Fátima, Portugal

September 2019

The Fatima shrine

In the east of Portugal some two thirds of the way from Lisbon to Porto, is Fátima, revolving around its famous Roman Catholic, Marian shrine. It was established in response to the pastorinhos, three little shepherds named Lucía, Jacinta and Francisco who had angelic apparitions in 1917 and walked from their home in Aljustrel to Fatima (2 kms) where this holy place was established as a result.

Here are the little shepherds in the middle of roundabout

‘A journey to the altar of the world’ as the Portuguese tourist website calls it, can be made on foot, a pilgrimage to the shrine in Fátima along the four Fátima Ways: the Tagus, the Northern, the Nazaré and the Carmelite Ways, from Lisbon, Spain (Valença), Sítio in Nazaré (‘where the earth ends and the sea begins’) and Coimbra respectively. Based on the life and work of Sister Lúcia, who lived in the Carmelo de Santa Teresa [Carmelite Convent of St Teresa].

The church at the Fátima shrine
Cloisters, open on one side to the yawning public arena, provides a little shade

There is a large church, mainly white, with small bright and modern stained glass windows, and behind it is a vast space where the Pope gives his addresses. There are all the conveniences you would expect in such a place which draws the penitentious and worshipful thousands from around the globe.

A moving depiction of grief
‘Our Lady’ and I

An altogether more peaceful place to visit in Fátima is Valinhos, accessed by the Via Sacra.

The little shepherd’s Camino, the via Sacra

The birthplace of the little shepherds is the location of this second shrine – arrived at by a walk, with the Stations of the Cross along the way, and set amidst evocative olive groves.

There were many nuns around
One of the Stations of the Cross
The XIV Station

The quiet and preserved natural environment means that I saw many more birds (and flies) than I have seen so far – a pair of jays, a robin, greenfinch, sparrows, an giant grasshopper, stalkfuls of snails and the white, bobbed tail of a rabbit as it loped away.

Believe me, it was the an inch long!
The great, green grasshopper
There were two jays under the olive trees
Queues of snails

I seemed to attract more attention than usual – perhaps the rucksack and baton were the reason. A man gestured for me to stop and he took my photo. He shook my hand and said he was from Brazil. Another gent asked if I was a pilgrim (!) and, in an Australian accent, said he would walk 25 kms a day from Porto a day ahead of me.

There is always a choice of which way to turn

A third, a Portuguese, asked if I needed an albergue to stay in, but I had already spent the night in the city in a small, single room with a private bathroom in a great stack of serviced apartments.

The ‘What Else’ guesthouse where I sayed in Fatima, Portugal
The window display at the guest house refelcted the reason for this town being the way it is
The sun was high by the ime I left the guest house an had a good walk to the shrine, enjoying the brightly coloured houses
And passing this little chapel at a road junction
I sat in this olive grove and meditated
Flowers all around

Hungarian Calvary or Santo Estêvão Chapel