Knock National Irish Mary Garden

– Brother Sean MacNamara

Queen of All Hearts, May-June, 1989

Our Lady of Knock

On a wet Thursday evening, August 21st, 1879, fifteen people watched - for about two hours - a heavenly vision consisting of Our Lady, St. Joseph, St. John, the Heavenly Lamb and adoring Angels at the Church of St. John the Baptist in Knock, Co. Mayo, Ireland - now the National Irish Shrine of Our Lady, visited by over a million pilgrims annually.

Many readers of this article will know of the famous Rosary priest, Fr. Patrick Peyton, born in Mayo and a regular visitor to Knock.

Were it not that in 1972 I had read in one of Ireland's weekly Catholic papers about the Mary Garden movement established in Philadelphia in 1951 by John S. Stokes, Jr., and the late Edward A. G. McTague, the chances are we would not now have our Irish National Mary Garden at the Shrine.

On sending an inquiry to Philadelphia, I received much valuable information about the planting of Mary Gardens, thanks to John and his co-worker in 1972, the late Mrs. Bonnie Roberson, of Hagerman, Idaho.

Then, after receiving a copy of the History of St. Joseph's Church, Woods Hole, Massachusetts in 1982 from Miss Jane A. McLaughlin, in which there was a reference to the first public Mary Garden in the United States, planted in the grounds beside the church in 1932, I felt the need to establish a similar garden in Ireland.

I had hopes for such a Garden at Knock, and it turned out that the late Monsignor James Horan, Director of the Knock Shrine of Our Lady, also heard about the Mary Garden at Woods Hole; and in June, 1983, when the New Blessed Sacrament Chapel opened at the Shrine, he had the first public Mary Garden in Ireland started at it by Anne Hopkins Lavin, Shrine horticulturist. He was much interested in the concept of the National Mary Garden with representative Flowers of Our Lady from all 32 Counties of Ireland, and encouraged me to develop the appropriate planting plan.

The garden consists of eight beds, two on the left and two on the right of the statue of Our Lady. Across from the statue is another bed, while three beds touch the walls of the Blessed Sacrament Church.

Raised Knock Mary Garden Bed

A distinctive feature of this unique garden is the use of attractive perforated limestone rock from Lough Mask for the statue grotto and the retaining walls of the raised garden beds.

The Knock Shrine Mary Garden, the first such garden in the world at a national Marian Shrine, has about 73 different species of plants which are all associated with Our Lady. The planting plans developed by myself, and a lot of information about plants associated with Our Lady, can be studied in a booklet entitled The Knock Mary Garden.

Working regularly with plants associated with Our Lady is a means of entering into the piety of medieval Christians, whose thoughts were never far from Mary. Gardens, especially Mary Gardens, remind us of Our Heavenly Mother, the Mystical Rose and naturally lead us to her Son.

Mary Garden Planting Pours Out Into Shrine Grounds

Reprinted with permission (Illustrations added)


The John Stokes and Mary's Garden collection was transferred to the Marian Library in May 2013. In addition to his archives, manuscripts, artwork, and personal library, John S. Stokes also donated his extensive website. It was transferred to the Marian Library in 2010. This particular entry is archived content original to Stokes' Mary's Gardens website. It is possible that some text, hyperlinks, etc. are outdated.

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