What to see in Fatima tours: Once an unknown village involved in shepherding and agriculture, depending mainly upon the production of olive oil, Fatima is nowadays a small town (135 km north of Lisbon) which derives most of its wealth from religious tourism and pilgrimage.
Cova da Iria, in Fatima, is the principal focus of visitors, mainly pilgrims, that regularly fill the country roads leading to the shrine. Numbers reach hundreds of the thousands on 13 May and 13 October annually, the dates of the apparitions in Fatima.
On 13th May 1917, the Virgin Mary appeared in a flash of light to three little shepherds near Fatima, in a place called Cova de Iria. She asked them to return six times on the 13th of each month, promising to tell them who she was and what she wanted in October.
Although only the children saw her, in the last appearance around 70,000 people gathered in Cova da Iria and witnessed the “miracle of the sun” – the sun dancing and moving about erratically in the sky.
During her appearances she told the children about the “secrets of Fatima”. The first two were disclosed by Lucia Santos, the eldest of the three children after she wrote them down in the early 1940s, and the third and final prophecy, which was not to be revealed until 1960, was only disclosed in 2000. The reluctance to disclose the secret lead to speculation that it contained information about our future that was so horrific that the Popes dared not reveal it.
The first prophecy
In the first prophecy the children were shown a terrifying vision of hell “where the souls of poor sinners go”. “The war is going to end”, Lucia quoted the Virgin Mary “but if people do not cease offending God, a worse one will break out” (…).
The second prophecy
The believers assert that this prophecy foresees the spreading of communism by Russia, which had become the Soviet Union. “I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to My Immaculate Heart, and the Communion of Reparation on the First Saturdays (of each month). If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted and there will be peace; if not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church” (…).
In 1984, Pope John Paul II consecrated the Soviet Union, and in 1991 the Soviet Union disintegrated into 15 separate countries.
The third prophecy
In 1944, Lucia wrote down the third prophecy and presented it to Portugal’s Bishop of Leiria who turned it over to the Vatican. In 1960, Pope John XXIII opened the sealed prophecy and read it but refused to reveal its contents, saying that “this prophecy does not relate to my time”.
On May 13, 2000 (the anniversary of the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II) the Pope visited the shrine of Fatima and announced that the secret would finally be revealed. The Vatican then told the world that the secret was a foretelling of the 1981 assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II. “(…) The Holy Father passed through a big city half in ruins (…), he prayed for the souls of the corpses he met on his way; having reached the top of the mountain, on his knees at the foot of the big cross he was killed by a group of soldiers who fired bullets and arrows at him” (…).
The setting of the assassination attempt was not the same, there was no group of soldiers but only a gunman, Mehmet Ali Agca, and the Pope although seriously wounded was not killed. Shortly after the Pope said he believed it was the hand of Virgin Mary that deflected the attacker’s bullet, allowing him to survive.
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who would become Pope Benedict XVI said about the prophecy: (…) There is no immutable destiny. In the end, prayer is more powerful than bullets and faith more powerful than armies”.
What to see in and around Fatima
- Sanctuary of the Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima (also known as the Fatima Shrine, the -Sanctuary of Fatima or Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary) is built in neo-classical style, with the tombs of the three little shepherds, Francisco, Jacinta and Lucia, inside. Scenes of the Marian apparitions are shown in stained glass.
- Chapel of Apparitions is at the very heart of the basilica. The exact location of the apparitions is marked by a marble pillar which holds a statue of the Virgin Mary.
-Treasury of the sanctuary holds the Irish Monstrance considered to be one of the most significant works of religious art from Ireland, gifted to the basilica in 1949.
-Entrance to the Fatima Sanctuary, which is to the south of the rectory, is a segment of the Berlin Wall, to emphasize the belief that the Rosary prayers influenced the fall of the Berlin Wall related to the Consecration of Russia, based on the Our Lady of Fatima messages.
-Large statue of Our Lady of Fatima, which stands in the niche above the main entrance of the basilica, was sculpted by American priest Thomas McGlynn, who spent considerable time with Sister Lucia who described for him in detail how Mary looked during her appearances to the children, producing perhaps the most accurate representation of Our Lady of Fatima ever to be sculpted.
- Church of the Most Holy Trinity is a Roman Catholic church in the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, ranked as the eighth largest Christian church in the world, was constructed between 2004 and 2007, has about 8500 seats and was entirely paid with gifts from the pilgrims.
- The Paul VI Pastoral Center was inaugurated on May 13, 1982, by Pope John Paul II, as a center for study and reflection on the message of Fatima.
- Hungarian Stations of the Cross consist of 14 chapels built along a 3 kilometer stone walkway leading uphill to a marble monument of Christ on the cross.
- The homes of the little shepherds, just 3 km away from Fatima. It’s a good opportunity to see how life was like in those times in Portugal.
Other interesting places near Fatima:
- Beautiful walled city of Obidos and its picturesque streets;
- Colourful fishing village of Nazare;
- Monastery of Alcobaça, founded in the 12th century, a masterpiece of Cistercian Gothic art. The tombs of Dom Pedro and Dona Ines de Castro are among the most beautiful of gothic funerary sculptures. Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO;
- Batalha Monastery, a magnificent gothic style church which is also a UNESCO World Heritage site;
- Convent of Christ of Tomar, one of Portugal’s most important historical and artistic monuments which has been in the World Heritage list of UNESCO since 1983.
Hope you enjoy the Tour to Fatima with Lisbonhost!