Fortean Mike Dash reviews a book that has been around for about twenty years on a 1876 Marian apparition: Marpingen: Appartions of the Virgin Mary in Nineteenth Century Germany.
These apparitions were big news at the time. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims poured into the village to visit the apparition site and drink the waters of its miraculous spring; it was even predicted that Marpingen would become the "German Lourdes". This never happened; the village very slowly faded from people's memories, and the apparitions themselves were never formally investigated by the Catholic authorities, much less granted the Church's seal of approval – a process critical to the continuing popularity of "approved" vision sites such as Lourdes, Knock and Fatima. So obscure has Marpingen become, indeed, that I have never seen the events there mentioned in even the best Fortean surveys of religious phenomenaThe following excerpt from the book contains themes consistent with other MA's, as Dash points out in his article. Children are the ones witnessing the sightings, there's a lady in white, dreams, etc.
Some other interesting elements in this sighting/apparition: "the devil," the lady dressed in black, appearing in a graveyard ... reminded me of the stranger "trickster like" descriptions of the Medjugorje apparitions.Between the wood and the meadow was an area of wild meadow with thick bushes around it. It was here that Susanna Leist suddenly called out, bringing Katharina and Margaretha hurrying to her, and drew her friends' attention to a 'white figure'. When the girls reached home, agitated and frightened, all three described seeing a woman in white carrying a child in her arms. There is some dispute over the initial reactions of parents, siblings, and neighbours, but it is clear that the girls remained in a state of excitement. Margaretha slept badly and prayed a lot, Katherina dreamed of the woman in white, Susanna was reluctant to go to bed at all. The following day they returned to the spot and knelt down about 20 yards away to pray. According to their account, after they had said the Lord's Prayer three times the apparition appeared again to Margaretha and Katharina – although not to Susanna Leist, the original seer. 'Who are you?' they asked the figure in the local dialect, and received the reply: 'I am the Immaculately Conceived.' 'What should we do?' 'You should pray.' The children resumed their prayers, and the figure disappeared. ~ Marpingen p.xxii
Authorities responded negatively to both witnessess and the phenomonon itself, including putting police in the area where the sightings took place, military presence, a surreal "unlawful pilgrimage" , and much more, including putting the witnesses on trial. Nothing new in responses to witnesses to Marian Apparitions.
Mike Dash promises to bring us more insights into this overlooked apparation. Stay tuned. . .