Discovering the Fatima Shrine in Portugal
Fatima Shrine has, every year, about 5 million visitors. Pilgrims and curious people make this, one of the largest Catholic pilgrimage centers in the world. The Shrine, built on the site of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima to the three children, is in the center of Portugal. Located in Fatima, the Fatima Shrine consists in several buildings, which are:
- Chapel of the Apparitions – is the heart of the Fatima Shrine. In the place where Our Lady of Fatima would have appeared to the kids, was built this chapel. The story of the apparitions tells, Our Lady of Fatima had asked in his last appearance, that a chapel should be built in that place.
- Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary – In it are buried the three children – Francisco, Jacinta and Sister Lucia. 14 side altars, represents the mysteries of the Rosary, and the 15th. Mystery is represented in the vault of the chancel, where it is seen in stone the Holy Trinity crowning the Blessed Virgin. Ahead of this basilica was built an altar where the masses with more pilgrims are usually celebrated.
- Basilica of the Holy Trinity – Dedicated to the Holy Trinity, the inauguration of this area happened in 2007. The construction was necessary because the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary had no capacity for more pilgrims.
In addition, other points worth visiting in the Fatima Shrine are the houses of shepherds, in Aljustrel village, a piece of the Berlin Wall located near the chapel (symbol to the end of Communism, one of the Fatima secrets) and the Via Sacra – one of the most popular routes of Fatima, leading the pilgrims by 14 chapels representing the different stations of the Passion of Christ.
In the Fatima Shrine’s website there are a more detailed description of all symbolisms in this place.
The recommended hours for visits to the Fatima Shrine depends on how each person wants to explore the site. If the intent is only to get know the location, visit the Chapel, the site of the apparitions and the main basilicas, 1 to 2 hours is enough. However, if you intend to explore more deeply the important points and experience some the meaning of this place (especially religious people), one day would be recommended to do so.
Photo by Aracuano – license CC BY SA 3.0
On 13th May of each year, takes place in the Fatima Shrine the celebration which marks the first appearance of the “Lady of the Rosary.” On that date, the place fills with pilgrims. Over the next day 13 of every month, from May to October, the site also receives several visits because of the other apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima.
History of the apparitions – Fatima Shrine
The first apparition of Our Lady of Fatima took place in 1917 to three shepherd children, Lucia dos Santos – 10 years – and his two cousins, Francisco and Jacinta Marto – 9 and 7 years. On May, 13th of that year, the three children played in a spot, after praying the rosary, when they saw a strong white light, followed by the appearance of a lady with a rosary in hand. It would have appeared in what is now the Chapel of the Apparitions and have invited them to come back to that same place every month until October, always on the 13th, at the same time.
The children returned each month, until October 13th, 1917, about 70,000 people gathered in Fatima and could witness a solar phenomenon, shortly after the appearance for the three children. In this episode, the lady identified as the “Lady of the Rosary”, urged that a chapel should be built in that place, in her honor.
Lucia dos Santos later became a nun of the Order of Discalced Carmelites, and described a few more episodes in which witnessed the appearance of Our Lady of Fatima.
Other places to visit near Fatima Shrine are: Óbidos, Nazaré, Batalha Monastery, Alcobaça Monastery and Mira de Aire Caves.