The beautiful sanctuary of Fátima constitutes the most important place of pilgrimage. It is one of the most important locales of the Marian cult that exists in the world.
The location is in a relatively poor area from an agricultural point of view. The shepherding is traditionally an indispensable complement of the family economy. An addition to the low income of the family and adjusted in proportion by the practice of agriculture.
Apparition of Maria
The Marian cult started precisely in this area, which is ‘desolate and dry’, as a result of what was the first apparition of Maria. She appeared in the image of the Lady of the Rosary to three children that were pasturing. This fact happened on the 13th of May of the year 1917, in a place in the civil parish of Fatima, designated Cova Da Iria. The lady appeared at the top of the holm oak. The children that had the vision were 10, 9 and 7 years old at the time.
In 1919, in the place of the apparitions, they built a little chapel. This later became a bigger temple. The consecration of Fatima as a place of the Maria cult starts in 1928, with the beginning of the construction of a monumental basilica. A project of the authorship of the Dutch architect Gerardo van Krieken.
After his death in 1933, the project fell under the direction of a Portuguese architect, Joao Antunes. The consecration of the temple took place 25 years later, in 1953.
The basilica is an imposing edifice that measures 69 meters in length by 30 meters in width. The central tower is 64 meters high. The statue of the Lady of Fatima, that figures in the frontispiece of the basilica, is by the American Thomas McGlynn. It measures 4,5 meters in height. The official placement was in 1958.
One of the most important events in Fátima is the Candle Procession. On the evening of May 12th, thousands of candles held by the faithful filling the grand Shrine plaza lend a magic atmosphere of communion and religious devotion to this place. It is as important as the Farewell Procession on the 13th.
But every month, especially on the 12th and 13th, thousands of pilgrims come to Fátima guided by their faith. They set out from different parts of the country. Many of them making the journey on foot, following rural lanes and tracks. In order to facilitate this movement, a set of four Fátima Ways– the Tagus Way, the Northern Way, the Nazaré Way, and the Coastal Way – are available with signposts. You can follow them easily using the markers on the ground, even by those with little knowledge of the region.
Not even unbelievers remain indifferent when confronted by the Sanctuary’s grandiosity, spirituality
In May 2017, during the centenary of the apparitions, the religious celebrations were attended by His Holiness Pope Francisco.
When you visit Fátima, you can also visit a little bit of the region. Especially Leiria, Nazare and the monasteries of Batalha and Alcobaca are worth a visit.