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Fatima, Portugal

Fatima basilica.()

Fátima is a town in Portugal famous for the religious visions that took place there in 1917.

Fátima is a town (vila) of approximately 10,000 inhabitants located in the district of Santarém in central Portugal, 187 kms. south of Porto and 123 kms.north of Lisbon. A recent attempt in July 2003 to have the town declared a city (concelho) was vetoed by President Jorge Sampaio, causing some controversy.

Fátima's claim to fame, perhaps the reason for its existence, is the shrine called the Sanctuary of Fátima, built to commemorate the events of 1917 when three peasant children claimed to have seen the "Virgin of the Rosary", Our Lady of Fatima.

Fátima now attracts hosts of believers from far and wide, particularly on the pilgrimage days, and the shrine has been developed on a correspondingly large scale. The large torch-light processions in the evening are particularly impressive.

The pilgrims gather on a huge esplanade in which is built a little chapel where the Virgin is believed to have appeared to the children. Around the esplanade are a considerable number of shops and stalls selling all kinds of religious articles.

On the far side of the esplanade rises the gigantic Basilica, in neo-classical style, with a central tower 65 meters high, the construction of which was begun on 13 May 1928. It is flanked by colonnades linking it with the extensive conventual and hospital buildings. In the Basilica are the tombs of two of the three seers, Francisco and Jacinta Marto, who died in 1919 and 1920 respectively, and were beatified in 2002.

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