Where and what is Garabandal?
San Sebastian de Garabandal is a small farming village located in the foothills of the Cantabrian Mountains of northern Spain. It is an isolated hamlet of some 300 people located 55 miles by car in a westerly direction from the provincial capital of Santander and about 15 miles inland from the Cantabrian Sea.
San Sebastian de Garabandal is situated at the very end of a winding road cut into the side of the mountain. A solitary cluster of nine pine trees stands starkly on a rise against the horizon to the south. The village itself consists of some eighty rustic stone buildings huddled together on a small strip of land overlooking a wooded valley.
Like Fatima and Lourdes, Garabandal is a place of unearthly serenity and beauty. The villagers were known throughout the region for their piety and their faithful observance of devotional prayer which they offered together as a community several times each day.
In 1961, it was the poorest and most isolated of all the agricultural hamlets in the region. The only access to the village was via the three and a half mile oxcart path that went up from Cosio, the next closest village.
The priest of Cosio served as the pastor of Garabandal, riding up on horseback to say Holy Mass, to hear confessions and to teach the children of the village the Catechism.
+ All the information in the following account is based on eyewitnesses reports and interviews with the visionaries.
Visit from an Angel
On June 18, 1961, four girls, Conchita Gonzalez (12), Mari Cruz Gonzalez (11) Jacinta Gonzalez (12), and Mari Loli Mazon (12) were playing on the outskirts of the village when they heard a sound like thunder.
Suddenly, there stood before them a radiant angel. He said nothing and soon vanished. Pale and visibly shaken, they ran to the village church and told of the apparition.
Over the next few days, the girls continued to see the angel. On July 1st he spoke: “Do you know why I have come? It is to announce to you that tomorrow the Blessed Virgin will appear to you as Our Lady of Mount Carmel.”
“On this day we saw [the angel] had a sign beneath him…We asked him what it meant but he only smiled and didn’t say anything.” – Conchita’s Diary
The Blessed Virgin Appears to the Children
On July 2, 1961, at just past six o’clock in the evening, the Blessed Virgin appeared in the rocky path which leads up to the pine grove above the village. Our Lady held the Infant Jesus in her arms and was accompanied by two angels, one on each side.
The angel the children recognized was later identified as Saint Michael the Archangel. The second angel was nearly identical. Above and to the right was a large eye that the children referred to as the eye of God.
Word had spread quickly and several priests were counted among the crowd of visitors who joined the villagers to witness the apparition.
Without the slightest fear the girls spoke to the Lady about their families, the priests who had come and the chores they did at home and in the fields. The Lady smiled.
Conchita said speaking with the Lady was easy, like talking with her mother who had gone away on a trip and had just come back.
In her diary, Conchita recorded the appearance of the Blessed Virgin, “The Blessed Virgin appears with a white dress, a blue mantle and a crown of small golden stars. Her feet are not visible. Her hands are wide open with the scapular on the right wrist. The scapular is brown. Her hair is wavy and parted in the middle. She has an oval shaped face and her nose is long and delicate. Her mouth is very pretty with rather full lips. The color of her face is dark but lighter than that of the angel; it is different. Her voice is very lovely, a very unusual voice that I can’t describe. There is no woman that resembles the Blessed Virgin in her voice or in anything else.”
At Our Lady’s request, they prayed the rosary together. The Blessed Virgin taught them to recite the prayers slowly, thinking on the meaning of the words. After they had learned to pray in this way, Our Lady joined them only in reciting the Gloria bowing her head gracefully in humble reverence.
“The Blessed Virgin was smiling as usual. The first thing she said was, ‘Do you know the meaning of the sign that was beneath the angel?’ ‘No we don’t,’ we exclaimed together. ‘It has a message that I am going to give you so you may announce it publicly on October 18th,’ she said.” –Conchita’s Diary