Read up on the mysterious string of miracles beforehand — it will enrich your visit enormously. Or let our guide do the reading for you!
Fátima, a famous religious town in Portugal, was actually named after a Moorish princess. The Chistian version of the story goes that the Portuguese knight Gonçalo Hermigues kidnapped the princess Fatima and took her to the newly established town, where she fell in love with him, converted to Christianity and married him. The other version suggests that Fatima, like most captives from the ‘Reconquista’, was instead coerced into Christianity and marriage.
Whatever the truth may be, Fátima became famous as a religious place for another event: the Marian apparitions. On the 13th of May 1917, three local children were guarding their sheep in the Cova da Iria when they witnessed an ethereal apparition of a lady dressed in white, “more brilliant than the sun, shedding rays of light clearer and stronger than a crystal glass filled with the most sparkling water and pierced by the burning rays of the sun.” The lady indicated that she was sent by God, and she visited the children on the 13th of each month from May until October.
No less than 70,000 pilgrims were in attendance for her last apparition, where she divulged three secrets. The first was a vision of Hell; the second foretold the beginning of the Second World War; and the final third secret remained a mystery until the year 2000, when the Vatican released it.
It speaks of a pope being killed by soldiers at the foot of a cross on the top of the mountain, along with many other bishops and priests. The Church’s interpretation is that this predicted the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II by the Turkish gunman Mehmet Ali Ağca in St. Peter’s Square. However, some believe the Vatican have not released the message in its entirety.
Of the three children, two died during the Spanish influenza epidemic not long after the apparitions. Pope John Paul II beatified them on the 13th of May 2000. The other child, Lúcia Dos Santos, became a nun and only died recently, in 2005. Clearly the Catholic church considers the Marian apparitions to have been real, and today you can see the fascinating site where it all happened, marked with a wooden arch and a small chapel.
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