Knock Parish Church and Apparition Chapel reopened on Friday having been closed for months for refurbishment works.
After a long spell of closure, parishioners and pilgrims at Knock were delighted to finally be welcomed back to their beloved parish church which reopened to the public last Friday.
The opening was greatly anticipated, particularly over the past number of weeks as visitors began to descend on the shrine at the start of the pilgrimage season.
Both the church and Apparition Chapel have been closed since October last to make way for complete refurbishment. The parish church was a hive of activity over the weekend as passers-by and locals wandered in and out, all eager to get a look at the new interiors.
Fr Richard Gibbons, PP, Rector of Knock Shrine said: “The parish church and shrine have a very special place in the minds of our parishioners and pilgrims. This is the place they want to come to when they visit the shrine as it holds special significance, being so closely linked to the story of the apparition and to the uniqueness of Knock as a place of pilgrimage.
"The parish church especially is such an important part of our community and has been greatly missed over the past number of months. It was certainly a challenge to get the work complete in such a short space of time but we are delighted with it. It is a huge credit to all involved.
"We wanted to modernise the interior in practical terms but also ensure preservation of all the beautiful historic features. People won’t see a drastic change but we hope that they will be very happy with the new look.”
The fine mid-19th century Stations of the Cross have been gently cleaned so as to best display the delicate original colours and modelling. The Stations have been in situ in the church since 1910 and were professionally cleaned by sculpture conservator Eoghan Daltun.
Seating has all been retained and refurbished, and designated wheelchair seating areas are now included for the comfort of pilgrims at Knock.
The high altar in the parish church is one of the oldest features, dating back to 1880 when it was presented as a gift during a pilgrimage from Cork. The baptismal font has been relocated from its previous location near the main entrance to a new more prominent position beside the sanctuary, the floor surrounding the font includes a circle of mosaic on the theme of water, Christian symbolism, and spiritual renewal. The colours of the mosaic were chosen by the artist, Laura O’Hagan, to relate to the wonderful colours in the nearby stained glass windows.
The iconic church tower was repointed and the entrance porch given a contemporary feel with new sleek glass door adorned with the lamb and cross emblem which is so strongly associated with the shrine.
The shrine, or Apparition Chapel, now has new glazing on the exterior in order to give pilgrims maximum visibility of the Apparition Gable. The white marble tableau representing the apparition was gently cleaned and new seating installed.
Other improvements were of a technological nature as the project also included an upgrade of the internal workings of the shrine. This means that pilgrims will now be able to watch Mass from both the parish church and Apparition Chapel online via the Knock Shrine website: www.knockshrine.ie/watch