Since the time of the apparitions, phenomena have been seen in the sky above Garabandal signifying the special nature of this place.
Most of what happened at Garabandal in the 1960's happened on the ground, but sometimes phenomena was seen also in the sky above the village. And while the apparitions ended in the 1960's, phenomena in the sky continued to be reported from time to time. Only recently, we received the account of what Mother Maria Nieves Garcia experienced on her visit to Garabandal in 1967. Here is her testimony. [Editorial Note: picture taken by Dr. Mike on first trip to Garabandal]
"At 2:00 p.m., on August 2, 1967, I was in a group of people walking up the hill from Cosio to Garabandal on a very sunny day. There wasn't a cloud in the sky, and I was feeling close to sunstroke. Just before we arrived at Garabandal, I looked at the sky and saw what everyone else in our group saw -- a double rainbow around the sun. We could look at it without any eyestrain. Our little group included my sister, Dr. Mestre, former director of health care in Madrid, his family and a previous student from our school in Burgos. We were all able to observe the phenomenon with any strain on our eyes. I warned them, 'Be careful not to damage your eyes!' and they responded 'It's not hurting us at all.' Is this possible? A double rainbow around the sun at the beginning of August, without any clouds, at two in the afternoon? How curious that we all could look at it without any difficulty.
“Sometime later I read that, 'the rainbow is a band of seven colors of the spectrum caused by refraction and reflection of sunlight on clouds and raindrops suspended in the atmosphere after a rain.' I asked a professor if what we saw could have been an illusion and he answered, 'Apart from whether you saw a rainbow or not, the fact is, under those circumstances, you could not possibly have looked at the sun.'”
While the experience of Mother Nieves and her group had to do with the sun, and a rainbow as have others, during the Garabandal events in the 1960's the celestial phenomena was different and directly related to the events that were taking place. Here are two examples taken from Conchita's diary: “During one of our apparitions, as Loli and I were coming down from the pines with a large number of people, we saw a thing like fire in the clouds. The people who were with us saw it, and so did those who weren't with us. [The Virgin] told us that is what she came in … “During one of our other apparitions that occurred on the feast of Our Lady of Pilar [actually the early morning hours of the next day], as Loli and I were looking at the Blessed Virgin, we saw beneath her feet a star with a very long trail. A certain number of people saw it also. We asked the Blessed Virgin what it meant, but she didn't answer us.”
Of this second occurrence, Father Eusebio Garcia de Pesquera explained in She Went in Haste to the Mountain (SWIH) the experience of those other people mentioned by Conchita: “…toward 2:30 a.m., almost no one remained in the little village plaza except a small group consisting of responsible men…. [They soon saw Conchita and Loli go under the balcony or terrace connected to the house of Loli's grandmother. They were in ecstasy there, and raising up their arms, the two girls simultaneously let out a shout. Dr. Ortiz gives us his account of the event: 'Instinctively we looked toward the sky and saw a very brilliant star cross from the north to the south (that is, in the direction of the pines), leaving a trail that lasted several seconds. I know that Maximina Gonzalez and other women of the village saw the star too. On the other hand some young boys, who were at the entrance of Ceferino's house and who ran toward the girls on hearing the cry, didn't see anything because they were under the balcony like the girls. After the star had passed, we went over by the girls and prayed as we accompanied them to the church where the ecstasy ended at the entranceway. Immediately we asked them:
'Why did you scream?'
'Because we saw the Virgin throw down a star.'
'But you couldn't have seen the star since you were under the balcony!'
'Well we certainly saw it. It was the Virgin who did it.'
“Of this phenomenon, Father Valentin said in his notes: 'We were in the plaza.Conchita and Loli let out fearful shouts. Everyone was frightened. Some of the people looked at the girls; others looked at the sky. Those who did the latter said they saw a brilliant star that crossed from one part of the sky to another, and that it could not in any way be mistaken for a shooting star or comet. After having shouted out, the girls laughed and went happily on their way as if dancing with joy.'”
Another phenomenon occurred in the firmament on July 25, 1961. Here is the account taken from SWIH: “July 25 [is] a great day in Spain when it celebrates the feast of its patron, Saint James the Apostle. 'On that day,' said [Police Chief] Juan Alvarez Seco, 'I had stationed two guards in the calleja, and two more in front of Conchita's house. The four visionaries were playing in a field nearby on a beautiful afternoon without a cloud in the sky. Suddenly, toward 7:30, over the Pena Sagra [see picture at beginning of article], a very dark cloud appeared out of which a tremendous bolt of lightening struck down. The girls fell on their knees extremely fearful. The thunder which followed shook us all. But the girls remained there with a look of ecstasy on their faces. I remember Mari Cruz's mother was screaming and I had to calm her down. For several minutes all was quiet. Afterwards, someone said to me very seriously, but without giving it much importance, that he had seen above the cloud, one or two figures dressed like the Holy Father.'”
Our last case of celestial phenomena during the time of the events to be included here occurred during the evening of June 18, 1965, shortly before Saint Michael appeared to Conchita with the second message of Our Lady. This excerpt is taken from l'Etoile Dans la Montagne:
“Almost everyone was praying in a loud voice, in two choruses, the French and the Spanish alternating. What an extraordinary night! There was an unprecedented luminosity with innumerable stars shining as never before, even without a moon. Suddenly everyone looked up. From the northwest, a new star shot up, brighter than the others. It traced a great circle and returned to its starting point. Two minutes later, another star, splendid bur smaller than the first, appeared straight above Conchita's house, advanced slowly in the sky and suddenly disappeared above the Pines. Everyone was talking with the person next to him about these extraordinary phenomena when at the bottom of the lane, in the light of the starry night and the flashlights, Conchita appeared, protected by a squad of police guards.”
Our last example of phenomena in the sky occurred several years after the close of the events on October 11, 1976, feast of Our Lady del Pilar. Maria Villaneuva Diaz from Santander gives her testimony of her experience: “That day many people had congregated at the Pines in Garabandal to pray the holy rosary. A large part of the group consisted of two hundred girls from a school in Gijon who were to be consecrated by their teacher to the Immaculate Heart of Mary of Garabandal, under the pine tree where Our Lady appeared so many times.
“During the consecration a strong wind began to blow and the sky became almost black; it was very impressive. To avoid being blown around by the wind, we sat down on the ground as best we could. My back was to the village. When the consecration of the girls ended the wind stopped. I remained seated, and for some reason, I turned around to look at the sky above the village. What I saw cannot adequately be described. The most beautiful rainbow you could ever imagine arched out from the church over the village. Its colors were stronger than in any other rainbow I had ever seen. I pointed it out to my sister who was seated some distance away and when she saw it she sprang to her feet. Then everyone stood up to contemplate that beauty. No one could figure out the meaning of it, but we all knew it was not a normal rainbow.
“After remaining for some time praying and thanking God for such a gift, my sister looked at me and asked if I had seen anything else. I told her I only saw what she and everyone else did – a heavenly marvel. But she insisted, 'No, you can't fool me; you saw something else.'
'Why are you saying that?'
'Because the rainbow is burned into your sunglasses.'
“We called two bystanders, Manolo del Corte and Manolita Fernandez, who corroborated that the rainbow indeed was imprinted on the sunglasses; and also that on the right lens the rainbow appeared lower than on the left side. This could be explained by the fact that my head was tilted when I was looking at the rainbow.
“Then I said to my sister, 'The intensity of the light and brilliance of the colors must have remained on the retinas of your eyes.' It was not like that. Today, more than two years later, the rainbow is still on both lenses of my sunglasses, the intense colors engraved as though by fire just as on that unforgettable day.
“Sometimes the glasses give off a smell of roses and pine mixed together, and there are days when the colors are more intense than at other times. Twice I have taken them back to Garabandal and they have emitted splendid rays. Some people, on seeing them, have knelt with tears in their eyes, because they see that Garabandal is a chosen place if our Blessed Mother. I write all this in obedience and at the request of the Jesuit priest, Father Francis A. Benac.”
Written by Maria Encarnacion Villanueva Diaz
February 8, 1979
by Barry Hanratty
Reprinted with kind permission from Garabandal Journal, March-April 2009