The Virgin Mary
It’s apparition time: 5.40 pm.
I am in the mountain village of Medjugorje, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, standing in a crowd.
We are waiting — hoping for a glimpse of the Virgin Mary.
In this small village, six people say that the Virgin Mary has visited and spoken to them regularly since June 1981. Some 30 million pilgrims have visited the site ever since.
This was my first stop in tracing the cult of the Virgin Mary, which is more alive today than in the early Christian church.
But who is Mary and what exactly does she symbolize?
In my search for her, I traveled to six corners of the world, where I looked for connections of Mary as a woman, a mother and as a global symbol who has influenced millions.
In Medjugorje, I placed an ad on top of Apparition Hill inviting pilgrims who'd seen the Virgin to contact me. I then collaborated with a local artist to sketch their visions.
While in Egypt, Muslims as well as Christians consider Mary to be holy above all women. Her name appears more in the Quran than the Bible, and in the town of Minya, both faiths gather to celebrate her name.
When asked what Mary meant to Haitians, they cried out, “She is our Mama.”
Commissioned by National Geographic Magazine