Fatima, the altar of the World

On the occasion of the incorporation of the new tour – Portuguese Way of St. James in our list of scheduled routes, we want to talk in detail about one of the most emblematic places that we can enjoy during our visit: the Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima (better known, simply, by the Sanctuary of Fatima).


As its name indicates, it is located in the city of Fatima (just an hour’s drive from Lisbon) and is possibly the most important Marian pilgrimage shrine in the world.

Its history dates back to 1917 when three children: Lucia de Jesus dos Santos, Francisco Marto and Jacinta Marto (known as “the three little shepherds”), experienced successive apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary for six months (from May to October, on the 13th of each month) in the Cova da Iria, next to the azinheira grande, the largest oak tree in the area.


Our Lady asked them to pray and to do penance for so many sins committed by Humanity. In one of these apparitions she had also told them to build a chapel right there. This is the central part of the Sanctuary that today houses the image of Our Lady of the Rosary. With the passing of the years, the enclosure was enlarged to accommodate the large number of pilgrims arriving from different parts of the world.

The impact of religious tourism was so important that, since the inauguration of the sanctuary, the region experienced a great economic development, acquiring the category of city in 1997.


On May 13, 1967 Pope Paul VI visited the temple and in the homily of the Mass he said that “Fatima is the Altar of the World”. Pope John Paul II also visited this sacred place three times and Benedict XVI visited it in 2010.

The Shrine of Fatima is a point of reference and a place of worship for the devotees of the Virgin Mary.

The little brothers Francisco and Jacinta, who died shortly after the apparitions, were beatified on May 13, 2000. Their cousin Lucia, who died in 2005, is in the process of canonization.


For all those people who make the Camino de Santiago with a religious feeling, visiting Fatima can be a great opportunity to know closely the cult and Marian devotion. It is common to see pilgrims approach the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary on their knees; a tradition as old as the foundation of the temple.

The Portuguese government has been working for years on the rehabilitation of the Caminhos de Fátima, to ensure the comfort and communications of pilgrims traveling on foot from different places.


When visiting Fatima during our tour – Portuguese Way of St. James, we will pay attention to the following places:

  • The Chapel of the Apparitions: the place where Our Lady appeared to the three children next to an oak tree. Here is now the image of the Virgin of Fatima.
  • The Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary: baroque style and topped by a seven-ton bronze crown. It houses the tombs of the little shepherds Francisco and Jacinta. On its facade stands out the sculpture of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
  • The colonnades: a gallery of 200 columns in which we can see the images of several Portuguese saints and 14 altars interspersed.
  • The Church of the Holy Trinity: inaugurated in 2007 next to the basilica. Its style is much more modern work of the architect Alexandros Tombazis.
  • The High Cross of Fatima, almost 30 meters high.
  • The statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus: made of bronze, with a fountain at his feet.

Other sites of tourist interest that we can see during our visit to Fatima are the beautiful medieval village of Óbidos or the monastery of Batalha, one of the most important in Portugal.

Contact us and we will inform you in detail about our Tour – Portuguese Way!

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