The Sanctuary of Fátima (officially, Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fátima) is the response of a devout community to the request made by Our Lady of the Rosary to the Three Little Shepherds, in the apparition of October 13th, 1917.
What started as a small chapel in honor of the Virgin Mary, has become not only a national sanctuary but also the most important pilgrimage site in Portugal, with millions of visitors every year!
Fátima is equally the perfect place for a day trip from Lisbon, as it’s about 75 minutes by car and 90 minutes by bus. And although the Sanctuary of Fátima is a religious destination, I think that everyone should visit it. After all, the architecture is beautiful and there are several points of interest!
So, do you want to know How To Visit The Sanctuary Of Fátima In 2023? Keep reading!
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- Brief History of the Sanctuary of Fátima
- How to Get to the Sanctuary of Fátima
- What to See at the Sanctuary of Fátima
- More Posts about Portugal
- More Posts about Religious Temples
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Brief History of the Sanctuary of Fátima
The brothers Jacinta and Francisco Marto, and their cousin Lúcia dos Santos, are popularly called Three Little Shepherds. In 1917, the three children (at the time, 7, 8, and 10 years old, respectively) were the main witnesses of the six apparitions of Our Lady in Cova da Iria, between May 13th and October 13th.
Before the Marian apparitions, Francisco, Jacinta, and Lúcia stated that they had already seen the Angel of Portugal (also called the Angel of Peace) on three different occasions. These visions took place between the months of March and October 1916, in the place of Valinhos and in the village of Aljustrel, in Fátima.
The Apparitions of Fátima always took place in Cova da Iria and on the 13th of each month, except for the fourth apparition. This was because the children had been kidnapped to reveal the Secret of Fátima and ended up witnessing the Virgin Mary only on August 19th, in the place of Valinhos.
In short, Our Lady asked the Three Little Shepherds to say the rosary every day, do penance, and build a chapel in her honor. There were some initial reservations, but the Chapel of the Apparitions was built in 1919 and, today, it’s the most important element of the Sanctuary of Fátima!
As the flow of pilgrims was steadily increasing from year to year, it was decided to create a proper place for worship and adoration. Therefore, the Sanctuary of Fátima began to take shape on May 13th, 1928, with the beginning of the construction of the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary.
In the following decades, accommodation and support structures for pilgrims, archival and administrative buildings, the current Colonnade, the Paul VI Pastoral Center, and the Basilica of the Most Holy Trinity, among other spaces and monuments, emerged. In total, the Sanctuary has an area of over 70 thousand m² and a capacity for more than 500 thousand people!
How to Get to the Sanctuary of Fátima
The Sanctuary of Fátima is a religious tourism destination visited by thousands of people every day. Since it’s such a busy place, it’s important to prepare the visit a few days in advance. Starting with the trip itself, or better, the access and transportation options.
If you intend to travel by car, then Fátima is less than 130 km from Lisbon (or 196 km from Porto) by the A1 motorway and the Sanctuary has a total of 14 free parking lots. But if you prefer to travel by bus, you can choose between Flixbus or Rede Expressos. Buses run directly from Lisbon – Oriente (or from Porto – Camélias) and prices start at €2.99!
Opening Hours & Ticket Prices
The Sanctuary of Fátima can be visited for free at any time of the day, every day of the year. In addition, there are more than a dozen religious ceremonies during the day, including masses, confessions, and other services. These events take place in the main buildings of the enclosure (Chapel of the Apparitions, Basilica of the Most Holy Trinity, and Chapels of Reconciliation) and the schedule can be consulted on the official website of the Sanctuary of Fátima.
What to See at the Sanctuary of Fátima
Chapel of the Apparitions
The Chapel of the Apparitions is the oldest and most important monument in the Sanctuary of Fátima. As I mentioned earlier, this small chapel marks the exact place where Our Lady spoke to the Three Little Shepherds, on five different occasions.
The current porch is lined with pine wood and was inaugurated on the first visit of Pope John Paul II to Fátima, on May 12th and 13th, 1982. The place also includes an altar where masses are celebrated and many benches for the congregation.
In front of the Chapel of the Apparitions, there’s a pedestal with the image of Our Lady of the Rosary protected by bulletproof glass. This marks the spot where the holm oak, on which the 1917 Apparitions of Fátima took place, was.
The golden crown that adorns the sculpture on the most important dates, was offered to the Sanctuary of Fátima on October 13th, 1942. It weighs 1.2 kg and consists of 313 pearls and 2679 precious stones, being an object of incalculable value. For this reason, this treasure spends most of the year on display at the Museum of the Sanctuary of Fátima and the image of Our Lady bears a second crown, made of gilded silver.
Another absolutely extraordinary detail about the crown of gold and precious stones is the fact that it includes the bullet that was extracted from the body of John Paul II, after his attack on Saint Peter’s Square, on May 13th, 1981. The Pope offered it to the Sanctuary of Fátima in 1984, which decided to add it to the crown five years later.
Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary
The Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary is one of the two basilicas that exist in the Sanctuary of Fátima (the other is the Basilica of the Most Holy Trinity). It started out as a church and its construction dates back to 1928, based on a project by the Dutch architect Gerardus Samuel van Krieken. In 1954, it was finally given the title of Minor Basilica by Pope Pius XII.
The temple is 70.5 meters long, 37 meters wide, and made of white limestone, collected in the region. The bell tower stands 65 meters high and is the tallest element in the entire Sanctuary. According to the story of the Apparitions of Fátima, this was the place where the Three Little Shepherds were playing before they saw a lightning bolt, on May 13th, 1917.
Inside, are the tombs of Jacinta Marto and Francisco Marto. Next to Jacinta‘s, are the remains of their cousin Lúcia dos Santos (better known as Sister Lúcia de Jesus), who died in 2005 and was transferred to Fátima a year later.
It should be noted that the brothers Francisco and Jacinta were beatified by Pope John Paul II on May 13th, 2000, and canonized by Pope Francis, also in the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary seventeen years later precisely.
Colonnade of the Sanctuary of Fátima
The Colonnade of the Sanctuary of Fátima is the architectural complex that connects the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary and the two buildings on the sides of the Prayer Area: the Retreat House of Our Lady of Sorrows and the Retreat House of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
This classic-inspired work was designed by Portuguese artist António Lino and contains 200 columns and half-columns, reminiscent of the famous curved colonnade that Gian Lorenzo Bernini designed for Saint Peter’s Square in Vatican City.
Above the Colonnade, the figures of seventeen saints stand out, with heights between 2.3 and 3.2 meters. As for the gallery itself, it includes a Via Crucis, with fourteen panels of the episodes of the Passion of Jesus Christ in polychrome ceramics, made by the painter Lino António.
Large Holm Oak
Although it’s not the exact holm oak on which Our Lady appeared to the Three Shepherds, the Large Holm Oak of the Sanctuary of Fátima is the only tree in the Cova da Iria that has survived to this day.
Over 100 years old and 13.5 meters high, this Large Holm Oak was classified as an example of “public interest” in January 2007, by the Directorate-General for Forest Resources of Portugal.
According to Sister Lúcia in her memories, the Three Little Shepherds were passing by this tree when they saw the lightning bolt for the second time on May 13th, 1917.
After the apparition of that day, the Large Holm Oak became a place of cult and prayer for pilgrims and devotees of Our Lady of Fátima.
Monument of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
The Monument of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is a golden bronze statue of Jesus Christ, which was offered to the Sanctuary of Fátima by an anonymous pilgrim in the early 1930s. The column that supports it was built on an old well and fountain, whose water was considered miraculous.
Nonetheless, this hydraulic structure was completely buried when the Prayer Area was leveled a few years later. According to the Sanctuary, the location of the Monument of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is symbolic too, as it corresponds to the “centrality of Jesus Christ in the Message of Fátima“.
Fragment of the Berlin Wall
Did you know that you can see a fragment of the Berlin Wall itself in Portugal? Near one of the entrances to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fátima, there’s a block of this historic wall, with 2.6 tons, 3.60 meters high, and 1.20 meters wide!
As is well known, the construction of the Berlin Wall began at dawn on August 13th, 1961, by order of the eastern sector of the German city. And its fall did not happen until the night of November 9th, 1989, after more than 28 years of existence.
This physical fragment of the so-called “Iron Curtain”, which divided Europe for so long, was offered to the Sanctuary of Fátima by a Portuguese emigrant, residing in Germany. Therefore, the Berlin Wall Monument was inaugurated on August 13th, 1994, as a symbol of unity, freedom, and peace.
Basilica of the Most Holy Trinity
The Sanctuary of Fátima has already wanted to build a new church since the 1970s since the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary was no longer able to accommodate the large numbers of pilgrims. The plan came to fruition at the beginning of the new millennium, after an international competition that selected the Greek architect Alexandros Tombazis as the author of the project.
The first stone was laid on June 6th, 2004, and the inauguration took place on October 13th, 2007, during the 90th Anniversary of the Apparitions of Fátima. The Basilica of the Most Holy Trinity has a circular shape, 125 meters in diameter and 18 meters high. In 2012, the temple received the title of Minor Basilica.
High Cross & Statue of John Paul II
The Basilica of the Most Holy Trinity is surrounded by two squares: John Paul II Square (in front of the monument) and Pius XII Square (in the back). It’s in this first one that the High Cross and the Statue of John Paul II are located.
The bronze statue of the Pope was designed by Czesław Dźwigaj, a Polish artist who has created more than fifty sculptures and monuments in honor of John Paul II. The High Cross, on the other hand, was made of corten steel by the German sculptor Robert Schad.
At 34 meters high, this monument was erected on August 29th, 2007, to replace the old High Cross. The original model existed since 1951 but was removed in 2004 with the construction of the new basilica. In 2007, it ended up being offered to the National Sanctuary of Christ the King, in Almada.
Museum of the Sanctuary of Fátima
The Museum of the Sanctuary of Fátima was founded in 1955 by D. José Alves Correia da Silva, the Bishop of Leiria at the time. The main objective of this institution was to inventory, preserve and display the relics related to the Apparitions of Fatima.
Today, the Museum of the Sanctuary of Fátima has two permanent exhibitions – Fátima Light and Peace (opened in August 2002) and the House-Museum of Aljustrel (open to the public since August 19th, 1992) – as well as some temporary exhibitions.
The Fátima Light and Peace exhibition can be visited from Tuesday to Saturday, from 9 am to 12 pm and from 2:30 pm to 5:30 pm. On Sundays, holy days, and national holidays, it operates from 9 am to 12 pm and from 2:30 pm to 4:30 pm. Lastly, it closes on Mondays, every 13th, in the morning between May and October, on December 24th (in the afternoon), and on December 25th and January 1st (all day).
The House-Museum of Aljustrel is open from 9 am to 1:30 pm and from 2:30 pm to 7 pm (from April to October), or from 9 am to 1 pm and from 2 pm to 6 pm (from November to March). It’s important to note that this museum nucleus is about 2 kilometers from the Sanctuary of Fátima.
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