A SNOWY AND PERFECT SYMMETRY
The Sanctuary of Fátima is located on the outskirts of the city of Fátima, in a place called Cova da Iria, which was the site where the apparitions of the Virgin to the children took place. Cova da Iria occupies a fairly flat area, without many elevations from which to get a good view from the top. Anyway, given the beauty and serenity that this sanctuary transmits, there are many points from there to enjoy a beautiful view. But there is one in particular in which the perspective that is achieved is unforgettable.
That particular point transmits waves of peace, because from it you can enjoy the architectural perfection of the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima and its surroundings. This place is right at the main door of the Basilica of the Holy Trinity, which is the modern white and circular building that we will find in the esplanade of the sanctuary, just in front of the main temple. The entrance of this almost futuristic construction is placed between two very large white walls and it is right there where we will stand, at the midpoint between the two walls.
From here we will be able to verify the perfect symmetry of the colonnade that surrounds the main Basilica, and how right in the middle is its entrance on which projects its slender tower of 65 meters high. This tower culminates in an imposing way in a gilded bronze crown of seven tons of weight on which lies a cross that remains illuminated every night, defying the darkness. This bright and purifying white color view floods the esplanade and its buildings. To further enhance the symmetry, we will look at a golden point that is located exactly on the imaginary straight line that joins the entrances of both temples.
It is the Sacred Heart of Jesus, an image of golden bronze that was donated by an anonymous pilgrim and is located in the middle of the esplanade, on a base where the famous fountain is located. Both entrances to the temples and the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus are located in the same straight line, generating absolute perfection.
Lovers of balance will enjoy this point and everyone in general, as it offers a great view of the sanctuary.
When you visit the Sanctuary of Fatima, remember to take some warm clothes with you, due to the fact that the place is located in the middle of the Leiria Mountains, where the temperatures are quite cold almost all year round, except in summer. The cold and the spiritual retreat that takes over us in this place is an invitation to give a little warmth to our body. A great way to do this is to visit one of the wonderful and cozy bakeries that are in the vicinity of the sanctuary.
Within the famous Portuguese gastronomy stands out its magnificent bakery, which are very varied and also at a very good price. Fatima is no exception; around the sanctuary we will find cafes and bakeries to recover our strength and where we can taste the delicacies they offer. These places have exhibitors that show their tempting genre. Some pastries are served cold and others need a touch of the oven to enjoy them warm. This taste of the Portuguese for pastries has its historical explanation. It turns out that during the XVIII and XIX centuries, the Portuguese country was the main producer of eggs in Europe, since the Portuguese used egg whites to clarify white wine. On the other hand, nuns in convents used egg whites for ironing. In both guilds there were many egg yolks left over, so they were used in pastry making to utilize them.
This also explains the monastic origin of many Portuguese pastries. Portuguese bakery offers jewels such as its famous "pastel de nata", whose recipe has monastic origins and is almost a national symbol. Although it may seem a word game, the "pasteles de nata" are actually round puff pastries filled with cream, because "nata" in Portuguese means "cream". Following this tradition of sweets, in the pastry shops surrounding the sanctuary you will find the "pasteles de Fátima", which are similar to the mythical pastel de nata, but in the shape of a heart! It could not be different in this pious place.
In these cozy places you will be seduced by hundreds of sweets, cakes, pastries, breads, quesada, biscuits, puff pastries and other temptations created from eggs, chocolate, fruits, cinnamon, almonds, syrup, vanilla... Divine and dazzling wonders! To accompany the sweets, we will be offered a coffee or a hot chocolate. Coffee drinkers are in luck in Portugal, since throughout the country it is customary to serve strong black coffee, very intense.
It is customary to drink it with a little cinnamon powder, so we will be offered this spice whenever we order a coffee.
How wonderful are these pastry shops that comfort our body and even our soul!
FAITH AND THE WATER OF FÁTIMA
As in other places of pilgrimage, in Fatima there is also a fountain from which flows a water that according to many sick people who have benefited from its qualities, is healing. The difference between the fountain of Fatima and other miraculous fountains, such as the one at Lourdes, is that here the water did not spring forth by itself after the apparitions, but required human labor, although with some almost divine help, as we shall see in this point. The town of Fátima and Cova da Iria are located in a calcareous terrain that is too porous to retain moisture.
In the past it was so difficult to obtain water in the area that until the beginning of the XX century the inhabitants could only count on rainwater collected through the eaves of their houses. After the Marian apparitions, many constructions were projected in the place and it was calculated that a great number of pilgrims would visit the area. Both for the construction work and for the visitors, a lot of water was going to be necessary. What could be done in a terrain that did not retain rainwater?
And how could water be provided for the construction work and for the pilgrims?It was here that the divine inspiration of the Bishop of Leiria played a stellar role, who, following an intuition, ordered to explore the land where the shepherds were at the time of the first apparition. While the workers carried out orders and excavated the land, the locals laughed incredulously to themselves. But suddenly... a miracle!
A small gush of water emerged from the bowels of the ground. This small outbreak was followed by others close to the first. All these springs were channeled into a large reservoir on which the base of the monument to the Sacred Heart of Jesus was placed. Around this base, a circular fountain was built from which water gushed. From that moment on, there was no lack of water in the area ever again. Soon, news began to emerge about the healing power of the waters of this fountain, and thousands of testimonies began to appear from sick people who, after drinking this water, obtained great relief from their ailments, and sometimes even complete healing.
This gave rise to many pilgrims and neighbors began to visit the sanctuary carrying bottles to fill them with water from the miraculous fountain and thus be able to take it to the sick to soothe their ailments. The fountain is round and has fifteen spouts, as fifteen are the mysteries of the traditional rosary. Its circular shape facilitates the passage and collection of water from the multitude of pilgrims who visit the sanctuary during the pilgrimages. Anyone can bring a recipient and fill it with water from Fatima.
It is free of charge and no donations are accepted. But there is a very convenient way to get Fatima water without waiting in line and without the need to carry a container. In any of the stores surrounding the sanctuary, we can buy small bottles filled with this water. They come in all sizes and shapes, but a very common model is a small bottle in the shape of a little virgin.
They cost about two or three euros and, being made of plastic, they are not heavy. It is a good souvenir to buy in the sanctuary and take it to someone
THE FIGURES OF THE WAX MUSEUM OF FÁTIMA
Five minutes walk from the sanctuary is the Wax Museum of Fatima (MUCEFA), a magnificent place to spend a good time with no haste and learn a lot about the history of this place. During the visit to this museum, you will follow an itinerary composed of 32 scenes that show the history of the apparitions, with scenes of the life of the children, sequences of the apparitions and scenes of historical events contemporary to the visions and related to them. The apparitions of the Virgin Mary caused a great journalistic impact on the history of Fatima at the time and the event was published and portrayed in newspapers, magazines and books all over the world.
Thanks to all this journalistic material, it has been possible to reproduce the scenes in a manner faithful to the reality of the time. The 120 wax figures that make up the different scenes that narrate the events are very well made. All of them have been manufactured in England with great care and style, needing a period of between two and three months for the elaboration of each one of them. All the other elements necessary in the scenes, such as the clothing of the figures, the furniture and the decorative objects are of good quality, faithful to the historical reality, and even some of them belong to the period of the apparitions.
The Fatima Wax Museum allows visitors to photograph whatever they wish, always respecting security measures. Since the figures are life-size, the photographic souvenirs that can be obtained during this visit can be fantastic. This historical tour in three dimensions and designed to real scale will allow us to be almost a direct witness of the facts since its realism will make us participate in the scenes. In addition, some of the figures represent well-known historical figures, such as, for example, the figures of Pope John Paul II.
Some of them are even impressive for their realism! They say that "a picture is worth a thousand words". To go through the 32 scenes of this museum is to take a trip back in time and receive a crash course on faith, combining art and history. After visiting it, one comes to understand what makes 6 million pilgrims visit Fatima every year. We leave some technical data for your information. To enjoy the tour, you need a minimum of 35 minutes of time.
The entrance fee is around 8 € per person, but there are discounts for children, young people and over 65 years old. Get your cameras ready, a trip back in time is waiting for you!
Fátima Wax Museum. Rua Jacinta Marto, 2495-450 Fátima.
A CROWN WITH A "JEWEL" UNIQUE IN THE WORLD
Did you know that under the esplanade of the Sanctuary of Fatima lies a jealously guarded treasure? It is an authentic treasure, full of very valuable objects, all of them gathered in a museum, a treasure of a movie! We are talking about the Museum of the Sanctuary of Fatima,an exhibition that is worth visiting. It was founded in 1955 and since then, it exhibits a multitude of valuable objects in its expositions. The entrance to this museum is located in front of the entrance of the Basilica of the Holy Trinity, down some stairs.
The museum occupies the lower level of the temple and admission is free. It is a treasure within our reach! All the items kept in this subterranean museum are related to the Marian apparitions of Fatima and the subsequent history of this place. The visit to this museum is tremendously enriching. At the beginning of the visit a pleasant documentary about the apparitions is broadcasted and during the tour you can count on the help of nuns who help with all the additional information you may need. The museum gathers a large number of objects donated to Our Lady of Fatima by many people in gratitude for having had their prayers answered.
Among this large number of grateful donors are many anonymous faithful, but there are also popes and other world-famous celebrities. An example of a gift donated by popes are their "Golden Roses", valuable pieces with which popes award sanctuaries by way of distinction. Fatima has the honor of having received three "Golden Roses" from three different popes: Paul VI, Benedict XVI and Pope Francis. Among all the items in the museum, umbrellas stand out. At first glance, they are simple black umbrellas, but they hold a great story. These basic umbrellas were direct witnesses of the Miracle of the Sun.
On October 13, 1917, the last Marian apparition to the children took place before a crowd of about 70,000 people. On that day it was pouring rain, so many people were carrying umbrellas. At the moment of the Marian apparition, the clouds retreated, the rain stopped and the sun emerged shining in the sky. The umbrellas kept in this museum are the ones that could be preserved from that miraculous day, as well as some cameras also exhibited in the museum. But "the jewel in the crown" of this museum is precisely "The Crown of Jewels" and not precisely because of its precious stones...
Without a doubt, the most interesting object in the museum is the official gold crown of the Virgin Mary, which is the one worn by Our Lady of Fatima in the most solemn events. In addition to being adorned with jewels, this crown is set with a very special object. Surprisingly, we are talking about the bullet that wounded Pope John Paul II in that fateful attack he suffered on May 13, 1981. The Pontiff´s faith in the Virgin Mary acted as a protective shield, saving his life. In gratitude, John Paul II gave to the Shrine of Fatima the bullet that almost ended his life.
Since then, the bullet has been part of the halo of the illustrious crown, as another jewel. Undoubtedly, this bullet is the most special "jewel in the crown”.
A NOCTURNAL MANTLE OF CANDLES
One of the most moving activities that can be performed in Fatima is to attend the nightly Candlelight Procession. In the period between Easter and mid-November, this highly spiritual and religious event is celebrated absolutely every night, since this is the time when the sanctuary receives the most visitors. During the rest of the year, the Candlelight Procession only takes place on the night of the 12th and 13th of each month. The celebration begins with the recitation of the Rosary in the Chapel of Apparitions at 9:30 P.M. After its completion, the procession begins at 10:15 P.M.
It is then when the image of Our Lady of Fatima leaves on shoulders in procession, carried on a decorated step with thousands of flowers and dressed with her beautiful official crown, the same that is kept in the Museum of the Sanctuary. This gold crown weighs a little more than a kilo, contains 313 pearls and 2679 precious stones (in addition to the bullet that we explained in a previous point). Then begins the walk of Our Lady of Fatima through the Prayer Area, as it is also called the esplanade of the Sanctuary. It is done slowly, in a darkness broken only by the light of the candles carried by the faithful present there.
The respect that pervades everything is enhanced to the maximum by the chants of the faithful in honor of the Virgin Mary and suddenly, everything is impregnated with a very special atmosphere. It is difficult to explain in words what the faithful who attend this procession feel. It is like a kind of joy of faith, full of spirituality that is increased by the beauty that surrounds them and the light of those candles shining in the darkness and forming with their faint flames a whole mantle of light, of faith and hope, of union, of harmony and peace... It is the mantle of universal love that wants to cover the world.
It is the mantle of Our Lady of Fatima. After the procession, the image of Our Lady of Fatima returns to the Chapel of Apparitions where she will remain until the next procession and from where she watches over all of us.
CURIOSITIES ABOUT THE SANCTUARY TEMPLES
The Sanctuary of Fatima hosts three sacred buildings whose construction and history gather many curiosities that we will discover in this point. The esplanade of the sanctuary is dominated by the majestic Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima, by its imposing 65 meters high tower and by its magnificent colonnade, all in the neo-baroque style and built-in white limestone of the region. The works of this temple began in 1928 and finished in 1953, receiving the following year the title of Minor Basilica by Pope Pius XII. In the interior of the temple, we find fourteen altars distributed on the sides of the main nave, plus another altar under the vault of the main chapel.
In total, fifteen altars... as fifteen are the mysteries of the traditional rosary, as is the case with the spouts of the healing water fountain! In this sanctuary nothing is casual. In its transept lie the remains of the three shepherds. In the left arm, we find the tombs of Jacinta Marto and Sister Lucia and in the right arm of the transept rests Saint Francisco Marto. The Chapel of Apparitions is the most emblematic building of the sanctuary. The chapel was erected on the exact spot where the Virgin Mary appeared to the children in 1917, but although the place has always been the same, its appearance has changed over the years.
By Our Lady´s wish, a chapel was erected on this very spot in 1919, just after the apparitions. This original chapel, small and simple, was built in the style of the popular Portuguese chapels, but in 1922, it suffered an attack by anti-Catholic groups and was dynamited. After this explosion, it was restored and opened for worship the following year. In 1982, the glazed porch surrounding the chapel was erected and its roof was covered with pine wood, which curiously came from the USSR! This chapel has always housed the original carving of Our Lady of Fatima that we can admire today protected inside an armored glass cabinet. The image only leaves this place during special events.
It is a carving of 1.04 meters, sculpted in Brazilian cedar wood in 1920. By divine design, at the time of the 1922 attack, the carving was not in the chapel. Blessed providence! Finally, at the end of the esplanade lies another building also consecrated under the title of Minor Basilica. This whitewashed temple was inaugurated in 2007 and its construction was due to theincreasing influx of the faithful to Fatima. So, it was decided to build a large church with a large capacity but respecting the serene atmosphere of Fatima. Thus, was born the Basilica of the Holy Trinity, a spectacular church with an incredible architecture that perfectly combines light and technology.
It is circular in shape and has a diameter of 125 meters, with no need for internal supports - the entire structure is supported by two spectacular 182.5 meter beams! Its interior has almost 9,000 seats and is prepared to accommodate a maximum of 12,000 worshippers. This architectural marvel also has a stone jewel. The first stone chosen for its construction was donated and blessed by Pope John Paul II in 2004 and it is a marble fragment from the tomb of St. Peter.
The placement of this stone was only symbolic and we can admire it exposed inside the temple.
THE SACRED WAY OF THE LITTLE SHEPHERDS
From the iconic traffic circle that exhibits the Monument to the Three Little Shepherds, a very comfortable walk is born since the walk is pedestrian, paved, not long and quite flat, the perfect complement to the visit of the Sanctuary of Fatima. In this easy route we can stretch our legs surrounded by nature, art, faith and history, and all this in the two kilometers that link the emblematic traffic circle with the village of Aljustrel. This walk is called "Camino de los Pastorcitos" (Shepherds´ Way).
It is called this way because it is the path that the three little shepherds took daily from their homes in the village of Aljustrel to the area called Cova da Iria, where their flocks grazed, where the Marian apparitions took place and where the Sanctuary is now located. On this route, the children crossed lands called Valinhos, which is why part of the walk is also called Valinhos. This path itself contains a Via Sacra that is marked by 15 chapels along its route. The first 14 chapels represent the 14 stations of the Via Crucis of Jesus Christ and the fifteenth corresponds to his Resurrection.
Upon arriving at the chapel representing the eighth station of the Via Crucis, the path presents different possibilities. The endings of each of these paths can be chosen very close to each other and this allows the complete itinerary to be carried out without any problem. All the possibilities are very well sign posted and there is no risk of getting lost. The walk also has public services. A few meters after passing through the eighth chapel of the Via Crucis, the road turns splits into two, one of the possibilities offered by this turn is to continue along the path of the Via Sacra.
At the beginning of this path, we will see the Monument of the Apparition of the Virgin Mary and after passing through the remaining chapels of the Via Crucis (from the ninth to the fifteenth) we will end at the Chapel of St. Stephen whose roof houses the spectacular monument of the Hungarian Calvary. It is worth mentioning that very close to chapel number eleven there is a beautiful monument called The Angel of Peace (also known as Loca do Cabeço) which represents the visit of an angel to the three children. The other road that we can take at the junction mentioned above will take us directly to Aljustrel, the small village where the three children lived.
This place offers the opportunity to visit the house where the siblings Francisco and Jacinta Marto lived as well as the house of their cousin Lucia dos Santos, thus being able to learn details of the family life of the three children. We have listed so many things to visit at this point that it seems that the distances are long, but it is not so. Everything can be perfectly done on foot. To give you an idea, only one kilometer separates the Sanctuary of Fatima from the traffic circle from where the Little Shepherds´ Road starts. The distance from the beginning of this road to Aljustrel is less than two kilometers, so take this walk and you surely will recharge your batteries to the fullest!
Rotunda dos Pastorinhos, 2495-413 Fátima, Portugal.
Francisco and Jacinta Marto´s House Rua dos Pastorinhos 42 2495-301 Aljustrel - Fátima, Portugal
Lucia´s House Rua dos Pastorinhos 86 2495-301 Aljustrel - Fátima, Portugal
A BREAK … AND CARPE DIEM STAIRCASES AND COLONNADES
Walking through the Sanctuary of Fatima, one feels all the power of faith and a sensation of peace invades our interior. But there is a place in the sanctuary where this serenity is enhanced to maximum levels because everything that surrounds us in that place is pure art and tranquility. Come with us for a leisurely stroll through the colonnade that connects the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima with the annex buildings. Afterwards, we suggest you take a break sitting on the central staircase to enjoy the peace that we will feel after the walk.
The magnificent colonnade, white as snow, is a superb architectural ensemble composed of a gallery with 200 columns. At the top of the gallery there are several statues of saints that watch over the esplanade from above, watching over all the pilgrims. In addition, the gallery treasures 14 altars whose altarpieces show the 14 stations of the Way of the Cross of Jesus Christ in polychrome ceramic. The colonnade has a curved shape and at its central point rises the imposing Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima. This semi-circular shape has its reason for being so, because the two arms of the gallery, curved and symmetrical, project a warm embrace of welcome to receive the faithful.
To all this, we must add that the gallery also seems to surround with its two arms the figure of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, located in the central point of the esplanade, symbolizing in this way the centrality of Jesus in the messages of Fatima. It is a real pleasure walking quietly through this white gallery, contemplating the sanctuary from the different angles offered by the wide openings between columns, admiring the altarpieces of the altars that adorn it and feeling the protection of the seventeen saints represented by the monumental marble statues that rest on our heads. The four central statues are the largest and represent four Portuguese saints: Saint John of God, Saint John de Brito, Saint Anthony of Padua (here known as St Anthony of Lisbon) and Saint Nuno of Saint Mary.
The rest of the statues are smaller and reproduce the images of other saints, both male and female. After this peaceful walk in which we have walked surrounded by a panorama so extremely white that even purifies the soul, it is a delight to sit for a while on the central staircase, from here you can watch the coming and going of pilgrims by the grand esplanade of the sanctuary.
It is thrilling and very joyful to see how the little noise made by the groups of faithful is surrounded by a respectful silence that flies over the esplanade.
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