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What is Fátima in Portugal famous for?
The year is 1917. Three shepherd children witness the appearance of Our Lady of Fátima, who is giving them prophecies. Cousins Lúcia dos Santos and Francisco and Jacinta Marto see this miracle on the 13th day of the month between May to October. The Catholic Church believes Our Lady of Fátima to be Virgin Mary. In October of that same year, some 70.000 people witnessed the last prophesied apparition. This became known as the Miracle of Fátima, or the Miracle of the Sun. Some observers claim the sun was acting unusually, whereas others claimed to see Our Lady of Fátima.
According to the children, three secrets of humankind were revealed to them, which would influence the future. The three Fátima secrets are related to the vision of the souls in Hell, the end of WWI and the start of WWII, and the vision of the Pope being killed by soldiers. The local bishop determined that the apparitions were believable, and the Marian devotion started in 1918.
Trailer of the movie Fatima
Francisco and Jacinta died very young from the Spanish flu pandemic. Francisco passed away in 1919, and Jacinta in 1920. Lucia converted to a non and lived until 2015. Pope John Paul II beautified both children in May 2000, and many popes visited Fátima throughout the years.
Fátima became famous for its sightings; nowadays, it’s an important international destination for pilgrims and religious tourists. The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátima is visited annually by about 6 to 8 million pilgrims. The name Fátima comes from a Moorish princess kidnapped by a knight. The parish was founded in 1568, and the first sightings of the Virgin Mary started as early as the 18th century. Between 1925 and 1929, there were also claims of apparitions of Child Jesus and the Holy Trinity and Our Lady.
The Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fátima
In 1918 the first buildings were constructed, and at the viewing site, a cross got erected. The construction was the start of what we now know as the Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fátima (or (Santuário de Nossa Senhora do Rosário de Fátima in Portuguese). The Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary and the Capelinha das Aparições were added, as well as a hotel and many other facilities.
The large Holm oak tree is where the children waited for the visitations. There is also a piece of the Berlin Wall outside the chapel. This marks the connection between the visions and the fall of communism. Let’s look at all the other religious monuments and buildings you can see here in the heart of Fátima, Portugal.
Capelinha das Aparições
The Marian apparitions happened at the Cova de Iria, a quarter in the parish of Fátima. The spot where Virgin Mary allegedly appeared in 1917 is now the Capelinha das Aparições. The chapel was built in 1919, and a Mary statue is located inside. Our Lady in the Chapel of the Apparitions got crowned by the Vatican in 1930. There are regular services, and next to the chapel is a place to light candles. The chapel houses the Virgin’s crown, adorned with the bullet used in the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II in 1981.
Basílica de Nossa Senhora do Rosário
The Basílica de Nossa Senhora do Rosário, or Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fátima, is the main church at the Sanctuary. The Chapel of the Apparitions is located to the left. The Basilica has a 65-metre-tall tower with a huge golden crown on top. It also houses the tombs of all three shepherds, including a painting of Our Lady. The 15 mysteries of the Rosary can be seen on the 15 altars that are displayed.
Basílica of the Holy Trinity
The Basílica of the Holy Trinity is the latest addition to the Sanctuary, and it was built in 1996. This church has much more space for pilgrims, and there are 8,633 seats available. There are two sections with benches, and there are several chapels. These are the Chapel of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the Chapel of the Holy Sacrament, and many more. The modernist design received the Outstanding Structure Award from the International Association for Bridge and Structural Engineering in 2009.
Museu do Santuário de Fátima
When you visit the Museum of the Shrine of Fátima, you’ll be able to see religious artefacts. It was founded in 1955, and there are permanent and temporary exhibitions. You’ll learn about the development of the Shrine, and the fixed displays are Fátima Light and Peace and the House Museum of Aljustrel.
Where is Fátima, Portugal?
Fátima, Portugal, is located north of Lisbon, in the municipality of Ourém and the district of Santarém. From Lisbon and Porto, you can reach Fátima in about 1,5 to 2 hours by car.
Travel to Fátima by car
The easiest way to reach Fátima is by car. You can follow the A1 towards Porto and exit the motorway at junction 8. The centre of Fátima is just a few minutes from the main road. The A8 takes a little longer, about 2 hours. On the plus side, you can visit Óbidos, Caldas da Rainha, and Batalha on the way. From Porto, you can follow the A1 towards Lisbon, and the journey takes about 2 hours by car.
Trains to Fátima
You can take a train from Lisbon Sete Rios to the city centre of Fátima, Portugal. It will take around 1 hour and 45 minutes from Lisbon. From Porto, the train journey will take 2 hours.
Buses to Fátima
Flixbus offers a bus service between Lisbon and Fátima or Porto to Fátima. It’s also great to visit Fátima when travelling between the two largest Portuguese cities, as it makes for an exciting break halfway through your journey. The trip from Lisbon or Porto to Fátima takes just over 2 hours.
An organised tour combining multiple cities
The other option to visit Fátima is with a (private) tour. Most day tours combine the trip to Fátima with other towns such as Nazaré, Óbidos, and Batalha. These tours make great day trips from Lisbon or Porto during your unforgettable time in Portugal.
Things to know before visiting Fátima, Portugal
The Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fátima is free to visit, and there are no opening hours. There are services you can attend, and you can check these online before your visit. The Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima is open daily from 6 AM until 8 PM. As you might expect, the most popular days to visit are the 13th of the month between May and October, the dates of the apparitions.
Staying in Fátima
With so many pilgrims visiting yearly, there are plenty of hotels and B&Bs in the city. Fátima is a lovely place to stay for a night or two, and there is a lot to see in the surrounding area.
Other places in the area
A visit to Fátima is often combined with visits to other towns. For example, you can visit cities like Óbidos, Nazaré, Alcobaça, Buddha Eden, Batalha, and Tomar. Região Centro, or Central Portugal, has stunning beaches and nature reserves. Coimbra, Castelo Branco, and Leiria are also in this region.
A visit to Fátima is well worth it, even if you’re not religious. The city is easy to reach from both Lisbon and Porto, and there are many other places to visit in Central Portugal. This place will bring another dimension to your visit if you are religious. Make sure to attend a service, light a candle and discover the magic of Fátima.