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Children experience visions of angels and the Virgin Mary at San Sebastian de Garabandal, Spain. Invisible to adults, the visions were said to affect only children, who would go into a trance and receive holy kisses and communion. Fortean Picture Library.

Garabandal (Spain)

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

The growing popularity of the devotion to the Virgin Mary as a result of the reported apparition at Fatima, Portugal, in 1916 and 1917 had repercussions in neighboring Spain in 1961. On June 18, 1961, at San Sebastian de Garabandal, a small town in northwest Spain, four young girls—Mari Loli Mazon, Jacinta Gonzalez, Mari Cruz Gonzalez, and Conchita Gonzalez—saw an angel. This initial encounter was followed by others. On July 1, the angel announced that on the next day, the Virgin Mary would appear under the form of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

Many were present the next day, though as is common in such cases, only the children saw the two angels and the Virgin, who made her first appearance to them. During the apparition, they seemed to carry on a conversation with the Virgin. Such apparitions became common over the next four years. Some 2,000 were recorded through 1965. During the apparitions, the girls appeared to be in a trancelike state, with their heads drawn back and the pupils of their eyes dilated. They were oblivious to their surroundings and on occasion were subjected to pin pricks or burns, to which they paid no attention.

As the apparitions continued, religious objects were handed to the girls, and they presented them to the Virgin to be blessed with a kiss. The girls also received an invisible communion from the Virgin. This later aspect of the visions led to one of the more heralded events at Garabandal. At one point, the angel who had appeared to the children told Conchita Gonzalez that the invisible communion would become visible. On July 19, 1962, while in her ecstatic state, a white object appeared on her extended tongue. A picture, since widely circulated, captured the event.

The messages at Garabandal were somewhat mundane, calling for greater devotion and including only a few prophecies. Almost from the beginning, however, they became controversial and, along with devoted advocates, harsh critics arose. The local diocesan office made an initial evaluation in 1961. It concluded that the events in the isolated community offered no proof through which to understand the apparitions as true and authentic. In 1962 the local bishop ordered priests to refrain from saying mass relative to the apparitions. It was after this initial report that a number of tests were conducted on the girls by visiting scientists.

Finally, in 1986 the Bishop Juan Antonio del Val Gallo of Santander appointed a new commission to reevaluate the events at Garabandal. The results of the study were passed to Rome, and in 1987 the Bishop sanctioned priests celebrating massin the local church. The story did not end there, as in October 1996 the Bishop Jose Vilaplana of Santander issued a letter denying that the events at Garabandal were of supernatural origin. Although primarily unsupportive in his statements, the local bishop has left room for supporters of Garabandal to call attention to the messages and organize devotional activities, especially pilgrimages.


Albright, Judith M. Our Lady at Garabandal. Milford, OH: Faith Publishing Co., 1992.
Laffineur, Fr. Matiene and M. T. le Pelletier. Star on the Mountain. Lindenhurst, NY: Our Lady of Mt. Carmel de Garabandal, 1969.
Odell, Catherine M. Those Who Saw Her: The Apparitions of Mary. Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor, 1986.
Pacual, F. Sanchez-Ventura Y. The Apparitions of Garabandal. Pasadena, CA: St. Michael’s Garabandal Center for Our Lady of Carmel, 1966.