On June 24, 1981, six children from the village of Medjugorje, 30 miles south of Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina, claimed they saw an apparition of the Virgin Mary. They said the apparition brought a message of peace, stating the world must return to God. The visionaries, now grown up, claim to be visited daily by the Virgin Mary, making them celebrities of the Catholic circuit.
34 years on and the rural village of Medjugorje has been transformed into a religious Costa Del Sol with over 25 million visitors since the visions began. Pilgrims start their day by climbing either Apparition Hill or the Hill of the Cross, sometimes barefoot, at sunrise to pray. Once down again they can visit one of the many souvenir shops selling kitsch statues of Mary, rosary beads, crucifixes, hologram-framed pictures of Jesus Christ and baseball caps proudly bearing the face of the ‘Our Lady’. Lunch can be enjoyed at one of the neon-lit restaurants that crowd around the small church of St James.
After shopping, pilgrims can opt to join the thousands crammed in to a makeshift marquee to witness one of the visionaries experiencing an apparition, or simply go to St James’ Church, acting as the centre of the village, to attend morning Mass. There’s even a Jesus Christ statue with a weeping knee.
The legitimacy of the apparitions is still under investigation, at least in the eyes of the Vatican. Unlike the authenticated shrines of Lourdes in France, and Fatima, Portugal, where the visions only lasted days, the apparitions in Medjugorje are still claimed to be happening now.