By Michael H. Brown
A look back at mysterious apparitions in Spain
It was back in 1931 that the reports first came: in the hinterlands of north-central Spain, children playing outside a church at Torralba de Aragon saw what they thought was a figure of the Virgin Mary pacing inside. As they looked on in amazement one girl heard the Virgin complain that Jesus was being “mistreated” — an apparent reference to anarchists who had recently torn down a crucifix in the town hall.
Soon phenomena spread to such an extent that there were at least 250 official seers and many more who had lesser experiences in dozens of villages, especially in the town of Ezkioga, where visionaries saw Mary as the Sorrowful Mother, took down her messages, fell into strange rigid trances, or, eyes bulging and rolled back, held up religious items to be blessed.
The visions spread from Ezkioga east, west, and south as far as Orgiva.
Most striking were the prophecies: the apparitions at Ezkioga predicted chastising calamities for mankind, including a world war and three days in which the earth would be plunged into a horrendous darkness. There would also be a “great miracle” that would be seen at Ezkioga but noted in the entire world.
Some said the “great miracle” would be the Virgin appearing with three angels with a half moon at her feet and an extraordinary light that would cover the local mountain. Walls would materialize and from all four sides the Virgin would be seen. Saint Michael would appear on a white horse. “The miracle will begin at a quarter to five in the afternoon and will end at eleven at night,” said one account. “The walls will remain as a sign for what has to be done in this place.”
One seer said she knew the date of a chastisement and would be allowed to tell people eight days in advance. “Between the chastisement and the miracle there will be little time,” she said. “The Virgin has told me which day the chastisement will be and which day the miracle, and I have declared it in writing to my confessor in sealed letters that he keeps, and on the envelope is indicated the day he may open them.”
There were also messages about the anti-christ and end of the world.
While some of Ezkioga’s predictions seemed amazingly on the mark (including prophecies of famine, an uprising in Spain, the killing of priests, and the approaching world war), others fell far short of the mark. The antichrist was supposed to come in 1949 and the end of the world in 1958, according to one major seer.
An “era of peace” was also forecast after all the commotion.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before major cracks appeared in the apparitions. At least two seers outright admitted fabricating prophecies, and there was deep concern about the peculiar ecstasies. Were some of the seers real and others false? The matter is now moot. In 1933 the local bishop, Mugica of Vitoria, condemned the apparitions, banned books about them, and even threatened excommunication if seers disobeyed. In 1934 the Vatican backed him up with a declaration of its own. Church authorities concluded that the apparitions — or at least a good number of them — were without merit or even demonic.
It was a region that had seen outbreaks of witchcraft in the 17th century, when wizards were intensely active, casting spells, causing infertility, and denying God and the Virgin Mary, whom the spirits mimicked. The center for witches was in the mountain range of Amboto, where it was said that a deity known as “la Dama” (the lady), patron of witches, lived in caves. The devil was also said to appear as both a black male goat and a man.
Now, in the 1930s, those near Ezkioga were reporting similar phenomena. One woman told people of seeing a witch in the sky, while others mentioned a monkey that turned into an ugly woman near a stream. As in olden times, others saw the devil in human form.
Still, apparitions spread from town to town for years to come, from the 1930s through the 1970s.
It is why the Church is cautious about apparitions.
Sometimes it knows more about the mysteries of history than we do.
(For further information: see the book Visionaries by William Christian)