A trip to Fatima was not something that I had originally planned on doing during a recent trip to Portugal. It wasn’t until my daughter-in-law and I started looking at day trips from Lisbon, that visiting this city became part of our itinerary. You don’t need a lot of time here to marvel at the site, but I would say it is one worth visiting and learning about. Our time here was part of a tour booked with Lisbon Riders.
So first some history about Fatima….on May 13, 1917, there were three shepherd children, Lucia age 9 and her cousins Francisco age 8 and Jacinta age 6, who where caring for their sheep in this area of Fatima, Portugal.
They witnessed the sky became brighter and a lady who called herself “the Lady of the Rosary” appeared to them standing in an oak tree. This lady, the Virgin Mary, told them to pray the rosary daily for world peace and that she would reveal three secrets to them in the coming months.
On the 13th day for the next six months the Virgin Mary appeared to the children. Lucia, the oldest, was the only one of the children that could talk to the apparition, and when she later wrote her memoirs she revealed the secrets.
The first secret was a vision of hell, the second was that WWI would end and communism would be defeated, and the third…and most controversial secret…was that there would be an assassination attempt on a pope. This third secret was not released until after the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II, and there is still some uncertainty as to the interpretation of this secret and whether it has in fact been fulfilled. Pope John Paul II did praise Our Lady of Fatima for saving his life, and the bullet that hit him was placed in the crown on her statue.
When the Virgin Mary finally appeared for the last time on October 13, 1917, there were over 70,000 pilgrims waiting at the site to see her. This final apparition became known as the “Miracle of the Sun” as many of the people standing there saw the sun “dancing” or “spinning”, while others saw the sky light up with different colours. Today on the 13th of each month thousands of Catholic pilgrims make the journey to Fatima. However, year round you can come here to pray, wander around the site, light candles…
…and take part in services offered in the church. The latin inscription above the altar reads “Queen of the Holy Rosary of Fatima, pray for us.” You will find tombs for Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco to the right and left of the altar.
The esplanade area at Fatima is huge! One can only imagine it packed with pilgrims. On one end you will find the Basilica of Our Lady of Fatima and on the other end is the Church of the Holy Trinity…a much newer and more modern building that is circular to represent the world.
Fatima, with its deeply religious history, is perhaps not something that will appeal to everyone, however it has such a fascinating place in Portugal’s past that it is definitely worth seeing. The peace that one finds here can be appreciated by anyone that visits.
The basilica is open daily from 7 am to 9 pm and you will find the schedule of the services offered that day at the information board located on the western side of the esplanade.