Fatima is a place of pilgrimage for many Catholics in commemoration of the appearance of Virgin Mary (Our Lady of Fatima) to three young shepherds in Cova da Iria.
The town of Fatima is located in the municipality of Ourém, at 187 km / 116miles south of Porto and 123 km / 76miles north of Lisbon.
Our Lady of Fatima
In 1917, three young shepherds –Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco- claimed to have seen the Virgin of the Rosary (Our Lady of Fatima), on the spot where now the Basilica stands. The Virgin of the Rosary appeared on the 13th day of six consecutive months, starting on 13 May.
According to Lucia, the Lady confided to the children three secrets, known as “Three Secrets of Fatima”.
When she appeared in July, the Lady promised a miracle for the final apparition on October 13. On that day, “The Miracle of the Sun” took place in front of a crowd believed to be approximately 70,000 in number. The sun appeared to change colors and rotate looking like it would fall from the sky.
Each year on May 13 and October 13 the torchlight processions take place in a pasture called the Cova da Iria (near Fatima).
What happened to the three shepherds?
During the second apparition on June 13, Virgin Mary predicted the death of two of the children, although Lucia didn’t tell anybody about it until 1941. Francisco and Jacinta were declared venerable by Pope John II. Francisco died in 1919 and Jacinta in 1920. Exhumed in 1935 and 1951, Jacinta’s body was found incorrupt while Francisco’s had decomposed. To this day, Jacinta is the youngest non- martyred child ever to be beatified (she died when she was 10, victim of the Great Spanish Flu Epidemic of 1919). Lucia died on February 13, 2005 at age 97 in a convent in Coimbra, Portugal.
The Catholic Church, declared the visions of Fatima as “worthy of belief” although private revelations do not form part of the deposit of faith of the Roman Catholic Church and its members are not bound to believe in any of them.
What to visit
Basilica de Fatima (Cova da Iria) contains the tombs of all young shepherds. The basilica, built on the site where the children saw Virgin Mary, is impressive, having 15 altars dedicated to the rosary, as well as 12,000 pipes organ.
The Chapel of Apparitions is open year round and it was built on the site of the apparitions.
The Hungarian Stations of the Cross are 14 chapels leading uphill to the monument of Christ on the cross. The stations spread on 3 km/ 1.8 miles and represent a challenge for the elderly pilgrims.
When to visit
If you want to visit during the high season –May to October- prepare yourself to face an enormous crowd. If you decide to travel off season, please call ahead to make sure the basilica is open.