No one knows for sure what caused the Miracle of the Sun but from the eyewitness accounts it is clear and that something happened, and it was spectacular
Journalist Avelino de Almeida of the anti-clerical newspaper O Século, who had previously written a mocking article on the apparitions at Fatima, described it in this way:
‘…one could see the immense multitude turn towards the sun, which appeared free from clouds and at its zenith. It looked like a plaque of dull silver and it was possible to look at it without the least discomfort. It might have been an eclipse which was taking place. But at that moment a great shout went up and one could hear the spectators nearest at hand shouting: “A miracle! A miracle!” Before the astonished eyes of the crowd, whose aspect was Biblical as they stood bareheaded, eagerly searching the sky, the sun trembled, made sudden incredible movements outside all cosmic laws – the sun “danced” according to the typical expression of the people.
‘People then began to ask each other what they had seen. The great majority admitted to having seen the trembling and dancing of the sun; others affirmed that they saw the face of the Blessed Virgin; others, again, swore that the sun whirled on itself like a giant catherine wheel and that it lowered itself to the earth as if to burn it with its rays. Some said they saw it change colours successively.’
Miracle of the sun
Other reports describe the sun as throwing multi-coloured light across the land and careering across the sky in a zig-zag pattern that frightened people into believing it was the end of the world. On one strange point, however, all the reports appear to concur – that the previously soaked clothes of the people in the crowd were suddenly completely dry, as was the ground that until that moment had been wet and muddy.
Dr. Domingos Pinto Coelho, writing for the newspaper Ordem, said: ‘The sun, at one moment surrounded with scarlet flame, at another aureoled in yellow and deep purple, seemed to be in an exceedingly swift and whirling movement, at times appearing to be loosened from the sky and to be approaching the earth, strongly radiating heat.’
Another journalist, from the Lisbon newspaper O Dia, wrote: ‘The silver sun, enveloped in the same gauzy grey light, was seen to whirl and turn in the circle of broken clouds. The light turned a beautiful blue, as if it had come through the stained-glass windows of a cathedral, and spread itself over the people who knelt with outstretched hands. People wept and prayed with uncovered heads, in the presence of a miracle they had awaited. The seconds seemed like hours, so vivid were they.’
Science and the miracles of Fatima
It wasn’t just journalists who turned on the prose to describe the event. In his detailed eyewitness account Dr. José Maria de Almeida Garrett, Professor of Natural Sciences at Coimbra University, described it in this way: ‘Then, suddenly, one heard a clamour, a cry of anguish breaking from all the people. The sun, whirling wildly, seemed all at once to loosen itself from the firmament and, blood red, advance threateningly upon the earth as if to crush us with its huge and fiery weight. The sensation during those moments was truly terrible.’