I guess as readers you’ve almost had your fill of religious sites, but Fatima was quite nearby and we felt we really should visit the shrine, potentially one of the most famous in the world.
The parking area was huge and there were spaces for hundreds of cars and dozens of motorhomes, and definitely plenty of space for us right outside the sanctuary grounds and they even gave us our very own picnic bench ! (N 39.6339, W 8.67111)
The sprawling grounds were quite astounding, almost awe inspiring, but considering that it’s one of the biggest catholic pilgrimage sites in the world…
Unlike me, who was never really brought up as a church goer, for many Catholics, standing on this gigantic plaza could be a lifetime ambition.
For everyone else it’s still something you need to do, to gauge the amazing size of this place and comprehend what makes so many people tick.
At each end of the square are Fatima’s two basilicas, and there’s a large modern crucifix in front of the newer of the two on the south side.
The most spellbinding view faces down the slope towards the older sanctuary, which is winged by a colonnade.
The extraordinary story of this former village began in 1917 when 3 small shepherd children claimed that the Virgin Mary had appeared to them. After a few months they had built up a following and it happened 4 more times, even though nobody else had witnessed anything.
On the 5th occasion there were flashes of light and apparent healings.
It was barely a decade after the apparitions that construction began on this church with stirring Neo-Baroque architecture.
It is on the spot where the young shepherds are said to have seen Mary’s glow, which they at first mistook for a thunderstorm.
The architect was Dutchman Gerardus Samuel van Krieken, and when the church was finally completed and consecrated it was granted the status of minor basilica by Pope Pius XII.
The tombs of the siblings Francisco Marto and Jacinta Marto are on either end of the transept.
Just spellbinding- Paul x