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Fatima, Portugal: Our Lady of Fatima Shrine

About the apparitions at Fatima:

The three children of Fatima
Attributed to Joshua Benoliel [Public domain]
Perhaps the most significant Marian apparition of the 20th century, Fatima has as much importance for us today as it did back then.

In the spring of 1916, three children took their parents sheep to a pasture in a place not far from the mountain village of Fatima, Portugal.  Their names were Lucia dos Santos (age 9) and her younger cousins Jacinta and Francisco Marto (ages 6 & 8, respectively).

They saw a bright light in a cave nearby and a beautiful young man in white garments appeared to the children and announced “fear not, I am the angel of peace…pray with me“.  He gave them what became known as the Fatima Prayer.

The following year, on May 13th, 1917  while the children were once again pasturing the flock, this time in Cova da Iria, about a mile from their homes, when a lovely lady appeared to them.  After telling the children not to be frightened, she said “I have come from heaven” and told them she wanted them to come to that same place on the same hour on the 13th day of each month until October.

Our Lady continued to appear to the children each month between May and October with messages of great importance for the world and the events to follow, which were to have major consequences and lead many people to Jesus Christ.

The Blessed Mother asked that the children pray the rosary daily, and said that through the rosary wars could be prevented. At that time many men from Portugal were involved in the fighting of World War I.

Fatima involved three secrets:

1. The First Secret:  On July 13, 1917 the visionaries were given horrific visions of hell which lasted only a minute. Our Lady showed the visionaries a great sea of fire that they said “seemed to be under the earth. Plunged in this fire were demons and souls in human form, like transparent burning embers, amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair, which horrified us and made us tremble with fear”.

According to the visionaries, the Blessed Mother looked at them sadly and said: “You have seen hell where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace“.

Our Lady went on to say: “To prevent this, I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart and the Communion of reparation on the First Saturdays. If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace; if not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of The Church. The good will be martyred; the Holy Father will have much to suffer; various nations will be annihilated”.

In that same year, 1917, the communists took over Russia and unleashed a 70 year reign of terror.

Our Lady had gone on to say: “In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, and she shall be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world”.

2.  The Second Secret:  “The war is going to end (meaning World War I), but if people do not stop offending God, a worse one will break out during the pontificate of Pope Pius XI“.

“When you see a night illuminated by an unknown light, know that this is the great sign given you by God that He is about to punish the world for its crimes, by means of war, famine, and persecutions of the Church and the Holy Father”.

Then on the nights of January 25 & 26, 1938, the sky across Europe was illuminated with a red light, perhaps the strongest Aurora Borealis ever known to mankind. On February 4, 1938..one week later….Hitler promoted himself to military chief in Germany and on March 12, 1938, German troops marched into Austria to annex the German-speaking nation, effectively ushering in the start of World War II, even though it was not officially declared until September 1939.

3. The Third Secret was the subject of much mystery and even a few conspiracy theories. The third secret was not initially revealed by Lucia. She said that Mary had not yet permitted her to reveal it to the world. In October the Bishop ordered her to put it in writing, which she did, and sealed it in an envelope not to be opened until 1960, when “it will appear clearer”.[The text of the third secret was officially released by Pope John Paul II in 2000.  It was interpreted by The Church to be symbolic in nature and referred to the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II on May 13, 1981……the anniversary date of the first reported Fatima vision. The Pope had just bent down to hug a little girl wearing a Lady of Fatima emblem when the assailant fired, and the bullets struck him in the abdomen rather than the head as planned. John Paul II credited Our Lady of Fatima with saving his life.


The miracle of the sun in Fatima:

On October 13, 1917 about 70,000 people had gathered on the hillside at the Cova da Iria. Beginning the night before and throughout most of the morning a cold rain fell thoroughly drenching the crowd. The ground was muddy and had soaked everything. At the time when Our Lady was due to arrive, Lucy asked those assembled to close their umbrellas, which they did. Our Lady appeared and told Lucy: “I want to tell you that a chapel is to be built here in my honor. I am the Lady of the Rosary. May you continue to pray the Rosary every day. The war is going to end and the soldiers will soon return to their homes“.

In 1918 on the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour, the armistice was signed ending the “Great War”.

As Our Lady ascended, the sky suddenly cleared and the sun danced. The people were able to look directly at the sun without it bothering their eyes at all. The event was reported in the newspaper at the time as you can see from the photo below.

The Miracle of the Sun in Fatima
Alvenido de Almedia, journalist a the O Seculo dialy [Public domain]
The sun then seemed to plunge to the earth and then return to its previous position, terrifying those present. Yet another astonishing aspect of the miracle was that all of the thousands of people, most of whom were soaked to the bone and dirty with mud, suddenly found that their clothes were dry.

A physician who was present, Dr. Almeida Garrett, testified: “Suddenly I heard the uproar of thousands of voices, and I saw the whole multitude spread out in that vast space at my feet…I turned around too, toward the point commanding their gaze, and I could see the sun, like a very clear disc, with its sharp edge, which gleamed without hurting the sight or damaging the retina”.

The great miracle of the sun lasted about 10 minutes, but the results of this miracle continue today, as Fatima draws millions of pilgrims from around the world every year, and had even more in 2017….the 100th anniversary of the apparitions.
Interestingly enough, the three visionaries did not see the miracle of the sun. They saw a completely different event…an apparition of our lady.

Sister Lucia explained in her memoirs:  “After our Lady had disappeared into the immense distance of the firmament, we beheld St. Joseph with the Child Jesus and Our Lady robed in white with a blue mantle, beside the sun. St. Joseph and the Child Jesus seemed to bless the world, for they traced the Sign of the Cross with their hands. When, a little later, this apparition disappeared, I saw Our Lord and Our Lady; it seemed to me to that it was Our Lady of Sorrows (Dolors). Our Lord appeared to bless the world in the same manner as St. Joseph had done. This apparition also vanished, and I saw Our Lady once more, this time resembling Our Lady of Carmel.”  Interestingly, Sister Lucia went on to join the Carmelite Order.

This vision was only seen by the children, while the crowd was witnessing the sun “dance.”

It is believed that the “dancing sun” was meant to inspire belief in the unbelieving crowd, while Our Lady had a different message for the visionaries.

For example, Sr. Lucia saw Our Lady of Mt. Carmel to prepare the way for her entrance into a Carmelite monastery when she was older.

The newspaper article shown to the left was actually an anti-Catholic paper, and yet they published the events.

The fate of the children:

Francisco and Jacinta both died young, as prophesied by Our Lady: she had told them they would be taken to Heaven early. Francisco died at age 10 and Jacinta at age 9.   Francisco and Jacinta were canonized Saints by Pope Francis on May 13th, 2017, the 100th anniversary of the first apparition, and their feast day is February 20th.

Lucia went on to become a Discalced Carmelite nun (taking the name Sister Maria Lucia of Jesus and of the Immaculate Heart).  She lived at the convent in Monastery of Santa Clara in Coimbra, Portugal ( about 53 miles north of Fatima).  If you can, try to include this in your trip….there is a small museum detailing the life of Sister Lucia.  She had been blind and deaf ,and ailing for some years, when she died on February 13, 2017.  Sister Lucia was accorded the title Servant of God, as the first major step toward her canonization.

About the Shrine at Fatima:

Overall view of the Sanctuary at Fatima, Portugal
Andreas Trepte [CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)]

Your visit to the Shrine in Fatima.

In addition to Masses held throughout the day there are Stations of the Cross, daily processions, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and much more at what is considered by many to be the most important Marian shrine of the 20th Century.

♦  The Chapel of Apparitions (Portuguese: Capelinha das Aparições): We like to start our visits here…it is the exact spot of the apparitions, marked by a marble pillar and enclosed case, with the image of the Virgin Mary.  It is covered by the small structure you can see on the left side of the photo above. Pilgrim groups often celebrate Mass here.

♦  The Big Holmoak: the tree under which the children and the early pilgrims sat and prayed the Rosary as they awaited Our Lady’s appearance.  It is right behind the Chapel of the Apparitions.

♦  The Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary:  the focal part of the Fatima shrine, this Basilica was constructed in the Baroque Revival Style, features Stained glass windows that depict the events of the apparitions.  There are 14 side altars within the church, each one dedicated to one of the fourteen mysteries of the Rosary and represented in bronze, Bas-reliefs. The 15th mystery is represented in the vault of the presbytery and is a high-relief by Maximiano Alves.

     The Basilica houses the tombs of Saints Francisco and Jacinta. Upon her death in 2005, Sister Lucia’s body was also entombed here.

♦  The Perpetual Adoration Chapel:   located at the end of the collonade of the Basilica of the Rosary.

♦  The Basilica of the Holy Trinity:  constructed in 2007,  it is across from the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary and contains five chapels, 16 confessionals and a cafeteria. It will help to accommodate the millions of people who visit here each year.

♦  House of Our Lady of Dolours (Our Lady of Sorrows): Located next to The Chapel of Apparitions, it is destined to receive the sick during the great pilgrimages, and also is also used for retreats and accommodation for pilgrims.

♦  The childhood homes of the visionaries:  in nearby Aljustrel, they remain much as they were in 1917.  The bedrooms of the young visionaries remain  much as they were at the times of their deaths.  Relatives of the visionaries are still seen around in the village, as the photos below show.

♦  A portion of the Berlin Wall:  at the entrance of the Sanctuary, on the south side of the Rectory,  a testament to the fall of Communism and the triumph of Our Lady.


Devout pilgrims can often be seen on their knees approaching the shrine, as seen in the photos below.


Check out the new book “Fatima Mysteries” from Ignatius Press

Traveling to Fatima:

There are many Catholic tour groups to Fatima each year. If you are traveling independently, Fatima is located about 70 miles north of Lisbon, and you can go by car or train.. If you plan to go by train, trains leave from Oriente station in Lisbon and take about one hour to Caxarias, the nearest station From there, shuttle buses connect to Fatima.

There are many hotels ranging from basic accommodations to luxury. The Feast Day (May 13) naturally tends to be crowded so you need to plan well in advance.

GPS coordinates: 39° 37′ 50.1168” N, 8° 40′ 22.8684” W

Tel:    (+351) 249 – 539 600                Fax:    (+351) 249 – 539 605

e-mail:       sepe@fatima.pt 

Click here for the official website of the Fatima Shrine in Portugal.

When visiting Fatima you might also want to consider a visit to the Eucharistic Miracle in Santarem, about 30 miles from Fatima.  It is included in many tours, but can be an easy day trip from Fatima.

Live in the U.S. or Canada but can’t make it to Portugal? If you live in the U.S.A., consider visiting the National Fatima Shrine in New York State.

Find restaurants, hotels and B&B’s in Fatima, compare prices, and read what other travelers have to say at TripAdvisor

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