I was a convent school girl educated from age 4 to 16 by the Irish Mercy nuns still robed in long black dresses, veils and white face-framing wimples … as all=cloaking as the average strict Moslem woman is today. Lives of the saints were glorified and there was a special place in that roll call for the children of Fatima. Would that we could be so blessed, chosen as they were to have Our Lady appear to us and us alone to tell secrets about the future of the world.
The children are remembered in statue looking down on the Fatima complex.
The “apparition” is said to have appeared in 1917 each month for 6 months but only to the children, not to the increasing curious crowds. On the last occasion 70,000 people attended and claimed to have witnessed the “miracle of the sun” when different people saw the sun variously dancing or exploding or behaving in other fanciful fashions.
These 3 shepherd children, Lucia and her 2 younger cousins, in this remote and mysterious place were iconic. We used to pray to Our lady of Fatima who had appeared to them not once but a number of times, always tantalised by what the secrets might have been. Such was the miracle that the children were all later consecrated as Saints.
Well I finally made it to Fatima and clearly it remains a honey trap for believers and even, in my case, for non-believers. This non-believers was compelled to light a candle:
The older Basilica of Our Lady has been partnered with a 2007 modern Church of the Holy Trinity way up the hill. The hill is a sight itself with dedicated pilgrims moving down it on knees until they reach the spot where the actual apparition is said to have occurred.
The Basilica was reminiscent of the Vatican with its curved colonnades:
The photo below taken from the Basilica, gives some idea of the Fatima complex. Up the hill and opposite is the new church while the structure in between is where the apparition is said to have occurred, The white path rolling down the hill has seen many a pilgrims’ knee:
Priest prepare to process into the new church to celebrate a mass that seemed to have many naval personnel in attendance:
Below is the altar in the new church:
People still do Pilgrimages to what is regarded as a holy place. Our driver said his grandmother was a regular. This spot remains a national as well as an international magnet for the holy.
The woman below is travelling down the hill on her knees as a sign of devotion. we saw a couple doing this during our visit both wearing kneepads:
While in the Basilica there was some kind of national youth competition going on:
We made three other stops on the well-worn path to Fatima. First there was the World Heritage listed Gothic Batalha Monastery, a 14th-century Dominican convent built to commemorate a fierce battle between Portuguese and Castilian troops in 1385.
There is an imposing sculpture of a Portuguese general who had a decisive role in the 1383-1385 Crises that assured Portugal’s independence from Castile. He later became a mystic and was canonised in 2009.
Then we stopped for lunch at the rather drab seaside town of Nazare…. but the sardines were good. The pictures below are the view of the town from a lookout and the inevitable souvenir stalls there:
Finally the day ended at the tourist medieval walled town of Óbidos with its maze of cobblestone streets, historic castle, shops and perfectly preserved homes.
Celts, Phoenicians, Romans, Visigoths, Moors have lived in the area which is now famous for bookshops and the tourist drink served in chocolate cups filled with Ginja liquor.
A coastal weekend
We spent the weekend 30ks from Lisbon at the most westerly point of Europe on the Atlantic coast. We stayed at the Fortaleza Do Guincho, a Relais & Chateau hotel which is a restored 17thcentury fort. The forbidding fort walls overlook a beach far below and behind that a coastal national park with low vegetation crossed by wooden boardwalks stretches into the distance.
In the unlikely event that one forgets the history of the building there are two cannons at the entrance pointing to sea to remind you. While it may be authentic, there are touches of décor that seem a little ‘Disney – makes- a- swashbuckling- saga’. The leather doors to the bedroom were matched by the furnishings inside.
One drawcard for the hotel was its Michelin starred restaurant. While the names of the dishes have slipped into the Atlantic mist, they remain memorable for the use of local produce and seafood as well as the fantastic crafting of deserts to mirror the unique landscape.
A short can ride away lies Cascais, a coastal resort town. Known for its sandy beaches and busy marina, the old town is home to the medieval Nossa Senhora da Luz Fort and the Citadel Palace, a former royal retreat now an art and commercial centre.
Cascais is a traditional Portuguese fishing town once the summer retreat of Portuguese nobility. Now the town is Lisbon’s major holiday destination and a major tourist attraction. Its charm lies in part in the retention of much of its 19th-century architecture and cobbled street.
The charming gentleman on his balcony was clearly enjoying life with a wine. I like to think he had retired to this peaceful town, possibly from somewhere not so nice.