Have you ever heard about the miracle of Fatima? And what about the 3 secrets of Fatima? Well, if not don’t worry, in this article all will be explained!
THE MIRACLE OF FATIMA
The miracle of Fatima took place exactly where the Shrine of Fátima is located today, in Cova da Iria.
“I want to tell you to make a chapel here in my honor, that I am the Lady of the Rosary”
The city of Fatima is the biggest religious reference in Portugal. Every year, the place is visited by many thousands of pilgrims from Portugal and an array of other countries from around the world. The Sanctuary of Fatima, located in the municipality and parish of Ourém, was built in a place, until that point in time, completely unknown to anyone. However, in 1917, the importance of this parish of Fátima, changed for forever. It was in this particular year that the miracle of Fátima occurred. Three poor shepherd children (Lucia and her two cousins:Jacinta and Francisco) witnessed the apparition of Our Lady of the Rosary.
OUR LADY OF FATIMA SHRINE
The shrine is a building dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima and the apparitions of 1917. The formal name of the Shrine of Fatima is ‘Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima Shrine’. Its construction began in 1919 with the building of the little chapel of the apparitions. It is a religious place frequented annually by thousands of faithful and is a pilgrimage site of great importance to 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 depends solely upon religious tourism that has profoundly transformed the lives of the local population. It has a diversified style as a result of different architectural designs.
WHERE IS FATIMA?
As mentioned already, this small Portuguese village practically unknown until the year 1917, today, is one of great Portuguese religious reference and one of the most famous religious destinations in the world. To get to know the Portuguese soul you need to hear some Fado music, but you also need to go to Fátima and to see up close and get an insight into how the Catholic religion is a predominant part of the Portuguese soul as well. Going to Fátima is not just a tourist trip, it is also a historical and sociological reflection experience. A place for believers and non-believers alike. If you are travelling from Lisbon (Portugal), it will take you 1 hour 21 minutes to get to Fátima (127 kilometres). If you are in Porto (Portugal), be prepared for a 1-hour and 45 minute trip (195 kilometres).
MAP OF ATTRACTIONS TO SEE AT THE SHRINE OF FATIMA
In order to help you find your way around Cova da iria, we have prepared a map of the main attractions that you can visit at the Sanctuary of Fátima. We hope it will be useful!
COMPOSITION OF THE SHRINE OF FATIMA
THE PRAYER ENCLOSURE
An ample-sized space where pilgrims are able to say their prayers and which is also flanked by robust trees. You will find the two Basilicas ( the Basilica of the Holy Trinity and the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary). This is where the pilgrims gather on May 13th and October the 13th of each year.
THE BASILICA OF OUR LADY OF THE ROSARY
A building 70 metres long and 37 metres wide. Built precisely on the spot where Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco would have been playing on May the 13th, 1917, the day of the miracle of Fatima. At the time, the shepherds would have seen a sudden flash of light that frightened them and made them gather their sheep so that they could return home before it started raining. In 1928, the first stone of this building was blessed; it is a white building made from limestone.
THE BASILICA OF THE HOLY TRINITY
It was in 1973 that, for the first time, the intention to build a new church in the Shrine of Fátima was first spoken about. Even at that time, the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary was insufficient to accommodate all the believers who gathered there. In 2004, the first stone was laid for this circular building spanning an extra 120 metres in diameter and with a capacity for 8,633 people, in total.
THE WAY OF THE CROSS OF VALINHOS
Let’s start by clarifying the expression “Way of the Cross”. The way of the cross is also called “the way to the cross”. The way that 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 way of consolation from her motherly heart. During Lent, the “Way of the Cross of Valinhos” is very popular among pilgrims who meditate on Jesus’ path to Calvary.
Along the way, there are 14 monuments that represent the different stops of Jesus Christ’s journey when carrying the cross. At the end of the “Way of the Cross in Valinhos”, you will find the Chapel of St.Stephen of the Hungarian Calvary, an imposing monument that marks the end of the way itself. If you take this path, be sure to pay attention to the various inscriptions that feature along the route. There are several messages to be read, of what Our Lady of the Rosary had said to the three little shepherds.
THE PAULO VI PASTORAL CENTRE
The sanctuary also has a range of cultural spaces and other buildings, namely: an administrative area, a reception for pilgrims, a medical area, an area for discussions and congresses.
THE MIRACLE OF THE SUN
Between 30 and 70 thousand people! This was the number of people who on October 13th, 1917, from all over Portugal and many other countries, witnessed the “Miracle of the Sun” in Cova da Iria. Thirteen years later, in 1930, the miracle of Fatima was accepted and recognised by the Catholic Church.
On May the 13th, 1917, Our Lady of the Rosary reportedly told the 3 little shepherds that 5 months later (October 13th) a miracle would occur that would make everyone present believe in the apparitions they reported. It was on this very day (October 13th,1917) torrential rain fell on the enormous mass of people anxiously awaiting the promised miracle. Witness accounts mention an abrupt break in the rain, a swift dissipation of the clouds, and the appearance of the sun as an “opaque disc” swirling in the sky.
THE THREE LITTLE SHEPHERDS
“Don’t be afraid, I won’t hurt you.”
Three poor children born in a remote place, in Portugal, and who had all the chances to live an anonymous life. Yet, history had a different life in store for them; the three little shepherds became a reference for the history of Catholicism not only in Portugal, but also for the rest of the world. In 1917, the three little shepherds reportedly witnessed six apparitions of Our Lady of the Rosary in a small village called Cova da Iria. Cova da Iria is located in a place in the centre of the country, near to Fátima.
“Pray the rosary every day to obtain world peace and an end to war”
The three little shepherds were named Lucia (age 10) and her cousins, Jacinta (age 7) and Francisco (age 9). The “lady more brilliant than the sun” reportedly asked the little shepherds for prayers and sacrifices as redemption for offences 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 her too. Francisco would have seen her also, but the sightings were reported and passed on only by Jacinta and Lucia.
THE 13th OF MAY
“Pray much and make sacrifices for sinners”.
Every year on May the 13th, the apparition of Our Lady of Fátima, in the hills of Cova da Iria (in 1917), is celebrated all over the world. The little shepherds are said to have seen a lady dressed in white, as bright as the sun, who asked them to return to that place every 13th day for 6 months.
PLACES RELATED TO THE MIRACLE OF FATIMA
THE LITTLE CHAPEL OF THE APPARITIONS
The little chapel of the apparitions was built by the locals in 1919 and is located in the centre of the sanctuary of Fátima. 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 a mass was celebrated for the first time in the chapel of the apparitions. Five of the six apparitions of the Virgin Mary took place in this chapel. It was destroyed with dynamite in 1922, and later restored and re-inaugurated in 1923.
The building that we can see today maintains the simple features of the original construction. However, the large holm oak tree where Our Lady appeared was taken away, branch by branch, by the faithful. The place where the holm oak once stood is today occupied by an image of Our Lady.
“POÇO DO ARNEIRO”
This was probably in Lucia’s backyard (near the well), the place where the second apparition of an angel took place (during the summer months of 1916). In the same place, Jacinta would also have had a vision of the Holy Father praying and crying.
The fourth apparition of the Virgin Mary took place between the 8th and 9th stations of the “Stations of the Cross”, on August 19, 1917. To mark the apparition there is a monument that was offered by the Hungarian Catholics.
BIOGRAPHY OF THE LITTLE SHEPHERDS
“Jacinta and Francisco I will take soon. But you [Lucia] will stay here a little longer” (June 13, 1917).”
JACINTA AND FRANCISCO
There are few biographical records concerning Francisco and Jacinta. The information and memories that remain were evoked by their cousin, Lucia. Both were born in Aljustrel (two years apart) and died shortly after the apparitions as a result of the Spanish flu that devastated the world in 1918. The remains of Francisco (1908 – 1918) are in the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary in Fátima. Jacinta (1910 – 1920) died in Lisbon, far from her family but “consoled by the certainty of going to heaven”. Her remains are also in the aforementioned Basilica, next to her brother.
She was born in Aljustrel in 1910. After the last apparition, Lucia retired to the asylum of Vilar, in Porto, where she began her retreat from the world. In 1946, she moved to the cloister of the Carmel of Saint Teresa, in Coimbra, where she remained until the date of her death (2005).
HOUSES WHERE THE LITTLE SHEPHERDS LIVED, ALJUSTREL
It is on Little Shepherds’ street, in the small village of Aljustrel (2 kilometres away from the Sanctuary of Fátima), that you can visit the houses where the three little shepherds were born. The house of Sister Lucia has been transformed into a house-museum that offers a very interesting view of the way people lived at that time, in that village, belonging to a very poor Portugal. It is also possible to visit the house of the brothers Francisco and Jacinta. Every year the village receives thousands of tourists (1,198,731 visitors in the year 2017)! You should know that if leaving from Aljustrel you can walk the “ Way of the Cross” and by doing so you will also go through Valinhos.
THE 3 SECRETS OF FATIMA
What are the 3 secrets of Fatima?
THE FIRST SECRET – “VISION OF HELL”
The three little shepherds are said to have seen “a sea of fire that seemed to be under the earth”. In this sea of flames were plunged souls and demons amid cries of pain and despair. The church interpreted this supernatural vision as metaphorical and related to the death of unrepentant men far from the faith and love of God.
THE SECOND SECRET – WORLD WAR II AND RUSSIA
Once the vision of hell was made known to those who would live unrepentant and far from God, the Virgin revealed the path to follow to keep believers away from the sea of flames of hell. The Virgin is said to have told the little shepherds that if the offenses against God did not stop and Russia did not come closer to God, World War I would be followed by World War II (during the reign of Pius XI).
THE THIRD SECRET OF FATIMA – THE DEATH OF THE BISHOP DRESSED IN WHITE
A vision of a bishop dressed in white (the Holy Father, i.e. the Pope) being killed by soldiers on a mountain top. Pope John Paul II interpreted and related the third secret as himself and the attack he suffered on the exact date, of May 13th ; a bullet pierced his body without causing death. A miracle that the Pope attributes to Our Lady of Fátima. The bullet that struck the Pope is in the sanctuary and was deposited there by John Paul II himself.
VIRTUAL TOUR TO FATIMA AND VALINHOS
The Fátima paths are, as their name indicates, the different ways that lead pilgrims to the Shrine of Fátima. Many go by bike, many go on foot, and others on their knees. The different routes are signposted and have the safety of the pilgrims, and the promotion of the Portuguese cultural and religious heritage as their main objectives. As we have already mentioned, the Sanctuary of Fátima receives 6 million (!) pilgrims annually. Pilgrims visit Fátima all year round, but an enormous human mass gathers on May 13th ( the date of the 1st apparition: May 13th, 1917) and October 13th ( the date of the last apparition). There are several paths that take people to the place where the miracle of Fátima happened, they are as follows: The Tagus Way – begins in Lisbon, The Northern Way – begins in Valença (northern Portugal),The Nazareth Way – begins in the town of Nazareth (central Portugal) and The Carmelite Route – begins in Coimbra.These are options that join with other national and international routes (such as the famous “Caminos de Santiago” and the “Mariana” routes).
The paths and trails that carry pilgrims are more than just access routes to a place. The journey brings you in intimate contact with nature and lends itself as a unique opportunity for reflection and spirituality. If you are thinking of taking one of these paths, then be sure to also visit the churches and shrines you will pass by on your way to the Shrine of Fátima.
PAYING PROMISES AT FATIMA
The payment of promises was not a request of the Virgin Mary to the little shepherds. It was Sister Lucia who, shortly after the
apparitions, decided to go to Fátima on her knees after seeing her mother improve from a health problem that was affecting her. As of then, many people have chosen to leave from all over the world and walk to Fátima. This flow increases greatly as May 13th approaches each year. Once they arrive at the Shrine, many complete the ordeal of “walking” on their knees to the Chapel of the Apparitions.
WHEN TO VISIT THE SANCTUARY OF THE MIRACLE OF FATIMA?
May 13th ( the date of the celebration of the first apparition of the Virgin) and October 13th ( the date of the miracle of the sun), are the perfect days to visit the Sanctuary of Fátima and feel the religious fervor of the believers. On May 13th, there is the fascinating procession of the “Farewell to the Virgin”. On October 13th, the “Salute to Our Lady” takes place in the little chapel of the apparitions as well. Yet, it is without doubt that the town of Fátima (and the sanctuary) can be visited at any time of the year. The climate is reasonably) mild throughout the year.
THE SHRINE OF FATIMA AND THE POPES
POPE PAUL VI
Pope Paul VI was the first to visit Portugal in May 1967 ( the date when the 50th anniversary of the apparitions in Cova da Iria was
Famous were the following words in his homily for the Mass of May 13th, 1967:
“Men, be men. Be good men, be cordial, be 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 Fátima”. On May 13th, 1981, John Paul II was the target of an assassination attempt that almost took his life. He miraculously escaped death and attributed this to Our Lady of Fátima.
“I owe my life to Our Lady of Fátima.”
A year after the attempt, he became a pilgrim to Fátima and on May 12th, 1982 he went to the little chapel of the apparitions. In his homily on the 13th he said the following words: “(…) since the well-known attack took place in St. Peter’s Square a year ago, on becoming aware of it, my thoughts turned immediately to this shrine, to place in the heart of the heavenly Mother this my
gratitude for having saved me from danger.” Ten years after the attempt, on May 13th, 1991, John Paul II returned to
Fátima. But perhaps the greatest recognition of this Pope to Fátima was the beatification of the little shepherds, Jacinta and Francisco, and the announcement of the publication, of the third secret of FÁTIMA. Also noteworthy, was the offering of the bullet that had passed through him to Our Lady of Fátima; in 1989, this bullet was inset and integrated into the precious crown of Our Lady of Fátima.
Benedict XVI also visited Portugal, from May the 11th to May the 14th, 2010. He arrived in Fátima on May the 12th and stayed there until May 14th.
OTHER ATTRACTIONS IN FATIMA
THE HOLM OAK OF THE SANCTUARY OF FÁTIMA
The Virgin Mary appeared to the three little shepherds near a “big holm oak tree”. In the Sanctuary of Fátima many faithful gather around a “Quercus ilex ssp rotundifolia”, a tree that is more than 100 years old and is one of the 453 trees in Portugal that holds the title of tree of “public interest”. This is not the “real” holm oak (it no longer exists) where the virgin appeared, but it is a few metres from the place where the 3 shepherd children saw Our Lady of Fátima.
THE WALL OF BERLIN
In Fátima, you can also find a part of the Berlin Wall. Remember that the wall was started in 1961 and divided the German city into two blocs for 27 years (it was demolished in 1989). The section of the wall that you can find near the sanctuary of Fatima weighs more than 2000 kilos, measures 3.6 metres by 1.2 metres and was a gift from a Portuguese living in Germany.
THE GALLEY OF THE APOSTLES, SAINT PEDRO AND SAINT PAUL
The Galilee of the Apostles is an extensive area, similar to a large corridor of 150 metres long, which is located between the Basilica of the Holy Trinity and the Prayer Enclosure. To get to there you have two options; by using two staircases or two ramps. There you will find a wall covered with tiles by Siza Vieira and two water mirrors that invite introspection.
WHAT TO VISIT NEAR FATIMA?
Fátima itself has a lot to see. So that you can calmly appreciate all its attractions, we suggest you spend a weekend in this town. If you have some time and energy left, there are (at least) two fantastic places to visit not far from Fátima: Tomar and Batalha.
From the Sanctuary of Fátima to the city of Tomar is a distance of 36 kilometres, a distance that can be covered in little more than half an hour. The city of the Templars is one of the most beautiful in Portugal. Rich in history and in its cultural and artistic heritage, the city reaches it peak in the splendorous Convent of Christ (the castle is inside the convent), a masterpiece of the Portuguese Renaissance. However, the sights of Tomar are not just limited to its Convent. If you go there, visit the Ermida da Nossa Senhora da Conceição and the main church.
23 minutes and 24 kilometres separate the Sanctuary of Fátima from the town of Batalha. Contrary to what you might think, Batalha is not limited to the magnificent monastery of Santa Maria da Vitória (a masterpiece of Gothic architecture, of which its construction began in 1386). In he municipality of Batalha there are also remarkable museums to visit, monuments to observe, and nature walks to take.
HOTELS IN FATIMA
With the growth of religious tourism, the number of accommodation options in Fátima has also grown. Our accommodation suggestion is based on an option with a nice price and a very high Google rating.
HOTEL SANTA ISABEL
This hotel with more than 340 reviews on Google and an overall rating of 4.5 stars (out of 5) has an excellent location (a few minutes walk from the main religious sites), impeccable cleanliness, is spacious and has well-equipped rooms. An excellent price-quality ratio as well. Therefore, a great and ideal spot, we believe!
RESTAURANTS IN FATIMA
Just like the accommodation options, there are also many good restaurants in the region. Our choice is the one with the best results in terms the following criteria: price, Google rankings and number of customer comments.
RESTAURANTE O BENFIQUISTA
A cheap restaurant, with more than 1,150 reviews on Google and an overall rating of 4.6 stars. Typically Portuguese food, a fast service, excellent food, friendly staff and open to people from all clubs! Many recommendations for the cod, veal and bacalhau.