In the past years, Sanctuary of Fátima has become one of the top destinations in Portugal. As we covered in our latest article, Fátima is one of the reasons why many people visit Portugal. It’s a religious city where the apparitions of Our Lady took place, more than 100 years ago. Today on that same place is the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátima, the Chapel of Apparitions and the Basilica of the Holy Trinity.
Read more to find out the full secrets of Fátima!
First of all, where is Sanctuary of Fátima?
Sanctuary of Our Lady is located in Fátima, a city in the center of Portugal in the region of Santarém. It’s aproximetly an hour and a half drive from Lisbon and two hour drive from Porto. Fátima is a small and relaxing city with about 13.000 inhabitants and it has a lot of options for hotels and amazing restaurants. The weather here is extremely nice as it is never too hot, since the city is located at 400 meters (1.300 feet) above sea level.
How did Fátima became so popular? Answer: The Apparitions of Our Lady
Fátima became known worldwide after several apparitions of the Virgin Mary between May 13, 1917 and October 13, 1917. About 70.000 people experienced the Miracle of the Century. Nowadays, every year, thousands of pilgrims and tourists come to visit Sanctuary of Fátima and experience the strong spiritual energy from the shrine.
The First Apparition
On May 13, 1917, a time when Europe was in total chaos and the the First World War was taking place, three little shepherds from the nearby village of Aljustrel, Lucia dos Santos, Francisco and Jacinta experienced the apparition of the Virgin Mary. As they were playing at Cova da Iria, a strong wind suddenly blew, shaking the trees around them and the children saw a figure approaching above the olive trees. They described the figure as a beautiful young and bright woman dressed in white with a serious look on her face. The three little shepherds were speechless and only Lúcia dos Santos was able to hear the voice of the figure of the Virgin Mary. Saying that she told them to pray the Rosary every day so that the world could have peace, in reference to the First World War, which would come to an end the following year, in 1918.
The Second Apparition
The three shepherds told about what happened to the people of their village and so exactly one month after the first apparition, Our Lady had appeared once again on June 13, 1917 to 50 or so neighbors. The three little shepherds received a new request from her: to continue to pray the Rosary and to also learn how to read and write. It is also this time that the Our Lady said that Francisco and Jacinta will have a short life. In addition, Our Lady makes it known to Lucia what her mission is: to make Our Lady known to the world and to establish the devotion to Her Immaculate Heart.
The Third Apparition
Ando so, Lucia has fulfilled the request of Our Lady and on July 13 about 5.000 people have joined to experience the third apparition of Our Lady in Cova da Iria. This time, the vision of hell deeply impresses the three children. Our Lady tells them that the war will end, but warns that a new conflict will begin. She then said: “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(…)” She also promised a miracle in October, at which time she shall reveal who she is.
The Fourth Apparition
The number of believers and curious onlookers have increased and on August 13, when the fourth apparition was to take place, 18.000 people gathered in the Cova da Iria. Sadly, on that day the little shepherds were not there because they had been taken to Ourém, a nearby town, to be questioned and they were kept there until the 15th of August. However, on August 19 the fourth apparition of Our Lady took place, but this time in Valinhos, where the little shepherds were alone. The request of the Virgin to the three little shepherds was to build a chapel in Cova da Iria and the sinners to be prayed there. Today, you can take the path of the shepherds, also known as “Via Sacra”, in Valinhos, an unforgettable walk.
The Fifth Apparition
On 13th of September, a crowd of 20.000 people had gathered to witness the fifth apparition of Our Lady. This time the message was “Continue to pray the Rosary to obtain the end of the war. In October, Our Lord will also come, as well as Our Lady of Sorrows and Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and Saint Joseph with the Child Jesus, to bless the world(…) In October, I will perform a miracle for all to believe.”
The Final Apparition – The Miracle Of The Century
On October 13 was the sixth and last apparition of Our Lady. This time 70.000 believers have gathered in Cova da Iria. Our Lady appeared and was about to reveal who she really was and tell her last wishes:
“What do you want of me?”
I want a chapel built here in my honor. I want you to continue saying the Rosary every day.
The war will end soon, and the soldiers will return to their homes.
“Yes. Yes.” “Will you tell me your name?”
I am the Lady of the Rosary.
“I have many petitions from many people. Will you grant them?”
Some I shall grant, and others I must deny. People must amend their lives and ask pardon for their sins.
They must not offend our Lord any more, for He is already too much offended!
“And is that all you have to ask?”
There is nothing more.
On that day, it was raining so much and the skies were all covered in dark clouds until…the Miracle happened. After the speech of Our Lady, the clouds went away all of a sudden, people’s clothes became dry and the Sun started spinning and vibrating. People as much as 25km away from Cova da Iria have said to witness it! Still to this day no one knows exactly what happened, but all we know is that on that same place now stands the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátima and the Chapel of the Apparitions as promised.
Visionaries – the three little shepherds (“os três pastorinhos” in portuguese)
Lúcia was born on March 28 of 1907 in a small village in Aljustrel just liker her cousins Francisco and Jacinta. They were shepherds and often played in Cova da Iria, the place where the apparitions occurred. Lúcia tells in her Memoirs that in 1915 she saw for the very first time a kind of cloud, with a human form. She saw it three times, but it was only the next year, in 1916, that she and her cousins received the manifestations of the Angel of Portugal.
Francisco and Jacinta
Francisco Marto, whose iconography represents him wearing a cap and a short jacket, a shepherd’s crook and a lunch bag, was born on June 11th, 1908. Jacinta Marto, the sister of Francisco, was born on March 11 1920. Both had a short life, as Our Lady told them that she would take them to heaven. The little visionaries died shortly after the Apparitions, Francisco in 1918 and Jacinta in 1920, both victims of the Spanish Flu.
Their houses in Aljustrel (a must visit)
Today, you can visit their houses in Aljustrel, a nearby village of Fátima, where they lived their lives. You can witness some of the pieces of clothes they wore, their bedrooms and their garden. According to data obtained by the services of the Sanctuary, in 2017 alone almost 2million visitors passed through the homes of the shepherds.
Sanctuary of Fátima
After the apparitions, a Sanctuary was built in Cova da Iria, as Our Lady requested. On that same place where she appeared now stands the Chapel of Apparitions.
The Church of the Most Holy Trinity was also inaugurated in 2007 but had been planned since 1973. It stands a few meters away from the Chapel of Apparitions. In 2009 it received the Outstanding Structure Award by the International Association for Bridge and Structural Engineering. IABSE awards the most remarkable, innovative, creative or otherwise stimulating structure completed within the last few years.
Now, the most iconic building and the first thing you seen when visiting the Sanctuary of Fátima is the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary. Standing in the middle, inside you can witness the tombs of the little shepherds.
The 100 year mark of Fátima
100 years later, after the apparition, 2017 was a big year for Fátima. To commemorate, the Pope Francis visited the Sanctuary of our Lady of Fátima on May 12th and 13th, the dates of the first apparitions. Thousands, maybe even millions of believers were present, awaiting for the arrival of Pope. Pope Francis was the fourth Pope to come to Portugal after Blessed Paul, John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Here’s a photo of the Candlelight Procession at midnight of May 13th:
Fátima is a land of the Miracle. Millions of believers visit the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátima each year and share their happiness here. This is one of the most unique places on Planet Earth with an astonishing story attached to it. With so many places to visit and to learn the history of the three shepherds, you definitely should not miss out on visiting Fátima.
Tours to Fátima
So you’ve read the whole article about Fátima and now you can’t wait to visit! Luckily, as a Travel Company Mundo do Flamingo that organizes group tours, we offer you the following options: