Do you know the miracle of Fatima? Don’t worry, in this article we’ll explain everything!
“I want to tell you to make a chapel here in my honour, that I am the Lady of the Rosary”
THE MIRACLE OF FATIMA
The city of Fatima is the biggest religious reference in Portugal. The place is visited every year by many thousands of Portuguese pilgrims and also from other nationalities. The Sanctuary of Fatima, located in the municipality of Ourém and in the parish of Ourém, was built in a place until then totally unknown.
The year 1917 changed forever the importance of the parish of Fátima. On that date, three poor children and shepherdesses (Jacinta and her two cousins) witnessed the apparition of our Lady of the Rosary.
WHERE IS FATIMA?
THE MIRACLE OF THE SUN
Between 30 and 70 thousand people! This was the number of people who on 13 October 1917, coming from all over the country and different countries, witnessed in the Cova da Iria the “Miracle of the Sun”. Only 13 years later, in 1930, the miracle of Fatima was accepted by the Catholic Church.
On May 13th, 1917, our Lady of the Rosary told the three little shepherds that five months later (on October 13th), a miracle would take place which would make all those present believe in the apparitions reported by Jacinta and her two cousins (Lucia and Francisco).
On October 13th, 1917, torrential rain fell upon the enormous human mass which was anxiously awaiting the promised miracle. The accounts of the witnesses mention an abrupt halt to the rain, rapid dissipation of the clouds, and the appearance of the sun like an “opaque disc” spinning in the sky.
What happened at fatima?
“Don’t be afraid, I won’t hurt you”
In 1917, the three little shepherds witnessed six apparitions of our Lady of the Rosary in a small village called Cova da Iria. The Cova da Iria is located in the center of the country, near Fatima.
Three poor children born in a remote location in Portugal and who gathered all the odds to live an anonymous life.
But the story was written in a different way and the three little shepherds became a reference for the history of Catholicism not only in Portugal, but also for the rest of the world.
“Pray the rosary every day to achieve world peace and the end of the war”
The three little shepherds were called Lucia (10 years old) and their cousins, Jacinta (7 years old) and Francisco (9 years old). The “lady more brilliant than the sun” asked the little shepherds for prayers and sacrifices as redemption for offenses against God.
During the six apparitions, Lucia was able to see, hear, and speak with our Lady. Jacinta would have been able to see and hear. Francisco would have seen it, but the accounts would have been passed on to Jacinta and Lucia.
BIOGRAPHY OF THE 3 LITTLE SHEPHERDS
“Jacinta and Francisco will take them soon. But you [Lucia] will stay a little longer” (13th June 1917).
JACINTA AND FRANCISCO
There are few biographical records concerning Francisco and Jacinta. The information and the memories that remain were evoked by his cousin, Lucia. They were both born in Aljustrel (two years apart) and died shortly after the apparitions as a consequence of the Spanish flu which struck the world in 1918.
The mortal remains of Francis (1908 – 1918) are found in the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima. Jacinta (1910 – 1920) died in Lisbon, far from her family but “comforted by the certainty of going to heaven” (Lucia). Her mortal remains are also found in the aforementioned Basilica, next to her brother.
She was born in Aljustrel in 1907. After the last apparition, Lucia retires to the asylum in Vilar, Oporto, where she begins her world retreat. In 1946 she moved to the cloister of Carmelo de Santa Teresa in Coimbra, where she remained until the date of her death (2005).
13th of May
“Pray hard and make sacrifices for sinners”
Every year, on May 13th, the apparition of Our Lady of Fatima is celebrated all over the world in the hills of the Cova da Iria (in 1917). The little shepherds will have seen a lady dressed in white, as bright as the sun, who asked her to return to that place every 13th day for 6 months.
SANCTUARY OF FÁTIMA
The formal name of the Shrine of Fatima is Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima. It is located in the place of Cova da Iria and is a building dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima and the apparitions of 1917. Its construction began in 1919 with the construction of the little chapel of the apparitions.
It is a religious place frequented annually by thousands of faithful and it is a place of pilgrimage of great importance for the Catholic Church. It is also the most important religious destination in the world and has 6 million (!) visitors per year. The entire local economy of the region is today very dependent on this religious tourism which has profoundly transformed the life of the local population.
The Sanctuary has been expanded over time and is also made up of two basilicas that allow for the reception of many thousands of pilgrims in covered areas.
Some say that the interventions that took place were poorly planned and thought out. They were one-off decisions aimed at solving one-off problems and did not follow a long-term plan.
It has a diversified style as a result of different architectural currents. The Sanctuary is composed of:
A PRAYER ENCLOSURE
Ample place where pilgrims say their prayers. Flanked by robust trees. At the top, we find the two Basilicas (Basilica of the Holy Trinity and the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary). This is where the pilgrims gather on 13 May and 13 October each year.
BASILICA OF OUR LADY OF THE ROSARY
Construction 70 meters long and 37 meters wide. Built precisely on the spot where Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco were playing on 13th May 1917. At that moment they would have seen a sudden flash of light which frightened them, and which caused them to gather the sheep together so that they could return home before it began to rain.
In 1928 the first stone of this building was blessed. White limestone building.
BASILICA OF THE HOLY TRINITY
It was in 1973 that the intention to build a new church in the Shrine of Fatima first arose.
Already at that time, the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary was insufficient to house all the believers who gathered there. In 2004, the first stone of this circular building was laid with an additional 120 meters in diameter and a capacity for 8633 people.
HOLY WAY OF VALINHOS
Let us begin by clarifying the expression “via-sacra”. The Way of the Cross is also referred to as “the way to the cross”. The way Jesus walked until he reached the place where he was crucified and where he would die. It was Our Lady who first walked the Way of the Cross as a form of consolation from her motherly heart. At the time of Lent, the Way of the Cross of Valinhos is much sought after by pilgrims who meditate there on Jesus’ journey to his or her Calvary.
Composed by 14 monuments that represent the different stations of Christ’s journey carrying the cross. At the end of the Via Crucis of Valinhos, we find the chapel of St Stephen of Hungarian Calvary, an imposing monument that marks the end of the path.
If you make this way, be sure to pay attention to the various inscriptions that accompany the route. There you can read several messages that our Lady of the Rosary will have told the three little shepherds.
PAULO VI PASTORAL CENTRE
The sanctuary also has spaces of culture and other buildings, namely: administrative area, welcoming pilgrims, medical area, discussion area and congresses.
VIRTUAL JOURNEY TO FÁTIMA AND VALINHOS
PATHS OF FATIMA
The ways of Fatima are, as the name indicates, the different paths that lead pilgrims to the shrine of Fatima.
Many do it by bicycle, many do it on foot and others on their knees. The different routes are identified and have as their objective the safety of the pilgrims and the promotion of the Portuguese cultural and religious heritage. As we have already mentioned, the Sanctuary of Fatima receives 6 million (!) pilgrims annually. Pilgrims visit Fatima throughout the year but a huge human mass meets on 13 May (date of the 1st apparition: 13 May 1917) and 13 October (date of the last apparition).
There are several paths that lead people to Fatima:
- The Tagus Way: it begins in Lisbon.
- Northern Way: it begins in Valença (Northern Portugal)
- The Way of Nazareth: beginning in the village of Nazareth (central zone)
- Carmelite Route (starts in Coimbra)
These are options that combine with other national and international routes (such as the famous Caminos de Santiago and the Mariana routes).
The paths and trails that take pilgrims are more than just access routes to a place. The way is made in intimate contact with nature and reveals itself as a unique opportunity for reflection and spirituality. If you are thinking of walking one of these paths, then be sure to also visit the churches and shrines you will pass through on your way to the Shrine of Fatima.
THE SANCTUARY OF FÁTIMA AND THE POPES
Pope Paul VI
Pope Paul VI was the first to visit Portugal in May 1967 (the date on which the 50th anniversary of the apparitions of the Cova da Iria was celebrated).
The following words became famous in his homily at Mass on 13 May 1967:
“Men, be men. Men, be good, be cordial, open to the consideration of the total good in the world. Men, be magnanimous”.
JOHN PAUL II
John Paul II is also known as the “Pope of Fatima”. On May 13, 1981, John Paul II was the target of an attempt that almost took his life. Miraculously he escaped death and attributed that fact to our Lady of Fatima.
“I owe my life to our Lady of Fatima.”
One year after the assassination attempt, he went on pilgrimage to Fatima and on May 12, 1982 he was in the chapel of the apparitions. In his homily on the 13th he said the following words:
“(…) since the well-known attack in St. Peter’s Square a year ago, when I became aware of it, my thoughts immediately turned to this shrine, to place in the heart of the heavenly Mother my gratitude for having saved me from danger”.
Ten years after the attack, on 13 May 1991, John Paul II returned to Fatima.
But perhaps the greatest recognition of this Pope to Fatima was the beatification of the little shepherds Jacinta and Francisco and the announcement of the publication of the third secret of Fatima. It is also worth mentioning the offer to our Lady of Fatima of the bullet that pierced him in 1981. The bullet was integrated into the precious crown of our Lady of Fatima in 1989.
Benedict XVI visited Portugal from 11 to 14 May 2010. He arrived in Fatima on 12 May and stayed there until 14 May.
The chapel of the apparitions was built by the locals in 1919 and is in the centre of the shrine of Fatima. The construction of the chapel was requested by Our Lady of the Rosary in one of her apparitions to the three little Shepherds. It was in 1921 that Mass was celebrated in the Chapel of the Apparitions for the first time. Five of the six apparitions of the Virgin Mary took place in this chapel. It was dynamited in 1922, later restored and reopened in 1923.
The construction that we can observe today, keeps the simple traces of the original construction. The great holm oak tree where our lady appeared will have been taken, branch by branch, by the faithful. The place of the once holm oak is today occupied by an image of our lady.
POÇO DO ARNEIRO
It was in Lucia’s backyard (by the well), the place where the second apparition of an angel took place (during the summer months of 1916). Here too, Jacinta would have had a vision of the holy priest praying and crying.
The fourth apparition of the Virgin happened between the 8th and 9th stations of the Way of the Cross on August 19, 1917. To mark the apparition is a monument that was offered by Hungarian Catholics.
OTHER MONUMENTS IN FÁTIMA
In Fatima you can also find a block of the Berlin wall. We recall that the wall was started in 1961 and divided the German city into two blocks for 27 years (it was demolished in 1989). The block that we can find near the sanctuary of Fatima weighs more than 2000 kilos, measures 3.6 by 1.2 meters and was an offer from a Portuguese who lives in Germany.