Fátima Shrine is one of the most spectacular religious sanctuaries of the world, a place of tranquillity and the meeting point of Christians, Catholics, Protestants, Orthodoxs, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and agnostics from the four corners of the world.
On 13 May 1917, three children were pasturing their little flock in the Cova da Iria, parish of Fatima, town of Vila Nova de Ourém. today the diocese of Leiria-Fatima. They were called: Lucia de Jesus, aged 10, and her cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto, aged 9 and 7.
About midday, after praying the Rosary, as was their custom, they were amusing themselves building a little house of stones scattered around he place where the Basilica now stands. Suddenly they saw a brilliant light, and thinking it to be lightning, they decided to go home. But as they went down the slope another flash lit up the place, and they saw on the top of a holmoak (where the Chapel of Apparitions now stands), “a Lady more brilliant than the sun”, from whose hands hung a white rosary.
Our Lady of Fátima told the three little shepherds that it was necessary to pray much, and she invited them to return to the Cova da Iria during five consecutive months, on the 13th day at that hour. The children did so and the 13th day of June, July, September and October, the Lady appeared to them again and spoke to them in the Cova da 0a. On the 19th of August, the apparition took place at Valinhos, about 500 meters from Aljustrel, because on the 13th the children had been carried off by the local Administrator to Vila Nova de Ourém.
At the last apparition, on October 13, with about 70,000 people present, the Lady said to them that she was the “Lady of the Rosary” and that a chapel was to be built there in her honor. After the apparition all present witnessed the miracle promised to the three children in July and September :the sun, resembling a silver disc, could be gazed at without difficulty and, whirling on itself like a wheel of fire, it seemed about to fall upon the earth.
Afterwards, when Lucia was a Religious Sister of Saint Dorothy, Our Lady appeared to her again in Spain (10 December 1925 and 15 February 1926, in the Convent of Pontevedra, and on the night of 13/14 June 1929, in the Convent of Tuy), requesting the devotion of the five first Saturdays (to pray the Rosary, meditate on the mysteries of the Rosary, confess and receive Holy Communion, in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary), and the Consecration of Russia to the same Immaculate Heart. This request had been announced by the Apparition on 13 July 1917, in what is called the “Secret of Fatima”.
Years later, Sr. Lucia related that, between April and October of 1916, an Angel had appeared to the three seers on three occasions, twice in the Cabeço and once at the well in the garden behind Lucia´s house, who exhorted them to prayer and penance.
Since 1917 pilgrims have not ceased to come to the Cova da Iria in thousands upon thousands from all parts of the world, at first on the 13th of each month. later during the summer and winter holidays, and now more and more at weekends and any day all the year round.
The pedestal of the Image of Our Lady of Fátima marks the exact spot of the little holm oak (that vanished, because of the devotion of the first pilgrims that took it away, branch by branch), where Our Lady appeared to the little shepherds on May 13th, June, July, September and October 1917.
The construction of the Chapel was the answer to Our lady’s request: “I want you to build a chapel here in my honour”. It was built on the Apparitions’ spot from April 28th to June 15th 1919. The first mass was celebrated on October 13th 1921.
It was later dynamited on March 6th 1922 and rebuilt in the same year.
In 1982 it was built a vast porch, which was officially opened during the visit of the Pope John Paul II on May 12th 1982.
In 1988, a year devoted to Our Lady of Fátima, it was lined with pine wood from the north of Siberia, Russia. It was chosen because of its durability and lightness.
The original chapel has kept the characteristics of a popular hermitage, despite some light changes throughout the year.
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