October is Virgin Mary’s month. In Portugal, it’s time to pay a special visit to Our Lady of Fátima sanctuary, in Cova de Iria (Leiria). There, especially on the 13, we will find Catholics from all over the world celebrating the last appearance of the Virgin Mary in October 1917.

The Three Shepherd Children

According to the Catholic Church, Nossa Senhora de Fátima (Our Lady of Fatima) appeared to three shepherd children on the 13th day of six consecutive months in 1917, starting on May,13 and ending on October,13. The three children were Lúcia Santos and her cousins, Jacinta and Francisco Marto.

Jacinta died in 1920 and Francisco in 1919. The siblings were victims of the great influenza epidemic that swept through Europe in 1918. Sister Lúcia, born in 1907, became a Carmelite nun in a monastery in Coimbra and died six years ago.

Lúcia Santos and her cousins, Jacinta and Francisco Marto.


The Three Secrets of Fátima

According to Sister Lúcia, in the course of Her appearances the Virgin confided to the children three secrets, known as the Three Secrets of Fátima.

The first one was a very impressive vision of Hell.

The second secret was Virgin Mary’s instructions to save the souls from Hell and to convert the world to the Christian faith, as well as the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart to lead to Russia’s conversion and a new era of peace.

The Socialist Russian Revolution had taken place in February 1917 (March in Western Europe, ruled by the Gregorian Calendar). In October of the same year (November in Western Europe), another revolution had followed in the country to remove the Provisional Government and replace it by the Bolshevik (Communist) party, led by Vladimir Lenin. Atheism became one of the ideological objectives of the Communist Revolution.

The third secret of Fátima was a vision of a Pope’s death and other religious figures.


Fatima Sanctuary


John Paul II and Fátima

On May 13, 1982, John Paul II visited Fátima for the first time. He had become more devoted to Our Lady of Fátima after the attempt on his life on May,13 1981 at St Peter’s Square, in the Vatican. He was convinced Our Lady of Fátima had saved him. The Pope visited the sanctuary two more times, in 1991 and in 2000. In his last visit, John Paul II beatified two of the shepherd children and the Vatican revealed the third secret of Fátima.


Pope John Paul II and Sister Lúcia


The Miracle of the Sun

A crowd of around 70,000 people, including newspaper reporters and photographers, gathered at the Cova de Iria on 13 October 1917. After an incessant rain, it was said that a thin layer of clouds cloaked the silver disc of the sun. Witnesses later spoke of the sun appearing to change colors and rotate like a wheel. This miracle is known as the “Miracle of the Sun”. The event lasted approximately ten minutes.

The three children also reported they had the vision of Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and Saint Joseph blessing the people. According to Sister Lúcia, the Virgin had promised a miracle would take place in her last appearance. The event was officially accepted as a miracle by the Roman Catholic Church on 13 October 1930.


The crowd during the Miracle of the Sun

Fátima is one of the most important centres of pilgrimage in the world, as well as Lourdes or La Salette. The majority of the pilgrims come in May and October to celebrate Our Lady appearances. Have you been there already?

(Photos: Santuario Fatima)


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About the author

Sandra Silva has been living in the Netherlands since December 2007. Photography and travel writing are Sandra’s main activities, alongside learning Dutch and organizing a life abroad. She is a passionate lover of her country, history, photography, poetry, her cat and old photos. Main hobbies are reading and travelling.