Parishioners and visitors to Knock over the Easter holiday were treated to a first look at the Shrine’s massively revamped Basilica, which closed last October for a major renovation project.
The refurbishment of Our Lady’s Basilica, which can accommodate some 10,000 people, is part of a wide-ranging plan, called ‘Witness to Hope’, aimed at raising the profile of the Marian Shrine in Ireland and internationally to attract 21st century pilgrims to the holy site.
The renovated Basilica, which was first built in 1976, reopened for Holy Saturday Vigil Mass.
The makeover is now 80 per cent complete and has transformed the interior from a functional facility to shelter pilgrims to a more modern and attractive space for the Shrine’s estimated 1.6 million annual visitors.
The remaining works, including a large tiled mosaic over the altar, stained glass windows in the entrance corridors, and further altar furnishings, are to be completed over the next year.
Parish priest and rector at Knock Shrine, Fr Richard Gibbons, said the overhaul was needed to bring the Basilica into the 21st century.
“The original idea was that the Basilica would act as a shelter, however expectations change and adjust over time,” he explained.
“Understandably, pilgrims are looking for greater levels of comfort as well as a sacred space for prayer and reflection.
“Knock is such a special place and it is down to us to ensure that spirit of prayer is preserved and enhanced for the fulfilment of all those coming to Knock.
“It is important to mention that although the Basilica refurbishment was necessary, it is certainly not the most important element of ‘Witness to Hope’.
“Our programmes for faith renewal, which are still in the developmental stages, will further reflect the bigger picture of what we hope to achieve for Knock.”
The official 2015 pilgrimage season at Knock Shrine opens on Sunday April 26, when pilgrims will have the opportunity to participate in daily Mass in the Basilica.
In the meantime, the Basilica is open to the public daily and visitors are welcome to view the transformation.