The earliest known claim was from St. James the Greater who saw
the Virgin Mary while he was in preaching on the banks of the Ebro River in
Saragossa, Spain in 40 A.D. Today, apparition reports occur more
frequently. Some scholars estimate the total number of apparition claims throughout history to be approximately 2,500 (with about 500 of those coming in the 20th century alone). According to the Dictionary of Apparitions of the Virgin Mary, throughout history 308 apparitions are attributed to Saints or Blesseds. They are generally unofficially recognized by Church authorities (or at least the orders and congregations that they have founded or belonged to). Only 7 Popes throughout history have witnessed Marian apparitions.
Although not officially approved by the Roman Catholic Church, visionaries in Medjugorje, Bosnia-Hercegovina and elsewhere currently distribute messages attributed to the Blessed
The most famous apparitions have been those reported in Guadalupe,
Mexico (1531), Rue du Bac, France (1830), Lourdes,
France (1858), Fatima,
Portugal (1917), and Medjugorje,
The most recently Vatican approved apparitions are those from Le Laus, France (1664) which were approved in 2008. The most recently occurring apparitions with full Vatican approval are those from Kibeho, Rwanda which ended in 1989. The apparitions in Itapirange, Brazil (1994-98) were declared to be supernatural by the local bishop in 2009. The 1859 Robinsonville, WI, USA apparitions which were declared authentic on December 8, 2010 are the most recently episcopally approved apparitions and the first episcopally approved apparitions in the history of the United States.
The Catholic Church has been very cautious to approve purported
miraclous events. In fact, in the 20th Century, of the hundreds of public claims, there have been
only 9 with episcopal approval (4 of those with Vatican approval) and a handful of others that have not received
official approval but have been approved
for faith expression at the site. A total of 22 apparitions throughout history have been investigated and have received episcopal approval. Additionally, there have been four Egyptian apparitions approved by the Coptic Orthodox Church in the last 50 years. The list
of rejected claims continues to grow.