Fatima – the spiritual capital of Portugal
Portugal is visited every year by travelers from all over the world. However, it is not only the era of great geographical discoveries and the history of seafaring that attracts tourists. For Catholics, the country is home to amazing Christian miracles. We are talking about the events that took place in a small Portuguese city called Fatima.
The city of Fatima Portugal is located in a hilly area, 126 kilometers from Lisbon. It was founded by Arabs and for a long time was called Orion. However the city has since reverted to its original name, which was given to it in the IX-X centuries – Fatima. At present its population is only about 12 thousand people.
It was here in 1917 that the Virgin Mary’s apparition to ordinary Portuguese children was acknowledged by the Catholic Church as a true miracle. Since then, thousands of pilgrims have flocked to the town every year on the 13th of May, the day of the first apparition of the Virgin Mary. Fatima is recognized as the spiritual capital of the country and every faithful person in Portugal yearns to visit this wonderful city at least once.
How to get there?
- By Bus
There are daily buses to the city of Fatima from Lisbon. Departure from Oriente station. The schedule varies depending on the season. On peak days, buses leave every hour, and when there are few tourists, there are three or four trips a day. The trip takes about an hour and a half. Find bargain tickets in the form below.
The ticket costs 12 euros, and discounts are given to privileged citizens. The ticket can be purchased on the official website of the carrier Rede Expressos or on site at the ticket office.
Another option is to rent a car. This is a more comfortable and faster way to get to the city from the capital. You need to take the A1 highway, there will be a lot of signs along the way, so it is impossible to get lost. The distance from Lisbon to Fatima is 126 kilometers.
History of the city
Just over a hundred years ago almost no one knew about a town called Fatima. It was an ordinary provincial town in Portugal. The history and fate of the place was changed by an event that happened in May 1917. Since then, Fatima has become one of the largest centers of Catholicism.
On May 13, three Portuguese children, Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta, saw the Virgin on a cloud, wearing white luminous robes. She spoke to them, urging them all to purify their souls and repent of their sins. Subsequently, the Virgin Mary came to the children five more times, the last visit taking place on October 13 of that year.
At the same time there was an unusual phenomenon, which the people called the “dance of the sun”, it could be observed from the city and its surroundings. More than 75 thousand people could see the apparition of the Blessed Virgin, who with a wave of her hands stopped the rain and dispersed the clouds. People cried and knelt down, but the image disappeared almost immediately. The Catholic Church conducted its own investigation and the events that took place in the vicinity of the city were recognized as a Christian miracle.
Many pilgrims gather in front of the Basilica on May 13
The information Our Lady gave to the children was later written down by the only surviving girl, Lucia. She took the monastic vows and became a nun. The other two died two years later of pneumonia. These writings are called “The Secrets of Fatima,” and are now preserved in the Vatican. Two passages were declassified in 1942, they talk about the first two world wars and mention Russia.
At the beginning of the XX century began the construction of the basilica, which is now a place of attraction for the faithful from all over the world. It holds the relics of three eyewitnesses to whom the Virgin Mary came – Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta. In size, the Basilica can rival the famous St. Peter’s Cathedral. However, on May 13 every year the square in front of it is completely filled with people.
Significance for Christians
The attention of the faithful is drawn to the three parts of the prediction that were handed down to the children by Our Lady.
When the first apparition occurred, Our Lady showed the children the gates of Hell. She asked people to repent so that their souls could be saved. If nothing changes, there will be a terrible war. Then Our Lady said that she would take the two children and they did die two years later. Lucia lived a long life and died before she was a hundred years old. This happened in 2005. All of Portugal was in mourning.
The second vision said that communism would appear and there would be great bloodshed. Russia needed to return to the bosom of the church to avoid trouble, war, and famine. There was also talk of a northern lights, predicted to happen in 1938. It was the northern lights over Western Europe in an unusual bloody color.
The third part was kept secret for a long time and was not made public until 2000, for this reason there was a lot of hypothesis and speculation around it. It turned out to be about the attempted assassination of the Pope. It did happen in 1981, Pope John Paul II managed to survive.
Lucia has kept a diary of her own, recording the messages of Our Lady since she was 18 years old, and these have become known as the “Secrets of Fatima”. All the records are now kept in the Vatican.
After the apparition of Our Lady to children, which was officially confirmed by the Catholic Church, Fatima changed from a provincial town into a center of pilgrimage. Over time, the town developed an infrastructure that allowed it to host many visitors every year. Religious and other structures were erected and built that attracted tourists. Attractions in Fatima include both religious and natural sites.
Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima
This is an entire architectural ensemble built on the site of the apparition of the Virgin Mary to children. The complex includes a basilica, a chapel and a temple.
Basilica of Our Lady of Fatima Rosary
The main part of the complex is the Basilica of Our Lady of Fatima Rosary. It was built in 1928 in a neo-Baroque style. There is a large square in front of the Basilica which is used for religious services. This is where all the faithful gather on May 13. According to some estimates, at this time the city is visited by more than 4 million people. The stained-glass windows of the basilica depict the apparition of the Virgin Mary to children. Inside is an old organ for divine services. At the chapel of the complex you can see a column with a beautifully made statue of the Virgin Mary.
Church of the Holy Trinity
Interior of the church, photo By Palickap – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=64755324
It is the largest church in Portugal, the largest Catholic church that can accommodate up to 9,000 people at a time. The church was built in a modern style – a low building, which from the outside looks more like a gallery, its construction was completed in 2007. The money to build the temple was collected from the donations of the parishioners.
Sculptures of children
Sculptures of children to whom the Virgin Mary appeared, photo By Vitor Oliveira from Torres Vedras, PORTUGAL – Monumento aos Pastorinhos – Fátima – Portugal, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=78074960
These are sculptures of the three children to whom the Virgin Mary appeared. One of the most famous landmarks of the city. It is said that it was on this spot that the children saw the Virgin in the clouds, who spoke to them and warned them against wars and troubles.
Ourem Dinosaur Footprints Natural Monument
This natural monument was created in 1996 in the huge Serra di Aire and Candeirush Park. Two years earlier, an archaeologist from the local speleological society had found dinosaur footprints in the Chiken Quarry. As a result, it was decided to create a natural monument at the site.
Park with dinosaur footprints, photo By Alexey Komarov – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=75660962
Five years after the opening of the monument, the Jurassic Garden appeared here where you can be transported to the era of the dinosaurs. There is modern animation on large screens and broadcast films about evolution.
In the park you can see traces of sauropods, herbivorous dinosaurs that lived here millions of years ago. Their bodies might have been about 30 meters long and weighed about 70 tons. They had long necks and small heads.
Ethnographic House Museum Aljustrel
House Museum in Fatima, photo By János Korom Dr. from Wien, Austria – Fatima 0657, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=56759895
On the outskirts of Fatima is a village called Aljustrel. In this village were born and lived the children to whom the Virgin Mary appeared in 1917. Today, the Casa Museu de Aljustrel is an ethnographic museum. Its purpose is to show the life and way of life of the inhabitants of the village of that time. You can learn a lot about traditional crafts, how boots were woven and sewn, see how masons and blacksmiths worked. There are paintings depicting scenes of life at the beginning of the last century. You can see authentic furniture, dishes and other everyday items of everyday life of a simple villager.
Chapel of the Apparition of the Virgin Mary
Located in the central part of the sanctuary. It was built in 1919 thanks to donations from parishioners. The first divine service was held there two years after its construction.
Museum of Wax Figures
The museum has been open since 2007 and has a collection of over two hundred figures. They were created in a workshop in London that also makes exhibits for Madame Tussauds. The figures are arranged into 33 scenes, guiding visitors sequentially through the events that are described in the Gospels, from the birth to the execution and resurrection of Jesus. The museum was designed by architect and entrepreneur Carlos Reix. Its interior area is more than 4,000 square meters.
This is a house-museum dedicated to Lucia, one of the three children to whom the Virgin Mary appeared. The other two children died two years after this event of pneumonia, while Lucia lived to a ripe old age and wrote about what Our Lady said to them. The museum is interesting in terms of ethnography.
Statue of John Paul II
Statue of John Paul II
Near the Basilica of the Holy Trinity is a statue of John Paul II, whom the Virgin Mary saved from death by predicting it to her children. In 1981 there was an attempt on his life, but the pope miraculously survived, the bullet having passed on a tangent.
What to do?
If you come to the city for more than a day you can not only visit the holy places, but also do some shopping, try the local specialties in restaurants or take a walk around the city at night.
The easiest and best option is to take a tour of Portugal’s main shrines. You will be introduced not only to the city of Fatima and its temples, but also to the monasteries of Batalha and Alcobaça. You will also see the fortress of Obidos and the fishing village of Nazare with beautiful views of the Atlantic Ocean.
Most of the faithful gather here on May 13, the day the Virgin Mary appeared to the children. On this day, a statue of the Virgin Mary is brought to the square and an open-air worship service is performed.
The pilgrims walk on their knees through the main square of the town to the Shrine of the Apparition. In this way they are purified of their sins. They come here to ask for healing and health. It is believed that healing power have figures of body parts made of wax, which are sold near the church. One must buy the part of the body that needs to be healed. Then they are thrown into a special furnace and the melted wax takes the disease with it.
If you are planning to go shopping or buy souvenirs, the Centro Comercial Fatima is worth a visit. Things in stores near religious sites are much more expensive. To save money, you can stop by Centro. Here you can find and buy everything from things of folk economy to statues of saints. In addition, in this place you can try the local cuisine.
There are several good clubs and bars in Fatima if you want to have a good time, among them are Bar I Love beer, Lerias Bar and Spase Club.
In addition, there are very cozy restaurants in town that offer local food. The medieval style Lanterna do Fado restaurant offers not only traditional dishes, but also has a good selection of wines. Manhas and Taberna do Bacalhau are great value for money. After a pleasant evening in the restaurant, you can take a stroll through the city’s night streets.
Where to live?
The infrastructure of the city is developing as the flow of tourists increases, today there is a good choice of hotels in this city. You can mention a few good options.
- Ribeiro Hotel is clean and comfortable and has a good price/quality ratio.
- Hotel Santo Antonio De Fatima is a good value for money hotel in a classicist style. Excellent service.
- Hotel Aleluia – offer a wide range of services, including excursions. There is a souvenir shop.
It should be noted that if you are going to visit Fatima in May or October, make sure you book the hotel in advance.
Fatima is a city with a powerful energy, as they say – the place of prayer. Faithful people who have once visited the city tend to come here again. Anyone who has seen the thousands of people who gather to pray in the square must have experienced an indescribable feeling, it makes you believe in miracles, even those who are far from religion.
Fatima – the center of Christian pilgrimage in Portugal
The city of Fatima (Portugal), was built by the Arabs. They also gave it its name, which due to some historical events has changed several times. But as a result the city bears the same name as it did when it was founded (IX-Xth centuries) – Fatima.
A small town of Fatima with a population of 12 thousand people, located near the capitals of the country (130 km). It is part of the Santarén District of the Central Region of Portugal.
The town became famous and visited after the miraculous appearance of the Virgin Mary to three children. This event is recognized by the Church as a true miracle. Every year on May 13 hundreds of thousands of Catholics come to Fatima because the city is recognized as the spiritual center of Portugal.
The huge square can accommodate all those who want to worship Our Lady. It’s also a place for religious events and the Basilica is home to a number of religious orders.
History of the city
The settlement of Fatima became famous because of a miraculous apparition of Our Lady. The saint came to the three children – Lucia, her cousin Francisco and her cousin Jacinta – six times between May 13 and October 13, 1917. In the religious world, these events were listed as the most significant.
The children said it was as if a woman came to them in white robes and always appeared above the oak tree. A light came from her that eclipsed the radiance of the sun. Each time, Our Lady called for repentance of sins and prayer. Rumors quickly spread in the spiritual world, but adults did not believe the children’s stories.
In the fall of 1917, more than 75,000 people gathered in Fatima, Portugal, to see the miracle. The Virgin Mary revealed the miracle to the crowd – with a simple wave of her hands, she stopped the rain and dispersed the clouds. The crowd bowed their knees, but the Virgin disappeared. This event has been preserved in history under the name “Dance of the Sun”. Very soon the small town gained the status of the most important shrine of Catholicism.
An interesting fact! The apparition of Our Lady of Fatima was officially recorded and approved by the Church. At the beginning of the last century began the construction of the Basilica which later became a place of pilgrimage. Here are the relics of all three eyewitnesses to whom the Virgin Mary appeared – Lucia, her cousin and cousin – Jacinta and Francisco.
A side note. Another major pilgrimage center in Portugal is Braga. See an overview of the city with photos here, a detailed description of its attractions on this page.
The Three Revelations of Fatima
It is the three revelations or predictions of the Mother of God that attract the attention of pilgrims. Each part described terrible visions from the future.
In 1948, at the request of the Pope, Lucia recorded all three omens. The essence of the first two revelations is well known, but the meaning of the last has not yet been authentically deciphered.
During the first apparition, the Saint showed the children the gates of hell. At the same time, she asked people to pray to save their souls, otherwise there would be a terrible war.
Also, the Virgin Mary warned that she would take two children. Very soon, in 1919, Lucia’s cousin and cousin died. Seventy years later, the church recognized them as reverends and the Pope pronounced them blessed. Their sister Lucia became a nun and lived to be 98. She passed away in early 2005, on the occasion of which Portugal declared mourning and suspended the elections.
During her second apparition, Madonna spoke about the emergence of communism and the terrible bloodshed. She said that Russia needs to return to church and faith, only so the world will remain calm, if not, there will be troubles and wars, entire nations will disappear.
In the foreshadowing, the Mother of God spoke of an unusual glow in the sky. On a night at the end of January 1938, a unique northern lights of blood-red color were recorded in different parts of Western Europe. Lucia recognized the unknown light Our Lady had predicted.
The third omen of the Virgin Mary has been classified for many years, with many rumors, speculations, and riddles associated with it. The secret was made public in 2000 at Lucia’s personal request. As it turned out, the omen concerned an assassination attempt on the Pope. The Mother of God foretold the attempted assassination of the Pope, but the bishop is destined to survive as he must save the world from communism.
Interesting fact! As described by eyewitnesses, the bursting bullet fired at Pope John Paul II unexpectedly changed its trajectory and did not injure any vital organs. The bishop subsequently donated the bullet to the shrine in Fatima. Today it is kept in the crown of the Virgin Mary.
From the age of 18, Lucia wrote a diary about the apparitions of Our Lady in Fatima, Portugal. The entries are known as the Message of Fatima. In them the nun spoke in detail about the prediction of the most terrible wars – World Wars I and II, about the persecution of the Jewish people. The records were sent to the Vatican, however, they were classified there, but in 1981 they were published.
What to see in Fatima
Since the apparitions of the Virgin Mary in the Portuguese city of Fatima were officially confirmed by the Church, pilgrims from all over the world flock here every year.
At the beginning of the last century, the Basilica was built to hold less than one thousand people. This was not enough, so the city of Fatima decided to build a plaza that could accommodate 200,000 people. Later, the Temple of the Apparition was built in front of the Basilica. Monuments to the priests were erected near it.
Every year the city of Fatima receives pilgrims and believers who come from all over the world. At this time, a statue of the Virgin Mary is placed outside, on the altar. The service continues throughout the night.
If you come to the religious center, be sure to visit the attractions of Fatima in Portugal.
This is an amazing architectural complex built in the town of Fatima, Portugal, on the site of the Virgin Mary.
The complex consists of:
- a chapel;
- A temple decorated with colonnades;
Undoubtedly, the Basilica is the main part of the complex. It was built in 1928 and is decorated in the Neo-Baroque style. It is in front of it there is a square where services and sermons are held. To make the priest’s speech audible to everyone, speakers were installed along the perimeter of the square.
It took 16 years to build the shrine, and in 1944 it was completed. After another 9 years it was consecrated. It was on the site of the temple that the Madonna appeared to the children on the 13th of each month. Since then, every year on the 13th in May and October, tourists and pilgrims come here. In total, more than 4 million people come to the city every year. In front of the building there is a square that is twice the size of St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican. At the same time it can easily accommodate 200 thousand people.
The windows of the Basilica are decorated with stained glass windows that depict a miraculous apparition of the Madonna. In the middle of the last century, an ancient organ was installed in the building of the Basilica.
The chapel of the church bears the name Apparition of Virgin Mary. It is decorated with a marble column on which the statue of the Virgin Mary is placed.
On the territory of the sanctuary there are many chapels, in the central part, where the miraculous apparition took place, there is a chapel of the Apparition of the Virgin Mary. Not far from the chapel there is a pillar of marble. The chapel is small, built in the spring of 1919 by the efforts of local residents. The first service was held in 1921, but the chapel was demolished a year later and rebuilt a year later.
It is one of the largest Catholic churches – for 9,000 people. It is a relatively new landmark, its construction was completed in 2007.
The building has an atypical form for a church – it is low, without domes, and looks more like a gallery or exhibition center.
The consecration of the Church of the Holy Trinity was timed to coincide with the 90th anniversary of the miraculous apparition of the Mother of God.
The construction work was supervised by an architect of Greek origin. The funds for the construction were donated by parishioners and pilgrims. The interior and the facade are decorated in the Byzantine style; besides the interior is decorated with paintings of famous masters. The mosaics made by hand from tiles are perfectly preserved to this day. There are 13 doors to enter the Basilica; this number symbolizes the 13 people who were present at the Last Supper. Famous biblical quotations translated into 23 languages are painted on the walls.
What to do during the pilgrimage
Pilgrims who come to Fatima to repent of their sins walk through the entire vast square, kneeling down. They follow from the Basilica of the Virgin Mary to the new temple. The sight is truly mesmerizing as thousands of worshippers humbly crawl across the square on their knees. Many wrap a cloth around their knees as they have to walk on the cement stones. Older people come here and are helped by younger people holding hands.
Most often people come here to ask for health and healing. This can be done in the following ways. Near the temple they sell wax products that imitate body parts. It is necessary to buy a part of the body that needs healing and throw it into the melting furnace, which is located near the temple.
Tip! After visiting the shrine, be sure to visit the Wax Museum. There are exhibits that tell about the history of the shrine.
The cost of an adult ticket is 6 euros, and a children’s ticket is 3.5 euros. You can also take a walk through the olive grove, where you can perfectly relax. To get to the grove can be as follows – from the temple, follow to the center of the square, where the statue of the Virgin Mary, from it you need to turn left. Adjacent to the square is the main street of the town, named after Lucia’s cousin Francisco. This street has stores with religious products, souvenir shops, museums, and hotels.
How to get to Fatima
Buses run from the Portuguese capital to Fatima and take only 1.5 hours.
- The departure point is Oriente station, from platforms 46-49.
- Buses go to Fatima several times a day – depending on the season there can be 3 to 10 buses. In total, there are 10 flights per day operated by Rede Expressos.
- The ticket price is 12.2 euros, and there are discounts for children and seniors. Travel document can be purchased on the company’s website (www.rede-expressos.pt) or directly at the station at the ticket office.
Another option is to buy a sightseeing tour of the Golden Ring of Portugal. In addition to Fatima, tourists visit the monasteries of Alcobaça and Batalha, the fishing village of Nazare with huge waves and a small fortress town Obidos. The cost of such a tour will cost at least 75 euros. For other tours in Lisbon and beyond, read here (guide descriptions and programs with prices).
It is hard to imagine that ninety years ago no one knew about the city of Fatima (Portugal), and the settlement did not stand out on the map of the country. Large-scale changes occurred in May 1917, since then the history of the town has changed. Today it is a world famous religious center of Catholicism.
All prices on the page are for April 2020.
As the main square of Fatima looks in the days of the pilgrimage, what happens there – watch the video.
Author: Julia Matyukhina
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Wonderful country, unique, wonderful people. I visited it with my daughter in 2013 and I’m very impressed!