Fatima - The Basilica of our Lady of the Rosary

A Pilgrimage to Fatima

The Apparitions


On the 13th of May in 1917, in the sleepy village of Fatima in central Portugal, three poor shepherd children by name of Lúcia de Jesus Rosa dos Santos and her cousins Francisco and Jacinta de Jesus Marto witnessed an apparition of the Virgin Mary while tending their sheep. These visits were not the first miraculous occurrences in their lives, for the Angel of Peace – the Archangel Michael – had visited them in the previous year in 1916, but the apparition was the first of a series of consecutive visits witnessed by the three children that occurred on the 13th of the following months of June, July, August, September, and October of that year. The children told others that they had been informed by the Virgin Mary to say the rosary and were given revelations, including The Three Secrets of Fatima, all of which were contemporary events that were to occur in the modern era. At the sixth and final apparition in October of that year, tens of thousands of faithful had gathered with the children to bear witness to what was seen as one of the greatest phenomena of the age. Many present noted a strange anomaly of the sun which became known as “The Miracle of the Sun,” which Pope Pius XII himself in Rome claimed to bear witness to. By the end of the year, the cult (religious following) of “Our Lady of Fatima” as it became to be known, had begun a permanent fixture in the Catholic Church.

The Saints

Francisco and Jacinta died a few short years later in 1919 and 1920 from influenza, but insisted that they had been foretold their coming departure from the world. Canonized as Saints in 2017 Pope Francis after a popular appeal, their cousin Lúcia became a Carmelite nun who remained devoted to her religious community until her death in 2005, and is at present considered a “Servant of God” by the Catholic Church; the first step towards sainthood.

A Place of Pilgrimage

So remarkable and life-changing were the events surrounding the experiences of the three youths that the village of Fatima and its environs quickly became a place of pilgrimage; a tradition that continues to the present day. Up to eight million pilgrims and visitors come to Fatima each year, easily making it one of the most visited pilgrimage sights of the Catholic faith along with Rome, the Holy Land and Lourdes.

The Basilica of our Lady of the Rosary


Modern-day visitors to Fatima are able to visit the sites of the apparitions the 1917 visitations of the Virgin Mary. The area of the village known as Cova da Iria, where the apparitions took place, is now the site of the Basilica of our Lady of the Rosary. The highest point of the Basilica reaches 213 feet, while the entire structure includes 62 bells, a large five-section, 12,000-piece organ, 15 altars, an impressive array of stained glass windows depicting moments from the events of the apparitions, and the original sculpture of Our Lady of Fatima as described by Sister Lúcia to the American sculptor, Fr. Thomas McGlynn. At the heart of the Basilica complex is the Chapel of the Apparition, the epicenter of the visitations and the spiritual heart of the shrine. Other nearby sites include the location where the Archangel Michael, also known as The Angel of Portugal, first came to the three youths.

In its entirety, the Basilica and the complex comprise the largest Marian shrine in the world. Yet the beauty of the site through both the exquisite craftsmanship and the fervor of the devotion of the pilgrims all bear witness to the strength of devotion of the worldwide Catholic community to Our Lady of Fatima.

To visit Fatima as well as other important places of pilgrimage and cultural heritage in Portugal and Spain, contact Tony at tony@goodshepherdtravel.com to inquire about booking a pilgrimage!





Brynne TurnerComment