Public Image

go on, go on, go on, go on, go onOn 21st August 1879, Mary McLoughlin, 45, housekeeper to Archdeacon Cavanagh, the unpopular parish priest at Knock, County Mayo, went to the nearby cottage of Mrs Mary Byrne at about 7 p.m. On the way she passed by the south gable of Knock parish church. “On passing by the chapel, and at a little distance from it, I saw a wonderful number of strange figures at the gable; one like the Blessed Virgin Mary, and one like St. Joseph; I saw an altar.”

In all, 15 people of all ages witnessed the phenomenon. They stood in the rain watching it for two hours. None of the figures in the image moved. One Bridget Trench went up and attempted to kiss the Virgin’s feet, (rather bold of her) but to her surprise, felt only the texture of the gable wall. The pictures on the wall were inside a circle of bright light.

It would be easy to mock the villagers, but it was 1879, and the remote West of Ireland. The concept of the ‘magic lantern’ projector would probably have been unknown to them. Ironically, the Catholic Church later brought magic lanterns to the site as part of the official investigation of the apparitions, but the intrepid investigators reported that they had failed to find a way in which the device might have been used by a prankster to create the visions.

Well, it certainly sounds like a projected image to me.

The Archbishop who had commissioned the investigation did not make any declaration on the nature of the apparition — mystical or earthly. Nonetheless, the site at Knock became a major site of pilgrimage. And I mean “major”. In the 20th Century, a huge basilica was built, and even an international airport.

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