We could not be this close to Fatima without going to see the shrine there. We picked up Bill and Linda (who just got off a plane from the States) and took them with us to help keep them awake. Fatima is one of the most important catholic shrines in the world dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Its sanctuary welcomes millions of pilgrims and tourists from all over the world. Fatima’s fame is due to the Apparitions of Our Lady of the Rosary that appeared to three shepherd children; Lucia dos Santos and her two younger cousins, Francisco and Jacinta. Between May and October of 1917, the three children witnessed several apparitions. The last one, on October 13th, was confirmed by a miracle witnessed by 70,000 people known in the catholic world as “the day the sun danced”.
The primary building at the shrine is the Basilica of Our Lady of Fatima, a gleaming Neoclassical church begun on May 13, 1928, and consecrated on October 7, 1953. Its slender central spire rises 65 meters high. The church is flanked by monumental colonnades and overlooks a large open plaza, the center of which is occupied by a Monument to the Sacred Heart of Jesus (1932). The monument stands over a spring that was discovered there and was, according to the shrine, “the instrument of many graces.” In the basilica are the tombs of two of the three visionaries, siblings Francisco and Jacinta Marto, who died in 1919 and 1920 respectively, and were beatified in 1970. The third seer, Lucia dos Santos, died in 2005.