Horrors of the Past: History of Fatima, Portugal

Monument of the Guardian Angel of Portugal apparition to the three little shepherd children of Fátima.

Fátima is a city in the municipality of Ourém, in the Central Region and Médio Tejo inter-municipal community of Portugal.


The name of the city and parish is a translation of the Arabic given name Fátima.

Fátima was assumed to be the name of an infamous Moorish princess kidnapped by a Portugal knight, Gonçalo Hermigues, and his associates. Hermigues took her to a tiny village in the Serra de Aire hills, in the newly developed Kingdom of Portugal. According to the medieval Western Catholic narrative, Fatima fell in love with her abductor and chose to convert to Christianity to marry him. She was baptized and given a new Christian name, Oureana.

However, Arab records claim that Fátima was pushed into Christianity, as were most Reconquista prisoners. There is no evidence to support either situation of such a conversion.

Whatever version is accurate, the place name recalls the Princess’s original Arab name rather than her Christian one.

The parish was established in 1568 CE when it was annexed by the Collegiate of Ourém. For ages, most of the natives kept herds of sheep and also depended on support farming.

Since the early 20th century CE, Fátima has been linked with events in which three local kids, Lúcia dos Santos and her cousins, Jacinta and Francisco Marto, purportedly saw images of a woman known as Our Lady of Fátima, since accepted by the Catholic Church to be the Virgin Mary. On 13 May 1917 CE, while guarding their families’ sheep in the Cova da Iria, the kids first claimed to have seen a ghost of a “lady dressed in white” and gleaming with a golden light.

The three shepherd kids were taken in Aljustrel, a small hamlet about 0.62 mi (1 kilometer) from Fátima. To the west, around Aljustrel, is Loca do Cabeço, a smaller accumulation of rocky outcroppings where, in 1916 CE, an angel appeared twice to the three kids. The kids claimed to have seen the Marian apparition on six occurrences; they said the latest would be 13 October 1917 CE. Around 70,000 pilgrims went to the site for the last prophesied ghost in October. Some of them described what has been assigned to as the Miracle of the Sun when some observers said it appeared to be behaving unusually.

The chapel has then been enclosed within a sanctuary and a large basilica, part of a complex including other facilities and a hotel. In 1930 CE, the statue of Our Lady in the Chapel of Apparitions was ultimately crowned by the Vatican.

Francisco died in 1919 CE and Jacinta in 1920 CE, during the international Spanish flu pandemic. Lucia dos Santos later became a nun and lived until 2005 CE. The two who died young were consecrated on 13 May 2000 CE by Pope John Paul II, and were canonized by Pope Francis on 13 May 2017 CE, the hundredth anniversary of the first apparition.

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