We spent just one day outside of Lisbon itself and that was to visit the City of Fatima, North of Lisbon.
The Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima with the original Church building at the top
As had been all week in Lisbon, it was once again very hot and the area around Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima is all paved making it even hotter. The importance of this Shrine is that for 6 months in 1917, on the 13th of each month, 3 children who were caring for sheep in the area saw visions of the Virgin Mary. The three children were Lúcia dos Santos and her cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto. Both Francisco and Jacinta died in the 1918 ‘flu epidemic but Lucia became a nun and wrote a number of memoirs on the visions and experiences of the children.
Lucia died in 2005 after being very frail for many years. It was Lucia who gave the full account to the church but it was only in 1930 that the area where the visions had taken place was sanctified. On 13 May 2000 the 3 children were beatified and then canonised in 2017 by Pope Francis. Each of these events took place on 13 May as that was the date of the initial sighting.
On arrival at the Shrine we were taken aback at the number of visitors there on a Monday morning. Parking was at a premium. It is a fair distance from most of the parking and the last part is up a reasonably steep hill. Once in the centre of the Shrine, which covers an enormous area, we went first to the new church which has been built there. It is of modern design, truly enormous and can seat over 700. This church is used for regular Sunday and weekday services.
Inside the new church building
Outside of this church there are 2 large statues, one of Pope John Paul II and the other of the Crucifisio. A number of visitors would kneel before these to pray.
The Crucifixion and Pope John Paul II
Opposite the new church is the tree in which the Visions were seen and this is now protected by a fence. Beside that is the Capella or Chapel of the Apparitions from which prayers are said all day in various languages. People throng to be a part of these. This is considered to be the centre of the Shrine and it is from here that a number of people perform a form of Penance of which I had not heard nor seen previously. Holding a tall candle and accompanied by a supporter, a person, wearing kneepads, climbs up and down the hill on their knees. I was surprised to see that not only adults but children were doing this as well. What devotion that truly is.
The tree where the Visions took place
The original church, which stands imposingly at the top of the hill, is now only used on special occasions, such as Papal visits. Outside of it there is a large covered stage from the Pope has preached. It was from here that the Canonisation of the children took place.The original church is also very large and ornate as are most of the churches of the period. We were able to go right up to and inside the building. The amount of work which must have been put into these amazing buildings is hard to imagine. No wonder they took years to build.
The original Church building
The Sanctuary of the original Church building
On the other side of the square behind the new church there is a beautiful avenue of trees with posters telling the story of the 3 children and their visions. That was the only bit of most welcome shade.
This was our final activity in Portugal. From here we flew to Copenhagen.