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 Virgin.
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, Bosnia-Hercegovina (1981).
The most recently Vatican approved apparitions are those from Le Laus, France (1664) which were approved in 2008. The most recently occuring 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.