Marian apparition

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The Marian Vision of Saint Bernard, by Fra Bartolommeo, circa 1504. Uffizi, Florence. Fra bartolomeo 02 Vision of St Bernard with Sts Benedict and John the Evangelist.jpg
The Marian Vision of Saint Bernard, by Fra Bartolommeo, circa 1504. Uffizi, Florence.

A Marian apparition is a reported supernatural appearance by Mary, the mother of Jesus, or a series of related such appearances over a period of time.


In order to be classified as a Marian apparition, the person or persons who claim to see Mary (the "seers") must claim that they see her visually located in their environment. [1] (If the person claims to hear Mary but not see her, this is known as an interior locution, not an apparition. Also excluded from the category of apparitions are dreams, visions experienced in the imagination, the claimed perception of Mary in ordinarily-explainable natural phenomena, and miracles associated with Marian artwork, such as weeping statues.)

Believers consider such apparitions to be real and objective interventions of divine power, rather than subjective experiences generated by the perceiving individuals, even in cases where the apparition is reportedly seen by only some, not all, of the people present at the event's location.

Marian apparitions are considered expressions of Mary's ongoing motherly care for the Church. The understood purpose of each apparition is to draw attention to some aspect of the Christian message, given the needs of a particular time and place. Apparitions are often accompanied by other alleged supernatural phenomena, such as medical cures. However, such miraculous events are not considered the purpose of Marian apparitions, but exist primarily to validate and draw attention to the message. [2]


Statue representing Our Lady of La Salette, an apparition reported to have occurred in France. MaryjazLaSalette.jpg
Statue representing Our Lady of La Salette, an apparition reported to have occurred in France.

Each Marian apparition is often associated with one or more titles given to Mary, often based on the location of the apparition, such as Our Lady of Pontmain in Pontmain, France. Others are named using a title which Mary applies to herself during the alleged apparition, as in the case of The Lady of All Nations.

Some Marian apparitions have only one purported seer, such as Our Lady of Lourdes. Other apparitions have multiple seers; in the case of Our Lady of Fatima, there were only three seers of the apparition itself, but miraculous phenomena was reported by a crowd of approximately 70,000 people, and even by others located miles away. [3] In other cases, the entirety of a large group of people claims to see Mary, as in the case of Our Lady of La Vang. Some modern mass apparitions, witnessed by hundreds of thousands, have also been photographed, such as Our Lady of Zeitoun. [4]

Most alleged apparitions involve the verbal communication of messages, but others are silent, such as the apparition of Our Lady of Knock.

Some apparitions are one-time events, such as Our Lady of La Salette. Others recur over an extended period of time, such as Our Lady of Laus, whose seer claimed 54 years of appearances. Public, serial apparitions (in which a seer not only says that they have experienced a vision, but that they expect it will reoccur, causing people to gather to observe) appear to be a relatively recent phenomenon; up until about the seventeenth century, most reported apparitions happened when the individual was alone, or at least no one else was aware of its occurrence. [5]

Physical contact is hardly ever reported as part of Marian apparitions. In rare cases, a physical artifact is reportedly left behind, such as the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which is said to have been miraculously imprinted on the cloak of St. Juan Diego.

Assessment by the Catholic Church

Jetzer being tricked. Jetzer was a Dominican monk in Bern, and some of his brothers tricked him into thinking he was receiving a revelation from the Virgin Mary. Eventually he figured it out. In punishment over this scandal, four Dominicans were burned at the stake under the orders of Pope Julius II with an audience of 30,000 people on May 1st, 1509. History of the great reformation in Europe in the times of Luther and Calvin.. (1870) (14785634573).jpg
Jetzer being tricked. Jetzer was a Dominican monk in Bern, and some of his brothers tricked him into thinking he was receiving a revelation from the Virgin Mary. Eventually he figured it out. In punishment over this scandal, four Dominicans were burned at the stake under the orders of Pope Julius II with an audience of 30,000 people on May 1st, 1509.

The Catholic Church believes that it is possible for actually-supernatural Marian apparitions to occur, but also believes that many claimed apparitions are fabricated by the seer or the result of something other than divine intervention. For this reason, the Catholic Church has a formal evaluation process established for assessing claimed apparitions.

In 1978, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith promulgated the currently-used investigation guidelines in a document entitled "Norms of the Congregation for Proceeding in Judging Alleged Apparitions and Revelations," better known as Normae Congregationis , a shortening of its Latin title. Investigations into alleged apparitions can be carried out by the local ordinary (i.e. diocesan bishop), the national episcopal conference, or the Holy See. Apparitions are evaluated on multiple criteria, including the sincerity and moral uprightness of the seers, the theological accuracy of the messages, and positive spiritual fruits resulting from the apparition event. [7]

Occasionally, an ecclesial authority will decide not to investigate the veracity of an apparition in itself, but will approve the religious practices that have grown around the alleged apparition, such as by authorizing public veneration connected with the apparition, or by granting a request contained in the apparition messages. Pope Leo XIII, for example, authorized the use of a scapular described in the messages of Our Lady of Pellevoisin, [8] but did not pass judgment on the supernatural character of the apparition itself. [9]

Even if a Catholic bishop approves an apparition, belief in the apparition is never required of the Catholic faithful. [10] [11] The Catholic faith is rooted in so-called Public Revelation, which ended with the death of the last living Apostle. A Marian apparition, on the other hand, is considered private revelation, which may emphasize some facet of the received public revelation for a specific purpose, but can never add anything new to the deposit of faith.

In the Catholic Church, approval of a Marian apparition is relatively rare. The majority of investigated apparitions are rejected as fraudulent or otherwise false. [12] Recently rejected apparition claims include those of "Our Lady of Surbiton," denounced as fraudulent in 2007, [13] and those associated with Holy Love Ministries in Elyria, Ohio, condemned in 2009. [14] Some whose apparition claims are rejected proceed to break away from the Catholic Church and found splinter groups, as in the case of the Mariavite Church, the Palmarian Catholic Church, and the Fraternité Notre-Dame.

Cultural impact

Our Lady of Guadalupe is widely considered integral to the cultural identity of Mexico. Virgen de guadalupe1.jpg
Our Lady of Guadalupe is widely considered integral to the cultural identity of Mexico.
The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima is one of the largest Marian shrines in the world. Santuario de Fatima (36) - Jul 2008 (cropped).jpg
The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátima is one of the largest Marian shrines in the world.

Marian apparitions, particularly those that are officially approved, often have a widespread impact on Christian piety and on the broader culture. Apparitions can become an engrained part of national identity, as Our Lady of Guadalupe is for the majority-Catholic population of Mexico.

In many cases, apparition seers report a request from Mary for the construction of a shrine on the spot of the apparition. Such Marian shrines often become popular sites of pilgrimage. The most-visited Marian shrine in the world is the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, which draws 10 million pilgrims each year. [15] Other popular apparition-related Marian pilgrimage sites include the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátima in Portugal (6-8 million per year [16] [17] ) and the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes in France (5 million annually).

Apparitions often lead to the establishment of Marian confraternities, movements, and societies that seek to heed and spread the messages of a particular apparition, such as the Blue Army of Our Lady of Fátima.

Occasionally, apparitions will introduce prayers that become incorporated into widespread Catholic practice, as in the case of the Fátima prayers.

Related Research Articles

Our Lady of Fátima Title for the Virgin Mary

Our Lady of Fátima, is a Catholic title of the Blessed Virgin Mary based on the famed Marian apparitions reported in 1917 by three shepherd children at the Cova da Iria, in Fátima, Portugal. The three children were Lúcia dos Santos and her cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto.

Our Lady of La Salette Marian apparition

Our Lady of La Salette is a Marian apparition reported by two children, Maximin Giraud and Mélanie Calvat to have occurred at La Salette-Fallavaux, France, in 1846.

Medjugorje Village in Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Međugorje, or Medjugorje, is a town located in the Herzegovina region of Bosnia and Herzegovina, around 25 km (16 mi) southwest of Mostar and close to the border of Croatia. The town is part of the municipality of Čitluk. Since 1981, it has become a popular site of Catholic pilgrimage due to Our Lady of Međugorje, an alleged series of apparitions of the Virgin Mary to six local children that are still happening to this day.

Three Secrets of Fátima Prophecies made during an apparition of the Virgin Mary in 1917

The Three Secrets of Fátima consist of a series of apocalyptic visions and prophecies which were supposedly given to three young Portuguese shepherds, Lúcia Santos and her cousins Jacinta and Francisco Marto, by a Marian apparition, starting on 13 May 1917. The three children claimed to have been visited by the Virgin Mary six times between May and October 1917. The apparition is now popularly known as Our Lady of Fátima.

Necedah Shrine

Necedah Shrine, officially the Queen of the Holy Rosary, Mediatrix of Peace Shrine, is a Marian shrine located in Necedah, Wisconsin. On November 12, 1949, Mary Ann Van Hoof (1909–1984) reported receiving a vision from the Blessed Virgin Mary. She claimed that in subsequent visions she was told to "bring the truth to people" through prayer and the rosary. The Roman Catholic Church investigated and found the reported visions and other phenomena indisputably faked, and when Van Hoof and her followers refused to desist, put her under interdict. Van Hoof and her followers then left the Roman Catholic Church and joined themselves to the Old Catholic movement.

Our Lady of Lourdes Title of Mary, mother of Jesus, related to her alleged apparitions in Lourdes

Our Lady of Lourdes is a Roman Catholic title of the Blessed Virgin Mary venerated in honour of the Marian apparitions that occurred in 1858 in the vicinity of Lourdes in France. The first of these is the apparition of 11 February 1858, when 14-year old Bernadette Soubirous told her mother that a "lady" spoke to her in the cave of Massabielle while she was gathering firewood with her sister and a friend. Similar apparitions of the "Lady" were reported on eighteen occasions that year, until the climax revelation of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception took place.

Veronica Lueken was a Roman Catholic housewife from Bayside, New York, who, between 1970 until her death in 1995, reported experiencing apparitions of the Virgin Mary, Jesus, and numerous Catholic saints.

Private revelation

Private revelation is, in Christian theology, a message from God which can come in a variety of types.

Our Lady often refers to:

Visions of Jesus and Mary post-biblical claims to have seen Jesus or his mother Mary

Since the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Calvary, a number of people have claimed to have had visions of Jesus Christ and personal conversations with Him. Some people make similar claims regarding His mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary. Discussions about the authenticity of these visions have often invited controversy. The Catholic Church endorses a fraction of these claims, and various visionaries it accepts have achieved beatification, or even sainthood.

Pierre Maximin Giraud, known as Maximin Giraud, was a French member of the Corps of Papal Zouaves and a Marian visionary of Our Lady of La Salette.

Catholic Marian church buildings Wikimedia list article

Roman Marian churches are religious buildings dedicated to the veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary. These churches were built throughout the history of the Catholic Church, and today they can be found on every continent including Antarctica. The history of Marian church architecture tells the unfolding story of the development of Roman Catholic Mariology.

Our Lady of Akita

Our Lady of Akita is the Catholic title of the Blessed Virgin Mary associated with a wooden statue venerated by faithful Japanese who hold it to be miraculous. The image is known due to the Marian apparitions reported in 1973 by Sister Agnes Katsuko Sasagawa in the remote area of Yuzawadai, an outskirt of Akita, Japan. The messages emphasize prayer and penance in combination with cryptic visions prophesying sacerdotal persecution and heresy within the Catholic Church.

The Lady of All Nations Marian apparitions in Amsterdam (1945-1959)

The Lady of All Nations is a Catholic Marian title associated with alleged apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Ida Peerdeman of Amsterdam, Netherlands. Peerdeman claimed to have received 56 visions of the Lady from 1945 to 1959.

Our Lady of Medjugorje Apparitions of the Virgin Mary that began on June 24, 1981 in Medjugorje

Our Lady of Medjugorje, also called Queen of Peace and Mother of the Redeemer, is the title given to the Blessed Virgin Mary by those who believe that she appeared in 1981 to six Herzegovinian teenagers in Medjugorje, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Local Diocese as well as the Catholic Church have not recognised the apparitions as either supernatural or authentic.

Catholic Church response to the Medjugorje apparitions

Medjugorje, a village in Bosnia and Herzegovina, has been the site of apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary since 24 June 1981. Various officials of the Catholic Church have attempted to discern the validity of these Marian apparitions in order to provide guidance to potential devotees and pilgrims. On Dec. 7th 2017, it was reported that Archbishop Hoser, Pope Francis' envoy to Medjugorje, announced that official pilgrimages are allowed, stating, "dioceses and other institutions can organize official pilgrimages. It’s no longer a problem.” This pilgrimage was officially authorized by the Holy See in May 2019. The approval was made official with the celebration of a youth festival among pilgrims and Catholic clergy in Medjugorie in for five days in August 2019.

Normae Congregationis (NC) is a 1978 document written by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) which sets guidelines for Catholic bishops in discerning claims of private revelation such as Marian apparitions. It specifies the manner of discernment and the authorities competent to carry out such discernment.

Our Lady of the Rosary of San Nicolás

Our Lady of the Rosary of San Nicolás is, in Catholicism, a title of veneration of the Virgin Mary associated with a reported private revelation to Gladys Quiroga de Motta, a middle-aged housewife, beginning in the 1980s in city of San Nicolás de los Arroyos, Argentina). Quiroga said that she was tasked with promoting devotion to the Mother of God under this title, with an emphasis on key passages in the Bible and a particular mystical stellar symbolism. The devotional image, that of a standing Madonna offering rosary beads to the faithful, resembles that of Our Lady of Mount Carmel offering the scapular to St. Simon Stock, while differing from traditional Dominican Seat-of-Wisdom-type depictions of Our Lady of the Rosary popularized by the Order of Preachers.


  1. Zimdars-Swartz, Sandra L. (2014). Encountering Mary: From La Salette to Medjugorje. Princeton University Press. p. 4. ISBN   9781400861637. An apparition is best understood as a specific kind of vision in which a person or being not normally within the visionary's perceptual range appears to that person, not in a world apart as in a dream, and not as a modification of a concrete object as in the case of a weeping icon or moving statue, but as part of the environment, without apparent connection to verifiable visual stimuli.
  2. Dictionary of Mary, Catholic Book Publishing Co. New York. 1985, Imprimatur, p25-26
  3. Arcement, Katherine (October 13, 2017). "Our Lady of Fatima: The Virgin Mary promised three kids a miracle that 70,000 gathered to see". The Washington Post . Retrieved October 11, 2019.
  4. Kosloski, Philip (May 5, 2019). "This Marian apparition in Egypt was witnessed by at least 250,000 people". Aletia . Retrieved October 13, 2019.
  5. Zimdars-Swartz, Sandra L. (2014). Encountering Mary: From La Salette to Medjugorje. Princeton University Press. p. 5. ISBN   9781400861637.
  6. History of the Great Reformation of the Sixteenth Century in Germany , Jean Henri Merle d'Aubigné, Philadelphia: Porter & Coates, 1870
  7. "Norms Regarding the Manner of Proceeding in the Discernment of Presumed Apparitions or Revelations". Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. February 24, 1978.
  8. Cruz, Joan Carroll (2012). See How She Loves Us: 50 Approved Apparitions of Our Lady. Charlotte, North Carolina: TAN Books. p. 205-211. ISBN   9780895558039.
  9. "All About Mary: Pellevoisin Apparitions". The Marian Library/International Marian Research Institute . Archived from the original on April 13, 2016. Retrieved October 8, 2019.
  10. Kosloski, Philip (May 15, 2019). "This map illustrates 500 years of Mary's apparitions". Aleteia . Retrieved October 7, 2019. Even if the Church recognizes an apparition as worthy of belief, no Catholic is obligated to believe in any private revelation, such as an apparition. The Church simply says that a person can find spiritual aid from an apparition, if he or she so chooses.
  11. "Private and public revelation". Catholic Culture. Retrieved January 11, 2012.
  12. "Apparition Statistics, Modern", International Marian Research Institute, University of Dayton
  13. Petre, Jonathan (September 23, 2007). "Vatican rejects woman's Virgin Mary claim". The Telegraph . Retrieved October 13, 2019.
  14. Armstrong, Patti (November 20, 2009). "Proclamation on Holy Love Ministries Will Test Hearts and Obedience". Catholic Exchange. Retrieved September 8, 2016.
  15. "Shrine Of Guadalupe Most Popular In World", Zenit News, June 13, 1999
  16. "Religion moves 330 million tourists a year and six million go to Fátima", Diário de Notícias, February 19, 2017.
  17. "Fátima expects to receive 8 million visitors in 2017", in Sapo20, December 15, 2016.

Further reading