The third stop of the circuit is located on Praceta de Santo António, at the southern entrance to the Fatima Shrine.
The Prayer Area is a large square, bordered by leafy trees in northern and southern sides and outlined in eastern and western sides by the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima and the Basilica of the Holy Trinity, respectively. It is a place that invites us to interiority and prayer.
The history of the apparitions
On 13 May 1917, three children were pasturing their little flock in the Cova da Iria, parish of Fatima, town of Vila Nova de Ourém, today the diocese of Leiria-Fatima. They were called: Lucia de Jesus, aged 10, and her cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto, aged 9 and 7.
About midday, after praying the Rosary, as was their custom, they were amusing themselves building a little house of stones scattered around the place where the Basilica now stands. Suddenly they saw a brilliant light, and thinking it to be lightning, they decided to go home. But as they went down the slope another flash lit up the place, and they saw on the top of a holmoak (where the Chapel of Apparitions now stands), “a Lady more brilliant than the sun”, from whose hands hung a white rosary.
The Lady told the three little shepherds that it was necessary to pray much, and she invited them to return to the Cova da Iria during five consecutive months, on the 13th day at that hour. The children did so and the 13th day of June, July, September and October, the Lady appeared to them again and spoke to them in the Cova da Iria. On the 19th of August, the apparition took place at Valinhos, about 500 meters from Aljustrel, because on the 13th the children had been carried off by the local Administrator to Vila Nova de Ourém.
At the last apparition, on October 13, with about 70,000 people present, the Lady said to them that she was the “Lady of the Rosary” and that a chapel was to be built there in her honor.
The Chapel of the Apparitions – the “heart” of the Shrine of Fatima
The pedestal of the Image of Our Lady of Fátima marks the exact spot of the little holm oak (that vanished, because of the devotion of the first pilgrims that took it away, branch by branch), where Our Lady appeared to the little shepherds on May 13th, June, July, September and October 1917.
The construction of the Chapel was the answer to Our lady’s request: “I want you to build a chapel here in my honour”. It was built on the Apparitions’ spot from April 28th to June 15th 1919. The first mass was celebrated on October 13th 1921.
The chapel has kept the characteristics of a popular hermitage, despite some light changes throughout the year.
Fatima Shrine official page: www.fatima.pt.
Créditos Fotográficos: ARPT Centro de Portugal.