it had to be taken down and kept somewhere secret for safety.

Knock Holy Shrine

The whole village is a religious enclave where every shop sells spiritual gifts, grave memorials, plastic bottles to collect Holy Water and Votive Candles. If you want to stay overnight in Knock then you are probably going to book in at The Shrine View Guest House, The Lamb of God B&B or the Divine Mercy Hotel.

The village and the Holy Site reminded me of the Greek Island of Tinos where there is a similar story of a divine miracle and a Basilica and a Pilgrim Trail to go with it.

As we walked around the Basilica not everyone was absolutely delighted by the experience and I overheard two Nuns in conversation – “So how do you like the place Sister, said the first, Well, I am a bit disappointed replied the second I have to say, I tort there would be more Priests and tings!

Knock Apparation Mosaic

The modern Basilica is quite magnificent and the best thing about is the Apparition Mosaic which depicts the scene as described in the testimony of the witnesses and donated by an individual donor in memory of his family and friends. That is quite some gift let me tell you, it is one of the largest mosaics in Europe consisting of over one and a half million pieces of hand cut marble and glass and crafted in Spilimbergo in Italy by Travisanutto Mosaics who are said to be the best in the World and also have mosaics in Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC.

I am really glad that I visited the Knock Shrine, I didn’t get any sort of Divine thrill I have to say, I am not a religious person at all, I only go to Church for weddings, christenings and funerals and remain sceptical about things such as this but if so many people believe in it then I feel obliged to keep an open mind.

Ireland Father Ted Tour Craggy Island Parochial House

* A Marian Apparition is a reported supernatural appearance by the Blessed Virgin Mary. The miracle is often named after the town where it is reported.

More posts about a Marian Apparition…

Montserrat and the Black Madonna

The Royal Monastery at Guadalupe

Fatima in Portugal

52 responses to “Ireland, The Holy Shrine at Knock

  1. I kind of liked Knock. Even if I’m not Catholic, it was a nice place. The better half called it a religious supermarket.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Belief is a strange and wonderful thing, Andrew. The abuse of it is something else. It would never have occurred to me to go to Knock but thank you for taking me there. The Basilica is fabulous.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t think you have to be religious to appreciate the thoughtful art of places like this, the serenity and the meaning it aims at conveying. That was an interesting read!


  4. like you, i am not religious, but keep an open mind. what a background story and what a powerful place to visit.


  5. Having visited Knock with you and Kim recently I can relate to the comments made by masgautsen . What a contrast between the grandeur of the basilica and the shops in the surrounding area which wouldnt have looked out of place in some of the UK’s seaside resorts. ‘Holy water bottles for sale, 50c each or 5 for 2€ ‘. Loved the visit but can only imagine the scene with 4,000 people in the basilica and up to 5,000 outside!


  6. Very interesting. Never heard of it or the town. Thanks for the education.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. It is new to me and thanks for the benefit of your open mind.


  8. I can’t say I have heard of Knock but like you not religious I think there can be fascinating things found in such places. Don’t think I’ll be in for the shopping aspect though. 🙂


  9. I can’t help but wonder what folks do with those bits they chip away?


  10. We visited 2014 and brought back holy water. I carried away a feeling for how life was lived when my grandparents were born.


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  12. Pingback: Travels in Spain, Montserrat and the Black Madonna | Have Bag, Will Travel

  13. Pingback: Travels in Spain, The Royal Monastery at Guadalupe | Have Bag, Will Travel

  14. Pingback: Postcard from Knock in Ireland | Have Bag, Will Travel

  15. I’d go if Marian apparition referred to Dawn Wells.


  16. Although we didn’t live too far from Lourdes during our time in France, we never visited. Apparently, its site in the Pyrenees meant things like parking were difficult, and the town was stuffed not only with pilgrims, but with dubious religious souvenir shops. Much of the holy water sold in plastic bottles in the form of the Virgin Mary seemed to have ended up in the house we bought. I’m afraid we poured it down the sink. We probably weren’t a target visitor group.


  17. I’m not sure why, but places like this give me the creeps. As do religions that go overboard with their displays of faith.

    I wouldn’t describe myself as religious, I have a quiet faith and belong to the Church England. I attend church only a few times a year. Each time I vow to attend more often. I find my church peaceful and uplifting, but find no reason why I should express this to all as do some followers of other churches.

    You do right to take all this with a pinch of salt, but your article here certainly brought Knock to life and showed how impressionable and gullible some people are.


  18. I think you have to respect the simple faith people have in their beliefs. It’s just such a pity that such simple faith is let down by the clergy and other church organisations whose behaviour over recent years has quite clearly been appalling.


  19. A holiday in Israel many years ago has put me off visiting religious shrines for life (I don’t include the Vatican city). I found my Israeli experience totally offputting from the doubled-up figure in the Coptic church who demanded money for a token he had forced into my hand, and the ringletted Hassidic who offered to pray for me at the Wailing Wall and whipped out a card reader from under his long black cloak to take my CC details, to the Christian Via Dolorosa lined with tat-filled shops and touts outside trying to entice the tourists to buy statues of the Madonna, copies of Michaelangelo’s David (!), rosary beads and holy water bottles and fonts. Never had I felt so far removed from my fellow-men. It was the only holiday in my whole life that left me with a feeling of distaste and an avowed decision never to return.


  20. Always seems a pity when simple sincere faith becomes a vehicle for commerce, but I enjoyed your description of Knock.


  21. Religion as theme park? I can’t help wondering what else that money could have been spent on.


  22. A holy visit is even more of a guaranteed draw than having a friendly (or unfriendly) ghost, Andrew. I’m skeptical at best but on the other hand, I tend to believe in UFOs. So, as they say, don’t knock it! –Curt


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