More than one million pilgrims visit the world famous Marian shrine at Knock each year. A peaceful place of prayer and meditation, it has been the site of many miracle claims since 1879, when a group of fifteen local residents – children, teenagers and adults – told of apparitions of Mary, St. Joseph and St. John the Evangelist.
On August 21, 1879, a rainy Thursday night, the witnesses observed a bright flash of light, inside which they saw the three figures standing near an altar with a cross, a lamb and a group of angels. Mary, they reported, was dressed in white, wearing a beautiful gold crown with a single gold rose upon her forehead. She appeared to be praying. At her right stood St. Joseph, to her left, St. John, dressed in brilliant white garments, holding an open book in his hand. A round shrine, large enough to accommodate 7,000 people, was built to commemorate the event. The building contains 32 pillars, one from each county in Ireland, and four ornate medieval windows – one for each province, as well as other items and furnishings from around the country.
Each year, April to October, scheduled devotions are held for the millions of pilgrims that visit from all over the world. Popular sites include the Gable of the Apparition, the Chapel of Reconciliation, and the nearby church of Our Lady, Queen of Ireland, built in 1976. This is the largest church in Ireland, capable of holding 20,000 worshippers. The site of the National Shrine and its surrounding buildings is beautifully landscaped and offers accommodations for the sick and the handicapped. Guided tours of the shrine are given twice daily from May through October, and the Audiovisual Centre screens a variety of films with free admission for all.
Pope John Paul II visited Knock in 1979, the centenary of the apparition claims. In 1986, Knock International Airport opened just outside the village, with routes to and from other Marion pilgrimage sites such as Fatima, Lourdes and Medjugorje, as well as other European destinations.
Knock is situated just off the N17 national primary route, about one hour north of Galway and 45 minutes south of Sligo.