Santuario Fatima – shrine to the miracles of Fatima
The heart of the Fatima sanctuary (Santuario Fatima) is situated on the exact place where the apparitions of the Lady of Fatima are said to have occurred. It consists of the tiny Chapel of Apparitions, originally built in 1919 and then re-built in 1922 after it was blown up by a group who believed the apparitions were a fraud.
Outside the chapel, which is now housed inside a modern structure near the centre of the Santuario Fatima complex, is a statue of the Lady of Fatima mounted on a pedestal which marks the spot of the original holm oak where the children saw the first apparition. The chapel is surrounded by wooden benches for people to sit in contemplation of the birth place of the Fatima miracles.
Basilica of Our Lady of Fatima
The focal point for pilgrims arriving at the Santuario Fatima’s vast open prayer plaza is the Basilica of Our Lady of Fatima (Basílica de Nossa Senhora do Rosário de Fátima). The church is a magnificent building which took 25 years to construct and has a central spire which, at 65 metres high, towers over the town of Fatima. There is a strict dress code for visitors to the Basilica and guards may stop people not dressed appropriately. Men should not wear shorts and women are expected to wear skirts or dresses.
The church, the most important in the Santuario Fatima, stands on the spot where the shepherd saw the flash of light that preceded the first apparition of the Lady of Fatima. Inside are 15 altars dedicated to the mysteries of the Rosary, stained glass windows depicting the Fatima apparitions, an organ whose sound is heard through no less than 12,000 pipes and the tombs of the three children – Lúcia, Jacinta and Francisco.
Santuario Fatima’s tribute to the saints
On either side of the church are curved colonnades which consist of 200 columns and 14 altars carrying depictions of the stations of the cross. Arranged around the top of the colonnades are 17 statues of Portuguese saints. At the centre of the space enclosed by the colonnades is the Monument to the Sacred Heart of Jesus which stands over a spring whose water is believed to have certain powers.
The crowds visiting the Santuario Fatima have grown in size enormously over the years and the shrine now attracts over four million pilgrims a year. As the original basilica became too small to accommodate even a fraction of the visitors, a new church was built and completed in 2007. Holding up to 9,000 worshippers, the Church of the Most Holy Trinity (Igreja da Santíssima Trindade) was built at a cost of 80 million euros and is the fourth largest Catholic church in the world.