Fatima Tourist Attractions
Fátima, internationally famous as a place of pilgrimage, is in central Portugal a good 20km/12mi southeast of Leiria and on what was once the barren plateau of Cova da Iria. Every year it attracts thousands of believers from far and wide to beseech forgiveness for their sins or pray for a cure. Fátima also figures in every organized excursion or coach tour of this part of Portugal.
Miracle of Fátima
On May 13, 1917, and again on the 13th of each subsequent month until October in that year, the "Virgin of the Rosary" is said to have appeared to the three peasant children, Lúcia de Jesús and Francisco and Jacinta Marto. At first skeptical about these visions, on the last appearance, October 13, 1917, the Church saw over 70,000 people making the pilgrimage to Fátima where they are supposed to have witnessed not only the appearance of the Virgin but also an amazing natural phenomenon. In the pouring rain the sun suddenly began to revolve on its axis and throw out multicolored rays of light. There were also a number of miraculous cures in the days that followed. The Church authorities investigated the incidents for several years before finally giving the Fátima cult of the Madonna the official seal of approval in 1930.Speculation continues to this day about the three "revelations" that the children who were seven, nine and ten at the time said had been vouchsafed them by the Virgin on July 13, 1917. The first two are public knowledge, the first being a description of "Hell", and the second prophesying a speedy end to the First World War, but also foretelling a dreadful war if the world did not cease offending God.The third prophesy was confided in writing to the Vatican in 1941 by Lúcia, who had entered a convent in 1928, but she also stipulated it should not be made public before 1960 and to date no Pope has unveiled the secret.
Torch Light Processions
On the eve of the chief annual pilgrimages there are large torch light processions.
The esplanade that serves as the rallying point for the kneeling pilgrims is of huge proportions (150,000 sq.m/37 acres). It is dominated by the Neo Baroque Basilica, with its 65m/215ft high central tower. Building was begun on May 13, 1928 and it is flanked by colonnades linking it with the extensive conventual and hospital buildings. Inside the Basilica are the tombs of Francisco and Jacinta Marto, who died in 1919 and 1920 respectively. The place where the Virgin Mary is supposed to have appeared to the children in the branches of an oak in 1917 is marked by the little chapel of the apparitions, the Capela das Apariçôes, in front of the Cathedral. The first chapel built here in 1918 was later destroyed by an explosion.
Museum of Sacred Art and Ethnology
A short distance east of the esplanade stands the Museum of Sacred Art and Ethnology. It tells the story of the Redemption by means of pictures, crucifixes, cribs and other exhibits. The ethnological department concerns itself with those cultures which influenced the Gospels.
West of the esplanade is a wax museum, the Museu de Cera de Fátima, opened in 1984 and depicting the miraculous events at Fátima in a series of 29 scenes.
About 10km/6mi northeast of Fátima, on an isolated hill rising out of the valley, is the little medieval walled town of Ourém, a huddle of narrow lanes and picturesque nooks and corners in the shadow of the 15th C. castle of the Margraves of Ourém.In the crypt of the collegiate church, originally Gothic but rebuilt in the 18th C., is the magnificent tomb of Dom Afonso de Ourém, a descendant of Joao I, who rebuilt and enlarged the original Moorish castle. Ourém also has a beautiful Gothic fountain and a pelourinho, both of the 15th C.Many of the inhabitants of Ourém have moved to Vila Nova de Ourém, 2km/1.25mi to the east.