Those who know me know that I don’t follow any particular religion, but I respect them all and am a great admirer of the art and architecture behind great temples and religious monuments.
Not long ago I was visiting the center of Portugal, and I came to the conclusion that I had only visited the Shrine of Fatima once in my life and I was very small when I did it.
In 2017, I traveled to Rome and made a point of visiting the Vatican and St. Peter’s Square. So why not visit the largest temple in my country, the place that annually receives 6 million people?
The History of the Shrine of Fatima
To understand the relevance of this temple to followers of the Christian faith, it’s important to know the history of the Apparitions of Fatima.
Tell the story (can I call it that?…) that on May 13, at the place known as Cova da Iria, Our Lady appeared to three children — Lúcia de Jesus, 10 years old, Francisco, with 9 years, and Jacinta, 7 years old — who were there looking after a herd.
The report of the sightings (others have followed this date) quickly spread and the site became a place of pilgrimage. On August 6, 1918, a small chapel was built in that place, which later gave way to the great Shrine of Fatima.
Feel the Faith
The remains of the three shepherds are today inside the great Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima, in chapels next to the main altar. But the focus of the attention of visitors and pilgrims lies in the Chapel of the Apparitions, which marks the site of the sightings and displays the well-known image of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima.
Still, in the sanctuary, there’s the Large Holm-oak — under which the three shepherds and the first pilgrims prayed while waiting for the arrival of Our Lady —, the Basilica of the Holy Trinity, as well as the monument to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, right in the center of the courtyard.
The day I visited the Shrine of Fátima it rained incessantly and yet the visitors were by the dozen. However, far from filling the square capable of supporting 300 thousand people.
For me, it was the perfect occasion to see the sanctuary at ease. But if you want to live and feel all the power of faith in that place, the 13th days between May and October are the main dates of celebration, the same when the Apparitions have happened.
Did you know that a fragment of the old Berlin Wall can be found near the nascent entrance to the site? The relic arrived at the Shrine of Fatima in 1994, as an offering made by a Portuguese emigrant residing in Germany.
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