Eighty miles (128km) north of Lisbon in the hills of Santarém lies this world-famous town of pilgrimage. This humble town with a population of under ten thousand welcomes millions of devotees every year. They come to worship at the site of the miraculous apparition of the Virgin Mary, who appeared to three little shepherds – Lúcia, Francisco and Jacinta here in 1917. Corresponding to the dates of the apparitions, people flock here on the 13th day each month between May and October. To accommodate this large congregation a massive white basilica and esplanade were constructed. The courtyard outside has twice the volume as St. Peters in the Vatican and was completed in 1953. For Catholics, Fátima is a sacred place one has a calling to. For non-believers, a place of fascination.
The town acquired its name from a legend of a Moorish princess called Fatima. She was kidnapped by a crusading Christian knight, Gonçalo Hermigues, and his companions. Hermigues took her to a small village in the Serra de Aire hills in the recently created Kingdom of Portugal. According to the Western Catholic narrative, Fatima fell in love with her abductor and decided to convert to Christianity to marry him. She was baptised and given a Christian name, Oureana. For most of the town's history, Fátima remained an unassuming and insignificant sleepy place until the 13th of May 1917 when three shepherd children first witnessed visions of the Virgin Mary in grazing land in Cova da Iria, just outside of town.
The cousins Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta encountered repeated visions on the 13th day of each subsequent month until October. During these apparitions, three secrets were revealed to them, secrets which were considered prophecies regarding such events as The Second World War, the rise and fall of Communism and the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II. Following criticism and accusations from local people, the children asked the "Virgin of the Rosary" for a sign so they would be believed. So during the final appearance, a mysterious event occurred and witnessed by 70,000 people, a phenomenon later called "The miracle of the Sun" (O milagre do sol). It's been well documented that during the pouring rain, the crowds at Fátima saw the sun suddenly revolve on its axis and throw out multi-coloured rays of light. There were also claims of several miraculous cures in the days that followed.
Ever since the prophecies were given to the shepherd children, they have been investigated, debated and scrutinised by church officials and academics alike. For believers, the events of 13th October 1917 are proof of the divine, a conviction backed up by official recognition from the Vatican in 1930. For the pragmatists, the events can be explained by local natural atmospherical phenomena.
Speculation also continues today about the three secrets revealed to the children, who were seven, nine and ten at the time. The first two revelations are public knowledge. The first being a description of "Hell". The second foretold a speedy end to the First World War and predicted a dreadful war to follow if the world did not cease offending God. The third prophecy was confided in writing to the Vatican in 1941 by Lúcia. She had entered a convent in 1928, but she also stipulated it should not be made public before 1960. To date, no Pope has. Lúcia outlived her two cousins Francisco and Jacinta, who succumb to the Spanish flu pandemic. Lucia lived a devout life as a Carmelite Nun until 2005 and will probably receive the same honour as her cousins and be beatified in due course.
Constructed in various phases overtime at or near the area of Cova da Iria, where the three children witnessed the Marian apparitions of Our Lady of the Rosary (later known as Our Lady of Fátima by parishioners and pilgrims). The sanctuary includes various buildings, shrines and monuments. The religious, political and social consequences of the event are represented at the site. Dispersed throughout a complex of open panoramas and vistas and dominated by the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary and the Basilica of the Holy Trinity. Central to the complex is the small Chapel of the Apparitions and its shelter, marking the very spot where legend suggests many of the events of the apparitions took place and where the first pilgrims venerated the Marian apparitions.
During the apparition of October 13, Lucia de Jesus, Francisco Marto and Jacinta Marto were requested by "Our Lady of the Rosary" to build a chapel in her honour. The construction started in 1919 on the very same spot as five of the six occurrences. On 6 March 1922, anti-catholic adversaries planted a bomb within the unfinished shrine and caused considerable damage precipitating the second stage of construction. It re-opened on January 13, 1923. Today the Chapel of the Apparitions is housed inside a glass enclosure opened on one side and was inaugurated during the first visit of John Paul II in 1982. Inside there's a sculpture of Our Lady which marks the site where an oak tree from where the Lady of the Rosary is said to have stood. The work of José Ferreira Thedim, a sculpture carved from Brazilian cedarwood and measures just over a metre tall. It was solemnly crowned on the 13th of May 1946 by Cardinal Aloisi Masella, a pontifical legate. The crown is made of solid gold weighing 1.2 KG and contains 313 pearls and 2679 precious stones. The crown also contains a bullet removed from John Paul II following his assassination attempt in 1981. The statuette only wears her crown on special occasions.
Dominating the 150,000 square metres (37 acres) plaza at the Sanctuary is the impressive neo-classical limestone Basilica whose bell tower reaches 65 metres (213 ft) into the heavens and is topped by a bronze crown weighing 7KG. A white marble statue of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, measuring 4.73 metres tall, occupies a niche on the face of the tower. Within the tower, there's a carillon consisting of 62 bells, the largest of which weighs approximately 3,000 kilograms (6,600 lb) and the clapper about 90 kilograms (200 lb). Flanking the tower two long colonnades spread outwards linking it with the extensive conventual and hospital buildings.
Construction of the Basilica began on the 13th of May 1928. It was finally consecrated in October 1953. Inside 15 altars are dedicated to the 15 mysteries of the Rosary. A painting above the high altar denotes Our Lady passing on her messages to the children. The basilica is the final resting place of all three of the shepherd children. Their tombs are located behind the high altar.
Open for mass from 07h30.
360 Rua de Santa Isabel, 2495-424, Fátima, Portugal. | 39º 37' 55.7" N | 08º 40' 18.4" W
+351 249 539 600 | email@example.com | Website
The Big Holmoak is a replacement of the tree where the three Shepard children awaited the operations of Mary. The original was severely damaged by over-enthusiastic relic hunters. Its original location lies within the Chapel of the Apparitions. Standing upon a pillar in the centre of the square, is the Monument to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It was constructed on the location of a natural spring, its waters were also considered sacred. At the entrance to the sanctuary, there's an enclosure containing a segment of the Berlin Wall brought to Fátima in 1994 to mark the connection between the visions and the fall of Communism. The large circular building opposite the sanctuary is the Paul VI Pastoral Centre, a complex dedicated to the study and contemplation of the message of Fátima and the issues which dominate the modern world.
Close by is the Sacred Way which marks the route the young shepherds would have taken from their homes in Aljustrel to the site in Fátima. Along the way 15 small chapels and shrines are marking the points of particular interest such as the The Well of Arneiro which was once in the garden of Lucia's house, where a second apparition occurred and the Valinhos monument where the fourth manifestation of Our Lady appeared.
There is a cafeteria on site and plenty of cafés and restaurants dotted around in close proximity to the sanctuary.
There are toilets on site in various places.
Apart from the 12 and 13 th May and October there's no shortage of parking spaces at the shrine and around. The majority of parking is free.
The whole grounds are easy to access for those with impaired mobility and wheelchairs are available on request.
The homes of the shepherd children have been preserved over time and now are museums open to the public. In the village of Aljustrel a short distance from the Sanctuary is the home of Jacinta and Francisco Marto.
Daily: 09h30 - 17h00.
42 Rua de Aljustrel, Fátima, 2495-301, Portugal.
39º 36' 58.7" N | 08º 39' 48.8" W
+351 249 521 777
Two minutes away is the family home of Lúcia de Jesus dos Santos who lived her adult life as a nun. On February 13, 2017, Sister Lúcia was accorded the title Servant of God, as the first major step toward her canonisation.
Daily: 09h30 - 17h00.
86 Rus dos Pastorinhos, Fátima, 2495-301, Portugal.
39º 36' 56.7" N | 08º 39' 53.7" W
+351 249 781 638
Not all the interesting things in the Fátima area are associated with the heavens. For those who seek pleasures of the underworld, the largest network of subterranean caverns in Portugal are found in Mira de Aire only over eight miles (13.5km) south of Fátima. The caves themselves extend almost seven miles (11km) into the hills of the Parque Natural das Serras de Aire e Candeeiros, 600 metres of which are open to the public. The Mira de Aire Caves are considered one of the seven natural wonders of Portugal. Over several levels, the visitor descends 683 steps into the depths where multi-coloured lights illuminate the amazing array of stalactites, stalagmites and other geological features to great effect. Visits to the caves are organised in groups that are skilfully guided for 45 minutes through the site stopping along the way for explanations of how nature has formed such wonders. Highlights of the tour include an underground lake and a waterfall. The Mira de Aire caves were stumbled upon by local residents in 1947 however they didn't open to the public until 1974. Above ground, there's a small waterpark with swimming pools and a bar for adults and water slides to keep the young ones amused.
High Season: Daily 09h30 – 19h00, Low Season: Daily 09h30 – 17h30
Adult: €6.60, Child <12 Yrs: €3.90
470 Av. Dr. Luciano Justo Ramos, Mira de Aire, 2485-001, Portugal. | 39º 32' 39.3" N | 08º 42' 57.6" W
+351 244 440 322 | grutasmiradaire.com | Website
Non-creationists in the Fátima area head straight to the Pegadas dos Dinossáurios just outside the village of Bairro in the Serra de Aire hills six miles (10km) south of Fátima. It was here, in 1994, palaeontologists were astonished to discover the oldest and largest collection of preserved Sauropod tracks found anywhere in the world. The footprints of these giant herbivores are believed to be 175 million years old, first trodden in an ancient shallow lagoon since petrified into limestone. Hundreds of giant tracks (pegadas) are easy to see cast along a 150-metre area within a disused quarry floor. Judging by the spacing between the footprints experts believe these sauropods were up to thirty metres in length.
In the park there are full size Sauropod statues and information boards which explain in further detail about the site. Tuesday - Sunday 10h00 – 12h30/14h00 – 18h00
Estrada de Fátima, Ourém, 2490-216, Portugal.
39º 34' 20.5" N | 08º 35' 40.3" W
+351 249 530 160
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Hotel Fátima is a 4-star hotel within easy walking distance to the Sanctuary of Fátima and the Apparitions Chapel. It features a large lounge area, bar and business centre. All rooms are equipped with air conditioning, satellite TV and a work desk. The hotel restaurant serves regional Portuguese and international cuisine. There are also facilities available for hosting weddings, banquets and conventions.
Rua João Paulo II, 241, 2495-451 Fátima, Portugal.
N 39º 37' 52.3" | W 08º 40' 32.7"
The Essence Inn Marianos hotel is located in the centre of Fátima, just 50 yards away from the Shrine, in Fatima. Room décor varies depending on the floor and free WiFi is available throughout. The bright refurbished rooms have private bathrooms with a shower, air conditioning and a direct-line telephone. The Essence Inn Marianos also features a restaurant, a chapel and private free parking.
2 Rua de São Paulo, 2495-435 Fátima, Portugal.
N 39º 37' 51.4" | W 08º 40' 35.6"
This design hotel is located less than 200 yards from the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima. It features a restaurant, a bar and in-room free Wi-Fi. Hotel Anjo de Portugal's bright rooms feature flat-screen TVs and work desks. All rooms are air-conditioned and have a bathtub in the en suite bathroom. The on-site restaurant combines nouvelle cuisine and minimalist décor. There is an outdoor lounge area, where guests can enjoy a cool drink or a coffee from the hotel's bar.
24 Rua Anjo de Portugal, 2495-415, Fátima, Portugal.
N 39º 38' 02.2" | W 08º 40' 35.3"
One of the best restaurants not only in the area but as the country as a whole. Ideally located close to the sanctuary dinner here is the perfect way to round off the day. A flight of wooden stairs guide you down to an intimate dining area with stone walls. Tia Alice (Aunt Alice) first opened it's doors in 1988 and have gained a great reputation for fine dinning and mastery of Portuguese fare. Far from being pretentious the dinning experience here is relaxed and friendly.
Tuesday – Saturday: 19h30 - 21h00, Sunday & Monday: 12h00 - 15h00
152 Av. Irmã Lúcia de Jesus, Fátima, Portugal.
GPS: N 39º 37' 04.1" | W 08º 39' 12.6"
+351 249 531 737
A small yet homely restaurant which serves beautifully presented Portuguese and international dishes at reasonable prices. The staff are very friendly and always at hand to offer advice and suggestions. If possible keep some room for their tasty selection of desserts. There are vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options available here too.
Daily: 12h00 - 14h30/19h00 - 22h00
895 Avenida dos Pastorinhos, Cova da Iria, 2495-408, Fátima, Portugal.
GPS: N 39º 35' 19.3" | W 08º 39' 09.7"
+351 49 153 159/916 300 356
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Manhas serves authentic Portuguese cuisine with a contemporary twist. Quality is constantly very high as is the service. The friendly and attentive staff always making you feel welcome and much appreciated. The atmosphere too is laid back and the prices are reasonable.
Daily: 12h00 - 15h00/19h00 - 22h00
Avenida Dom Jose Alves Correia da Silva N0 114B | Nº 114 B, Fatima 2495-402, Portugal.
GPS: N 39º 37' 55.4" | W 08º 40' 51.2"
+351 249 534 327
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78 miles (126km) North East of Lisbon Portela Airport Website
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From Lisbon take the A1 (with tolls) North 78 miles (126 km), exit at Fatima and follow signs to the Santuario..
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Please note the Fátima train station as mentioned on timetables is in fact 19 miles (30 km) east of Fátima town itself. It's suggested to alight the train at Caxarias from Lisboa Santa Apolónia and take a connecting bus from there. Train Timetable | Connecting Bus Timetable
Rede Expressos run services to Fátima from Lisbon Sete Rios coach station and takes about 90 minutes. Website