The Portuguese town of Fatima, known for its miraculous apparitions, ranks third in importance among European Catholic pilgrimage destinations, after the Vatican and the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes in France.
The town of Fatima in Portugal was founded and given its name during the time of the Arabian occupation, but its roots go much further back in time. The Templar knight Gonçalo Hermingues, aka Bringer-of-Moors, fell in love with Fátima, a Moor who had been captured during an ambush during the Christian Reconquest, so the legend goes.
In return for his devotion, the young lady became a Christian and took the name Oureana. In the sixteenth century, the Portuguese town of Fátima was incorporated into the Diocese of Leiria as a parish under the care of the Collegiate Church of Ourém.
Its subsequent development stems from the early twentieth-century events known as the Apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima. As the story goes, in 1916, the Virgin Mary appeared to three shepherd children named Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta while they were playing in what had been a small parish founded in the 16th century.
After that, it has become one of the most important Marian shrines in Portugal, and it is officially recognized by the Catholic Church all over the world.
Who is our lady of Fatima?
The Blessed Virgin Mary is known as "Our Lady of Fatima" because she appeared to three young shepherds in Fatima, Portugal. For peace to come, Our Lady of Fatima urged the young shepherds to pray the rosary every day (World War I). After the initial six months, Mary began making monthly appearances to Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco instead. Those visions were deemed "worthy of belief" by the Bishop of Leiria-Fátima in October 1930.
Why is the sacred city of Fatima important to Catholics?
In 1917, while taking care of sheep, three kids saw an angel. Shortly after that, Virgin Mary showed up from behind an oak tree. They say she made an appearance on the 13th of every month from May to September to show them how to pray and tell them a secret. Tens of thousands of people who had heard the children's stories went to the fields on October 13, 1917, to see if they were true.
On that day, people worldwide saw what would later be called the "Miracle of the Sun." Some witnesses reported seeing the sun "dance" across the horizon, while others saw bright lights flash across the sky.
Even though photographers were among the crowds, their pictures didn't capture anything particularly interesting. Nonetheless, Fátima's reputation as one of the most sacred cities in the world was established on the strength of testimonies from witnesses. Every year, hundreds of thousands of people visit the Iberian Peninsula to visit the religious sites of Santiago de Compostela and the Sanctuary of Fátima, where the Virgin Mary is said to have made three separate appearances. It's considered to be a top Marian sanctuary all over the globe.
Most people will remember Pope Francis's visit to Portugal to canonize Francisco and Jacinta Marto, two of the three Fatima visionaries. After Francisco and Jacinta were canonized, they became the youngest saints in history (not counting martyrs). Since Lucia lived a much longer life, her works and writings are reviewed by the Church before she can be canonized as a saint.
Celebrations of Our Lady of Fatima's centennial were organized by churches and religious communities all over the world. Local Portland, Oregon Archbishop Alexander Sample presided over a Fatima celebration on May 13 at St. Mary's Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, where pilgrims will have traveled from as far as five different locations throughout the city.
During the 2016 commemorations of the Apparition's centennial, more than 5 million people traveled to Fatima. At least 4 million people from all over the world visit Fatima every other year, with the majority of those coming on May 13 to commemorate the anniversary of the sighting.
A city of around 10,000 people, Fatima is home to 15 churches and a large central plaza where all the major celebrations take place.
Portugal is a Catholic country, with 84% of the population being baptized as Catholics despite its liberal views on topics like gay rights and drug use. There is no state-sanctioned religion in the country. However, most couples still opt for a religious wedding ceremony, many parents choose to have their children baptized, and about 20% of the population regularly attends church services.