Visitors to Ireland's famed shrine at Knock now have a new chapel to focus their prayers.
ON 21 August 1879, 15 people of various ages witnessed, over a period of two hours, an apparition of Our Lady, St Joseph and St John the Evangelist on the gable of the parish church of Knock, Co Mayo.
Since that day, Knock has been a place of pilgrimage, with one and a half million visitors annually. The events of the apparition have been recorded in great detail and as faithful a representation as possible after eyewitness descriptions has been created with wonderful marble carvings.
To house these Statues and to provide an enclosure to protect the gable, Mgr Grealy, parish priest of Knock, commissioned architects A&D Wejchert to design a new chapel at the Apparition Gable seating 150 people.
Enclosure of the gable was necessary to allow the celebration of daily Masses. But the chapel was not to restrict the view of the gable, statues or altar, particularly the large external space in front of it, where very large gatherings of people are normal during the summer months.
The architects response to their brief was to create an enclosure. which would provide the seating required, but also act as a modifier of light, framing the gable in shade, while allowing as much light as possible to fall on the statues and gable itself.
Much of this is natural light. maximised by a fully glazed linking element over the gable. But it is augmented by modern artificial lighting for use on gloomy days and at night. This layout is an attempt to replicate something of the extraordinary light described by eyewitnesses of the actual apparition in 1879.
Authenticity is helped by conceiving the sanctuary area so that the statues are in a similar setting to that of the apparition. They stand in a meadow symbolised by generous planting at their base and by the green sanctuary carpet.
One further element of recreation comes in the specialist painting of the gable reminiscent of the white-washed stone wall of the day, while the side walls are similar to the external limestone finish. Glazing is intended to provide uninterrupted views. The simplicity of design draws the attention of visitors to the gable and statues, keeping them the central focus of the chapel.