Fátima, Portugal is a small city that casts a big shadow in the religious world. Forever associated with a series of dramatic spiritual events in the early 20th century, Fátima has become one of the largest and most important Roman Catholic pilgrimage sites in the entire world. Drawing visitors both from Portugal and internationally, this city and its famous Sanctuary are fascinating whether or not you’re religiously inclined.
The Sanctuary: Some Background
The sanctuary as a whole is without a doubt the most famous attraction in town, but it is actually a group of buildings and structures that will take you several hours to work through. The sights, shrines, and monuments within the sanctuary are laid out over a vast central plaza, so take it at your own pace.
But first, some background. The history behind this holy site – which attracts four million pilgrims each year – is both fascinating and surprisingly recent. In 1916, a young girl named Lucia Santos, as well as her two cousins Jacinta and Francisco, began witnessing apparitions of a luminous woman they believed to be the Virgin Mary. The series of visitations continued until 1917, when the children began penance and self-sacrifice in order to atone for sinners.
Word of the visitations, known as the Marian apparitions, spread to the surrounding area, and many people began to flock to Fátima to witness the apparitions as well. Although the last apparition took place in October of 1917, pilgrims continued to come to Fátima, and still do today.
The Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary
Dominating the eastern end of the sanctuary complex is the long colonnade and towering spire of the main basilica, built by Dutch architect Gerardus Samuel van Krieken. The soaring bell tower measures 65 metres in height and is decorated by a bronze crown weighing an astonishing 7,000 kilograms. Stained glass windows within the basilica depict the events of the Marian apparitions, so look closely. Surveying the whole scene is a five-metre white stone statue of the Immaculate Heart of Mary situated in a niche in the spire. In front of her, atop a tall pedestal in the centre of the plaza, a monument to the Sacred Heart of Jesus raises its arms to bless the assembled pilgrims.
Chapel of the Apparitions
To the left of the basilica you’ll see an enclosed glass and stone structure. Though it may not look much like a chapel, this is the famous Chapel of the Apparitions, which marks the spot where Lucia Santos and her cousins were first visited by Mary. Inside, a simple shrine is surrounded by benches for quiet reflection. The true heart of the sanctuary, the chapel is located at the end of a pathway embedded in the floor of the plaza. Along this pathway you’re likely to see pilgrims walking and kneeling as they make their way toward the chapel.
Church of the Holy Trinity
At the west end of the sanctuary complex, directly opposite the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary, you’ll see the the ‘minor’ basilica, which is nevertheless capable of seating 9,000. This perfectly circular basilica is a simple and austere example of modern architecture, and has even won international recognition for its remarkable and innovative design.
How to Get to Fátima
Fátima’s nearest airport is located in the Portuguese capital of Lisbon. Multiple nonstop flights are available daily from London airports, so you’ll have plenty of options to choose from. Airlines such as Monarch, Ryanair, easyJet, and British Airways all run nonstop flights which are just under three hours in duration.
Getting from Lisbon airport to Fátima is as easy as booking online with Shuttle Direct. No need to bother with car rentals or deciphering public transit schedules in Portuguese – with a pre-booked private or shared transfer you can get to your final destination in Fátima in 90 minutes or less.
Where to Stay:
Hotel Santa Antonio de Fátima – Just two minutes’ walk from the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátima, this three-star hotel couldn’t be more convenient. With two on-site restaurants to choose from, you’ll never go hungry either.
Hotel Anjo de Portugal – Done up in sleek minimalist décor, this four-star hotel is an excellent choice for the modern-minded traveller. Enjoy contemporary comfort upstairs and imaginative nouvelle cuisine at the on-site restaurant downstairs.
Hotel Dom Goncalo & Spa – If you’re looking for some real pampering in between sightseeing, you’ll find it at this boutique hotel. Relax in the Turkish bath, sauna, pool, and hot tub at the end of a busy day, then treat yourself to the hotel restaurant’s Portuguese cuisine and impressive wine list.
About Shuttle Direct:
Whether you’re traveling near or far, Shuttle Direct can be part of your travel solution. As the largest provider of transfer services across Europe and North Africa, we’re well-versed in everything the travel world can throw at us. Next time you need transport to or from an airport, train station, cruise port, hotel, or other destination, remember that Shuttle Direct is only a few clicks away.