Fátima is located around 130kms north of Lisbon, just 60kms east of Nazaré where the biggest wave surfed was recorded in 2018, click here for the Guinness Book of World Records’ video.
Fátima is not a big town but the population swells enormously at certain times of year – last year alone it welcomed over 6.3 million visitors.
In May 1917 three children (aged 7, 9 and 10) claimed to have encountered the Virgin Mary on their way home from tending sheep. She told the children that she would reappear to them on the thirteenth day of each of the following five months, the last appearance to be October 13.
Many in the village believed the children and as the weeks passed more and more believers from neighbouring towns and villages visited Fátima in the hope of seeing the Virgin Mary. None did but they listened to Lucia, the eldest of the three children, as she described her visions to them.
Mary’s final appearance on October 13 of the same year has become the most famous. It is estimated that 70,000 people amassed in anticipation of the final visit hoping that the Virgin Mary would perform a great miracle. It was again only the children who saw the figure. The Lady of the Rosary, as she identified herself to the three, urged repentance and the building of a chapel on the site. She also predicted the end of World War I and the children experienced more visions (which have never been disclosed). It is then that the crowd saw the sun “dance” and which has subsequently become known as the “sun miracle”.
The two youngest children died during the Spanish Flu epidemic but Lucia lived until 2005, having spent her life as a nun and experiencing a further three visions.
Today Fátima is, as can be expected, a town that thrives on its visitors. With the COVID-19 pandemic, until last month, few visitors spent time there but last week September 13 welcomed so many that by 11am the police had to prevent more from entering the sanctuary.
October 13 will see the final pilgrimage this year. The authorities are discussing a better way of coping with the expected vast numbers of people wanting to visit the shrine.
For more information on visiting the town, its basilica and shrine click here.
Being just a three hour drive from Algarve, visitors to the region can enjoy a short trip away to appreciate more of what Portugal has to offer without spending too much time travelling during their holiday.