Fatima, the world’s altar

Fatima, the world’s altar Place: Fátima Photo: João Paulo The Sanctuary of Fátima, a journey to the altar of the world.

The Sanctuary of Fátima is a symbol of the Virgin Mary and one of the world’s most important religious sites. A major tourist attraction for centuries, pilgrims from all over the world flock here every year, especially between May and October.

It was between May and October 1917, when three shepherd children, Jacinta, Francisco and Lúcia – witnessed apparitions of Our lady of the Rosary, (the Virgin Mary), at the site of the sanctuary.

Initially regarded with suspicion by the Church, but greatly cherished by the people, the phenomenon was only officially recognised in 1930 by the Bishop of Leiria.

On the 13th May 2000 the Vatican beatified Jacinta and Francisco, because it is said they could miraculously cure illness after their visions. The fame of the Sanctuary of Fátima has spread throughout the world, especially during the papacy of John Paul II, who was a devout worshipper of Our Lady of Fátima.

As well as the famous Sanctuary, you can also visit Fátima Parish Church, the small Chapel of the Holy Way and the Calvary. At Loca do Anjo in Valinhos, you can visit the shepherd children’s houses and their local water well. Trips to the Museum of Sacred Art and Ethnology, the Wax Museum, and the Casa-Museu de Aljustrel, as well as the Museu Fátima 1917 Aparições, and the Animated Crib and Village of Bethlehem – will all shed light on the history of Fátima too, and leave a lasting impression of this mystical place.

What the pilgrims should see in Fatima

The very heart of the Sanctuary. It was the first edifice constructed in the Cova da Iria, at the place of Our Lady´s Apparitions. The exact spot is marked by a marble pillar on which the Statue of Our Lady is placed. Here converge the four million pilgrims who visit the Sanctuary each year.

Begun in 1928 and consecrated on 7 October 1953, its 15 altars are dedicated to the 15 mysteries of the Rosary. The painting above the high altar depicts the Message of Our Lady to the little shepherds, prepared by the Angel of Portugal, through their encounter with Christ in the Eucharist. The Bishop of the diocese is shown kneeling on the left side, and the figures of Pope Pius XII (who consecrated the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in 1942, and whose Legate crowned the Statue of Our Lady in 1946), of Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI. Scenes of the apparitions are represented in stained glass, as well as invocations from the Litany of Our Lady. In the four corners of the Basilica interior are placed the statues of the great apostles of the Rosary and of devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary: St. Anthony Claret, St. Dominic of Gusman, St. John Eudes and St. Stephen, King of Hungary. The tombs of Francisco and Jacinta are in the Basilica, and, in the chancel, are the mortal remains of D. José Alves Correia da Silva, first Bishop of Leiria after its restoration in 1920. The monumental organ, mounted in 1952, has about 12 thousand pipes.

Situated at the end of the colonnade, on the eastern side, this chapel for perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament exposed, is a place of silent prayer and adoration.

Under which the little shepherds and the early pilgrims awaited Our Lady´s coming, and prayed the Rosary.

Which stands in the center of the square, over a spring found there, its waters being the instrument of many graces.

Situated behind the Chapel of Apparitions, it is destined to receive the Sick during the great pilgrimages, and also for retreats and accommodation for pilgrims in general, to the number of 300.

Abuilding on the right side of the esplanade, in the House of Our Lady of Carmel.

At the entrance of the Sanctuary, on the south side of the Rectory, one may visit a monument of the Berlin Wall´s, consisting of a concrete segment that was part of it. (The Walls construction started during the night between the 12th. and 13th. of August, 1961 and its demolition began the 9th. of November, 1989) This segment was offered by means of Virgilio Casimiro Ferreira, a Portuguese emigrant to Germany and is here placed as a grateful memorial of God´s intervention for the fall of Communism as promised at Fatima. The segment weighs 2,600 kilos (5,732 lbs.) and measures 3.60 meters (11 ft. 9 in.) high by 1.20 meters (3 ft. in.) wide. The present monument was designed by the architect J. Carlos Loureiro and was inaugurated on the 13th. of August, 1994.

Which is above and behind the Rectory, with accommodation for 250.

(access beneath the esplanade) inaugurated on 13 May 1982, by Pope John Paul 11, as a center for study and reflection on the Message of Fatima, and of the problems of the modern world, in the light of the Gospel. The two auditoriums have seating for 2.124 and 700, and accommodation for 400 pilgrims. Visiting is possible when there are no activities.

Informations provided by ITP – Instituto de Turismo de Portugal – www.visitportugal.com and http://www.santuario-fatima.pt/portal/index.php?id=1321