– miracles, apparitions and secrets
Fatima was nothing but a quiet farming village until a spring day almost a hundred years ago when three young children returned home from tending sheep and told their parents they had been visited by an apparition on the hillside.
That day would change their lives forever, turn Fatima into a centre of pilgrimage visited by millions each year, create a global religious movement and spark a wave of controversy and intrigue that continues to this day.
Secrets of Fatima
In the months that followed the children were visited five more times by the apparition, said to be the Virgin Mary herself, and given a series of messages and predictions that over the years have proved to be uncannily accurate. Among these were the now famous three secrets of Fatima, the third one of which was kept secret by the Vatican until recently because it was considered too explosive to be released to the public. Controversy still rages over whether the document the Vatican finally released is the complete third secret.
Fatima itself has become one of the most important sites in the Catholic faith and attracts around four to five million pilgrims each year, mostly on the 13th of the month from May to November which is when the apparitions originally appeared. Many people walk for miles to get there, some even crawling for the last part of their journey to the central sanctuary at Fatima.
There is an extensive complex of religious buildings and sights in Fatima, all built around the Chapel of Apparitions which is located on the site where the Virgin Mary was said to have appeared. This chapel, the most important site in Fatima, is the focal point for the pilgrims who visit the town and the centrepiece of the Fatima shrine.
Not surprisingly a thriving tourist industry has sprung up around the Fatima sanctuary, with dozens of hotels and boarding houses offering accommodation and a range of restaurants to choose from. There are also numerous gift and souvenir shops selling not only religious artefacts but samples of the many traditional crafts that are still practiced in the surrounding countryside where life goes on as it always has despite the momentous changes that have taken place in Fatima over the years.