This place of religious worship is about 120 Kms. north of Lisbon and is reputably named after an Arab girl captured by a Christian and brought back to live in the area.
Now a point of pilgrimage for the Roman Catholic religion due to the vision of the Virgin Mary by three young children in 1917 whilst tending their flock. Today, on both the 13th of May and the 13th of October each year, thousands of pilgrims make their way from all over the world to celebrate these occasions.
It was reported that three messages were given to the eldest, 10 year old Lúcia. Two of these messages were divulged and proved to be correct. The third has never been divulged by the Catholic Church and it is said to foretell a forthcoming disaster. All the children are deceased with Lúcia, who became a nun, living until she was in 90s.
The Basilica that has been constructed has an apron twice the size of St. Peter’s square in Rome to provide sufficient space for the gathering of pilgrims. The ceremony of mid-night mass that takes place yearly on these two days is immensely moving.
The night is filled with thousands of twinkling candles, silent people breaking into chant at chosen moments, and the electric atmosphere created by the respectful reference of the multitude. There is close by an Ethnological Museum devoted to the event.
Visitors to this area are recommended to pay a visit to Ourém, a medieval town that lies just to the northeast of Fátima.
This town has a 12th Century castle and in the church is the impressive tomb of Afonso, the grandson of Nuno Álvares Pereira, the saviour in the Battle of “Aljubarrota in 1385 against the invading forces of Castile.
This town is said to be the source of the charming story about the captured Moorish girl and brought back to convert to Christianity. Her name was said to have been Fátima Ourena.
Directly to the east of Fátima is the fascinating and historic town of Tomar. This town was founded in 1159 by the first Grand Master of the all-powerful Order of the Knights Templar in Portugal, Gualdim Pais.
The most important secret moments of this Order took place in the "Charola", an octagonal chapel painted and carved in the Byzantine style and is at the heart of the Covento de Cristo.
A few kilometres to the northeast of Fátima is the wondrous building constructed in memory of the important battle of Aljubarrota in 1385. The Abbey at Batalha commenced in 1388 and was added to by various Portuguese Kings over the following centuries.
To the northwest is the town of Alcobaça that only became notable in the 12th Century when it became the site for the important construction of Portugal’s largest Abbey.
To the north is the 16th Century town of Leiria that is crowned with a 14th Century castle. It was in this castle that the King Dom Dinis held the first “Cortes”, an advanced form in its day of what is now viewed as type of democracy.
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