Whether you’re religious – or you’re not – you will experience something heavenly in Fátima. Whether it is the beauty of its holy shrines, the devout pilgrims in joyful prayer or the miles of shepherd’s-turned-walking trails through the countryside, visitors undoubtedly feel something spiritual during their stay.
More than 4 million pilgrims visit the Catholic pilgrimage site in central Portugal every year. And in 2017, that figure will skyrocket as believers gather in Fátima to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the three shepherd children receiving holy visions.
The Marian Vision did not just catapult Fátima to a spot atop the list of holy Catholic sites but the list of Portuguese destinations as well. Even Pope Francis is planning to make a pilgrimage to Fatima during its centennial year!
If you plan to follow the faithful to Fátima in 2017, here is what you need to know:
The Visions – In 1916, three young shepherd children – Lucia Santos and Jacinta and Francisco Marto – were visited by an angel three times as their sheep grazed in Cova da Iria – a field near Fátima. The angel told them to prepare for a visit from the Virgin Mary on the 13th of the month – the first time on May 13, 1917 and culminating in the “Miracle of the Sun” on October 13, 1917. Tens of thousands of villagers were assembled to see the miraculous solar activity and attributed it to Our Lady of Fatima who appeard to the shepherd children. Today, pilgrims arrive on foot and by transport at the site year-round, but special processions occur on the 13th of each month, with approximately 1 million people worshipping and walking in candlelit vigils on the May 13 and October 13 anniversaries.
The Churches – The Chapel of the Apparitions was built on the site of the visions in 1919 but the first Mass was not celebrated until 1921. The Catholic Church does not approve of every revelation but began approval of Fátima’s holiness when a Bishop visited to say Mass in 1927. The following year, construction began on the massive church of Our Lady of the Rosary, deemed a “basilica” by Pope Pius XII in 1954. Tourists visit both of these chapels today, with some pilgrims walking on their knees between them.
The Secrets Experts feel the mystique and popularity of Fátima was greatly enhanced by the reveleation of three secrets told to the children by the Virgin Mary. The first two secrets were revealed in Lucia Santos’ third memoir in 1941. The first describes hell and the second predicts the end of WWI and the battles of WWII. The third secret was not divulged to the public until May 13, 2000 and it was somewhat anticlimatic: It described the persecution of Christians that resulted in the assassination attempt of Pope John Paul II – an event that took place on May 13, 1981. The pope believed Our Lady of Fátima saved his life and made a pilgrimage to the town in 1982 to lay the cornerstone for the sanctuary’s Capelo do Sagrado Lausperene. Fátima’s aura of spirituality does not appear to be waning as it enters its second century of fame.
Discover the Possibilities! Portugal.com’s weeklong Fátima Faith Tour is designed to provide pilgrims time to worship and reflect. Each group is accompanied by a spiritual director and guide who helps visitors learn more about the extraordinary history of the sanctuary. Contact Portugal.com today at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out about more package tours that include time in Fátima and other spiritual destinations such as Santarem, Lourdes and Santiago de Compostela.