By Sarah Mac Donald - 17 January, 2016
Next month, Our Lady’s Basilica in Knock Co Mayo is due to unveil its much anticipated new apparition mosaic – the centrepiece of the forty-year-old basilica’s €10 million renovation programme.
The mosaic is reputed to be one of the largest mosaics of its kind in Europe and depicts the apparition in the West of Ireland village of Our Lady, St Joseph, and St John the Evangelist on the evening of 21 August 1879 to 15 men, women and children, whose ages ranged from five to seventy-five.
Designed by the well-known Irish artist, PJ Lynch, who is renowned for his magical illustrations of children’s books, the Italian company, Travisanutto Mosaics in Spilimbergo, has sent a team of mosaic-makers to Knock to start assembling the huge 14 square metre artwork.
The massive wall hanging which will be placed behind the altar on the sanctuary wall.
The mosaic team transported the artwork to Knock in sections, by articulated truck across Europe, last week.
Travisanutto Mosaics have previously been involved in projects at some of the best known religious sites around the world, such as the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem and the Basilica at the National Shrine of Immaculate Conception in Washington DC, the largest Catholic church in the US.
The unveiling of the mosaic on 28 February is the final part of the renewal project at Knock, called ‘Witness to Hope’, which was launched two years ago by Fr Richard Gibbons, parish priest at Knock Shrine.
In autumn 2014, ‘Witness to Hope’ was launched with the aim of refurbishing Our Lady’s Basilica.
The 1976 design was dated, dull and a triumph of functionality over spiritual uplift. Today, the emphasis is on a sacred space.
New stained glass windows were commissioned from glass artist Róisín de Buitléar to convey a sense of pilgrimage and journeying towards the sacred. In addition, up to 3,700 carved and comfortable seats made of ash were installed around the basilica.
Every piece of concrete has now been covered and now clad with granite and oak, giving the place a more welcoming veneer than the more brutal functionality it had previously and of course it is now insulated and so it is a lot less drafty than it was.
In addition to the refurbishment, Knock is promoting the shrine as a place of pilgrimage nationally and internationally, and introducing new faith development programmes for those in need of a spiritual tonic.