Friday, September 29, 2017

Travel Diary: Sanctuary of Fátima

Do you believe in miracles? Do you like stories about the supernatural?

This summer I went on a study trip to Portugal. This summer school was part of a course about religion. That's why we visited Fátima. Though I don't go to church, I've always been really interested in Catholic saints, angels and mysticism. So I was super excited to visit Fátima!

But wait a minute, what is Fátima? Fátima is a place in Portugal near a tiny village. During the First World War, three little shepherd children who lived in this area said they had seen visions. First they were visited by an angel, who taught them a prayer. Later they were also visited by a radiant lady, who told them to pray the Rosary, in order to bring peace and end the bitter war. According to the children this lady was Mother Mary, the Holy Virgin. She revealed three secrets to the children, which were only shared with the world much later. Now Fátima has become a place of pilgrimage.

This story really fascinated me, so before I went to the Summerschool I decided to read the letters written by one of the shepherd children, Lucia, years later. They were put together in a book, Fátima in Lucia's Own Words. It made me sad how much these poor little children had to suffer because of their visions. Reading the book made this place even more special to me. Now I would like to share with you some pictures I took, so you can get a sense of the atmosphere in this extraordinary place!

Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary 

The first place we visited on our journey was the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary. This place was crowded, because it was the 13th day of the month. Whenever the shepherd children were visited by Our Lady, it would almost always be on the 13th day (except for August 19th). When we arrived there, a mass was taking place.

Those in our group who had been in the Catholic church said it was a very recognizable mass, with the same structure as always. But for me, it was a new experience. It was also in Portuguese, which unfortunately I can't understand.

Still the experience moved me. Especially when I walked out onto the square, it was very intense. It was extremely hot because of the blazing sun and the singing was really loud because of the stereo installations. But I thought the singing was very beautiful.

I didn't have the chance to look inside of the Basilica, since we were given assignments to fulfill for the summer school. But if you have the chance, it's probably worth it! You can find the graves of the little shepherd children there, as well as beautiful images on the walls.

Before I visited Fátima, I thought this was all there is to it. Just a square with a church. Well... I was wrong!

Way of the Cross

Turns out that the place where the shepherds lived is still a long walk! You have to walk the Way of the Cross, but before you even get there, you have to walk the long "way of the tourist souvenirs shops, restaurants and hotels". But don't worry, in my opinion it was worth it.

When we reached the Way of the Cross, it felt like we landed in an oasis of peace. It was so different from the crowded and loud square. The path was surrounded by trees and we heard cicadas. Along the path, there are 14 Stations of the Cross, like the one in the picture. They each portray an episode in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

At the end of the way, there was a chapel. We could not enter it, for it was closed. However, on top of this chapel stood a Calvary, a crucifixion scene. It was life-sized and a beautiful ending to the way of the cross.

From this place, you could go in several directions. I wanted to go visit the statue of the angel first. I just really love angels, which you can of course tell from my blog name.

These statues were not that big or colorful, but that actually made it more moving to me. The visions of this angel marked the start of something that would change the lives of these little children, and also of many people in Portugal (whether it's in a good or a bad way). Yet it is captured in such a small and serene scene in the middle of nature. To me, such a peaceful scene is perfect for the "Angel of Peace". It looks so sweet and pure.

In addition to that, I think the angel is so beautiful. It has such a calm and sweet expression on his face, and his hair seems to be flowing in the wind. Somehow, it also reminds me of Tom Hiddleston. I wouldn't be surprised if he's actually an angel, too, though! ;)

While exploring Fátima, we also had to work on our study project. We were asked to try and interview people. There were not many people along the Way of the Cross, but near the above statue of Mother Mary we walked passed a nun. We gathered the courage to talk to her and she was very sweet.

She told us a lot about what Fátima meant to her. It was beautiful to me how devoted she was to Mary. She said Mary was her spiritual mother and that holding the rosary was like holding her hand. I thought it was inspiring how peaceful and full of love she looked. After meeting her we immediately felt happier! She really seemed to wish this happiness to us, too. 

After talking for a bit and taking a photo together, we went to the village together with her and the lady who was friendly enough to take the photo for us. She was in Fátima because her son would be singing in the choir.

Village of Aljustrel

In the village, you could find the two houses of the shepherd children. The two youngest of these children, Francisco and Jacinta have become saints now, and Lucia is currently in the process of becoming one. They're so important that their houses were kept more or less the same way as when they were alive. It is a very strange feeling to walk into their homes.

When you walk in, it's as if the homes are still inhabited. All of the furniture of the families are still standing there. In the above picture, for example, you can see their beds. Though it felt a little strange, I still loved being able to see their homes like this. In the letters by Lucia I read about their houses a lot. How cool is it when you've read a book, that you can actually visit the places where things happened?

All in all, my trip to Fátima was one of the most interesting experiences in my life. The atmosphere in this place is so amazing. Near the church it's extremely holy and powerful. On the other hand, in the village and the Way of the Cross it is so peaceful, because you're surrounded by nature and there are butterflies flying around. No wonder that Mother Mary chose such a beautiful place to appear. :)

What about you? Have you ever been to a pilgrimage site? Or is there another travel experience that left a huge impression on you?

Wishing you a magical day,

~Mayte ଘ(੭*ˊᵕˋ)੭*


  1. I never been exactly to Fatima, but I went very close a loooong time ago because I was in a road trip with my family and we went to somewear near and Fatima was in the way. I felt very impressed because in Portugal most villages are so humble and here the buildings were huger hahahah
    In my opinion, I don't like the pilgrimate places because the bussiness that is behind, maybe you had heard about Montserrat (in Catalonia, Spain) I've been there twice and everything there is so expensive, I don't agree with this.
    In the other hand, I like to learn about the stories about apparitions, like Fatima or Lourdes (in France) or the stories about saints, they are very curious.

    1. Thank you so much for your comment! You're right, the buildings are huge! I was surprised too, it was a lot more than I expected. I hope to visit other villages in Portugal in the future!

      I think you have a very good point. I've never been to Montserrat, but I can imagine that it is expensive. I also don't think that's good. It's great that you stay critical about things like that, in my opinion!

      I'm also glad to know I'm not the only one who likes stories like this. I think they have an interesting sense of mystery, right?

      - xoxo Mayte ଘ( ˊᵕˋ )ଓ