Approximately 76 miles north of Lisbon is the municipality of Fatima. It was here in 1917 that three shepherd children claimed they were visited by Angels and then the Virgin Mary. According to an Islamic legend, Fatima was the name of a Moorish princess kidnapped by a knight and taken to Portugal. A western form of the narrative claims that the princess fell in love with her captive and converted to Christianity. No documentary evidence exists to support either account. While the town was formally founded in 1568, archeological evidence indicates that Vikings had, for centuries, established subsistence farming with sheep in this area. Shepherding and farming remained the primary industry here until everything changed with the 1917 "apparitions." The children claimed they had seen the angel and Mary on six different occasions. In 1918, a small chapel was erected near where the children saw their visions. Later, this chapel was incorporated as part of a large basilica and sanctuary. Today, the town relies heavily on religious tourism. Because of the impact of its history, we felt we should spend some time visiting this site. And thanks to the generosity of Isabel and Manny Viera, in-laws to Valerie's (one of our daughters-in-law) brother, we had an apartment as our base for the three days we spent in Fatima.
Much of today's Fatima is devoted to religious souveniers.
Our visit coincided with the 100th anniversary of the Shepard children's visions.
After arriving at the bus terminal, we stopped at the hotel next door to check directions. Nicole (on the right) and her colleague were extremely friendly and helpful. Even to the point of recommending a local restaurant to eat (owned by Nicole's mother).
Despite the slight nepotism involved, the restaurant, and our host ,Susanna, lived up to the recommendation
But our reason for visiting Fatima was to learn the history behind what these three shepherd children had experienced.
All three lived in a small village just outside today's city center. This is the home of Francesco and Jacinta...
...and containing just the bare necessities.
A short distance away is the home of Lucia's family...
...they were better off than most of the village , and had a bigger house...
...with more of the necessities of life...
...including better accommodations for their sheep.
In the fields around the village are monuments where the children experienced their visions.
Just outside today's Fatima city center is the original basilica built to celebrate the visions of the three shepherd children...
...next to which is the sanctuary where daily services are held...
...followed each evening by a candle-light procession around the basilica's plaza.
For years, the original basilica was the site of the main celebrations...
...but as the crowds grew, a new 5000 seat church was added at the opposite side of the plaza.
Carl and Lorraine Aveni are two retirees planning on traveling through Europe for at least one year.