010 - Fatima - Portugal

There are many places in Portugal that are centred around Christianity. We already featured Braga, who was Portugal`s religious capital, but Fatima is something different, and here is why!

Fatima supposed to be the place where we make a stop to sleep from our journey from Porto, before visiting Lisbon. 

But a few things happened: we visited a gorgeous cave (Grutas da Moeda) and from there the dinosaur footprints at Serra de Aire so when it came time to check again for an affordable hotel room... none to find.

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010.1 When we arrived at Fatima, it was 7 PM already and I could say that the parking was not empty at all. So before my wife could park the car I grabbed my camera and shot this picture, afraid that the light would not be the same. This is the main tower of the Basilica of our Lady of the Rosary.

010.2 While we sat down on a bench to eat and to call all hotels in the region (to find a room) a hoopoe came eating. I gently approached, and tried to make a few photos with a "silent" shutter mode. This was the first time (and as of 2022, is still the only time) I saw a hoopoe this close. There are many stories about them in my home country, but even there, I did not see one this close. 

010.3 Another shot of the Basilica's tower.

010.4 Door handles to enter the Basilica. 

010.5 While the parking was full, outside it was baren... Stepping inside the basilica we saw that it was really packed. And yes, the priest was not talking in English, so we understood exactly nothing. 

010.5 We stepped outside from the basilica and started admiring the place, in the warm light of the setting sun.

010.6 This is Basilica of our Lady of the Rosary, and from here Pope John Paul the second once spoke in the presence of the only survivor of the three children who saw, six times, the apparition of what is believed to have been the Virgin Mary. 

010.7 The famous apparitions happened almost 100 years ago. In fact we came here on the 13th of April 2017 and the next month, on the 13th of May, the Pope Francis would come for the centenary celebration, since the first apparition. So I guess many people came now, to avoid the massive crowd that would be on the 13th. Many suspecting perhaps another apparition. 

010.8 The Virgin Mary has apparated many more times during the hard years of recent human history, in Christian countries of South America and Euro-Asia. Here, the apparitions seems to have been witnessed by thousands of people plus the media, in form of the newspapers.

010.9 On the lucky 13th (of October 1917) people were sitting in the rain, on this barren muddy terrain (now this whole religious complex is built + hotels and restaurants) and waited for some divine sign... Pictures of them are now on the internet, with them looking up towards the sky, some praying, some having fun, some angry, some poor some not that poor, etc.

010.10 The sign came in the form of a bright light, between the rain clouds (like a second sun) with multiple colours, and the miracle was that "some people who were soaked because of the rain and mud, now were miraculously dried up". 

010.11 Why it is called the lucky 13th? Because of the fact that for six months, on the same 13th day of the month, the Virgin Mary would show up only to the same three children, despite the hundreds and thousands and tens of thousands of people near to them. In fact, out of the three children, only one saw and heard the apparition, while the other ones just saw or just heard. 

010.12 Sadly, then as today, was hard to "see" especially in a world made to be divided. Humans don't like union and even if religion supposed to be the one thing to make us one... in reality it is hard to come up with one thing that we did not change for 1000, 2000, 3000 years. From how we build, knit, elevate, cultivate the land, consume, write, speak... all has changed. 

010.13 Perhaps the one thing we still do, for thousands of years, in our own human language, is pray. Pray for us, our family and ... others (bad or good prayer). 

010.14 What we loved about this place was that it lets you pray especially outside the day the of the 13th, or Easter or Christmas when it can get really crowded. Pray in any language, for anything, however you want, without fear of bombs... 

010.15 Should you come to Fatima?

As a traveller, yes you should, this is an interesting place to see in Portugal, even if it is modern. In has beautiful architecture, great open spaces, lots of places to stay (except around the month of May/Christmas/Easter)

As a Christian, definitely worth it. 

As someone who is not Christian -> it depends... some people may feel revolted by people praying to statues, apparitions, saints, or other humans. It is true that modern times face a big issue - we do know more (fake or real, it does not matter, because both help us be more logical and less gullible) so religion combined with knowledge gave birth to some big questions. This place will not respond to those as no place can actually respond to everything.

As I am writing this, there is war in Europe. No prayer, no peace... both sides want the blood. I know how doable is to live in a country with multiple very different languages, traditions and even major Christian celebration dates... But those who are at war, speak almost the same language, have same celebrations, they marry each other, they have kids, they come from the same people. And that is more sad than any war... Should we take sides in this? Should a stranger help a twin brother over another one, especially if he does not speak their language (in any sense of the word) and is not part of their family?

Fatima and other places of prayer, in any belief, are more and more important as they make us pause from our "interesting" life and make us reflect on our human role in the universe. 

Speaking of reflecting... me and my wife really reflected if we should take a very expensive hotel room or sleep in the car when, at the last minute we did find an affordable room in Nazare. Before this moment, I never heard of an European city with the same name so I was intrigued to go there, regardless of how the room looked. All we wanted was a bed and something to see in the morning. 

Thank you for reading this article and we hope you visit this place and all the other ones around, on this Big Blue Ball,


Source: wiki (multiple pages and documentaries)

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