It's common in Portugal when facing dramatic situations (disease, trouble in a birth of a child, even scholar examinations) to make a promise, most of them to "Nª Srª de Fátima". And those promises generally include walking to Fatima on foot (sometimes hundreds of kilometers) or crossing the sanctuary kneeling. To soften those pilgrims suffering a long walkway was built in marble, and there is always someone painfully sliding on it.
When I approached the man to ask permission to take his family photo, the deficient woman in the wheelchair had some agitation, that the kneeling woman translated - she wants to kiss you. Well, sometimes is not so difficult to bring happiness to simple people.
After many millions and some polemic, the new cathedral is already working. Standing face to the other, it was decided to low it in the ground to preserve the image of the whole place. I didn't enter it yet, I don't know the advantages of a double cathedral, but I may confirm that the look was not spoilt.
Portugals place of christian faith.
In 1917, 3 children were hearding goats just outside the little village of Fatima when a woman appeard out of nowhwere and started talking to them.
the woman kept coming back on the same day for 6 consecutive months and the kids was sure it was virgin mary.
On her 6th showing where a huge audience had show up there was a "sun miracle" that was later called "the dance of the sun" and since that happend millions of catholic pilgrims have come to the place to worship and pray.
Of the 3 children only one of them lived long enough to become and adult and that was a girl called Lucia.
She lived most of her life in a carmelite convent in the town Coimbra as a nun and diad in 2005 at the age of 97 and claimed to the day of her deathnthat she saw virgin mary.
To many non believers the place can seem kinda tacky with all it´s religious souveniers, but i am personally very facinated to see all the people coming there as pilgrims cause this is something very far from what i have grown up with.
A place of Pilgrimages
About an hour and a half's drive from Lisbon, Fatima is a place of pilgrimage for thousands of people from all over the world. On the thirteenth of May, 1917, Mary appeared to three children in the tiny village.
She appeared again, every month for 6 months, and on the 13th of October 70,000 people witnessed the sun dancing in the sky.
Since then a shrine, cathedral and fountain have sprung up in the area, and a strange mixture of sanctity and commercialism exist side by side.
The shrine and square were peaceful on the Sunday of my visit. Visitors gathered to pray at the chapel which is based around where the vision of Mary was seen. Many crawled around the shrine on their knees: apparently some travel for kilometres on their knees as part of the pilgrimage.
Others gathered around a long blackened wall, lighting candles and offering prayers.
On a nearby altar are strewn wax limbs. People buy a wax copy of the body part which is afflicted and leave it with prayers for a cure.
You cannot help but be moved by the faith of those gathering there, whether you are a believer or not.
There is a lot of commercialism surrounding the square; stall after stall selling religious items. But there are no pedlars in the square itself, so if you want to avoid it, you can.