Thu. Jul 18th, 2024


The Portuguese are predominantly Catholic and for this reason, all religious festivals have a high significance for them. One of the examples of this is May 13, the date that celebrates the apparition of the Virgin Mary to the three shepherd children in Fatima in 1917.


Until then, Fatima was a little-known and sparsely populated place in the mountains of the Serra de Aire. Today, Fatima is one of the most famous and visited pilgrimage sites in Portugal and the world. A place of pilgrimage that has not gone unnoticed by the popes since then and has gained a certain religious mysticism among the faithful.


This date is forever a part of the Portuguese identity and not only. Every year, thousands of pilgrims make their way in long marches from their hometown to Fatima to witness the candlelight procession and the celebrations of May 13 on site, to repent unselfishly for their own health, recovery, wishes or promises of themselves and their family and friends.


This moment is so important for the Portuguese because it is seen by all the faithful as a moment to unite with the religious history of their country, a moment of reflection, dedication, and unity. This pilgrimage is seen as a personal challenge, marked by sacrifice and faith, in which an extraordinarily strong bond is created with the rest of the group that accompanies them during this period.

The first pilgrimage to Fatima took place in 1927 to honor the Virgin Mary and to thank all the achievements achieved by the faithful through her intercession. Since that day, the number of pilgrims of all ages from all parts of the country and from all over the world has increased. In addition, this date is also a powerful impetus for all Portuguese who emigrated abroad a long time ago to reconnect with their homeland and their identity, in the form of gratitude to Portugal, their country of origin.

Be it rain or shine. Pilgrims travel hundreds of kilometers, even in the most adverse conditions, with foot pain and physical and emotional exhaustion. But despite all the difficulties for all who embark on this journey, this journey is proof of the dedication and faith of each individual.


The story goes that in 1916 the angel appeared to the children three times, inviting them to prayer and penance. On May 13, 1917, the three shepherd children prayed the rosary, on a small holm oak saw a bright light, which, according to their reports, was “brighter than the sun itself.” The apparition of the Virgin Mary called the children to continue praying and asked them to return to the same place for the next five months, always on the 13th and always at the same time.

The three shepherd children did so, and each time the Virgin Mary appeared. The last apparition took place in front of 70,000 people, in this apparition the Virgin Mary asked the faithful to build a chapel in her honor. After this miracle, the faithful followed their prayers and built the chapel that today receives thousands of believers, not only on this day, but throughout the year.

In addition to the pilgrimage on foot to Fatima, May 13 is also accompanied by other religious celebrations throughout the country. Thousands of believers take part in the masses and processions throughout the country were believers place candles and flowers in honor of the Virgin Mary.

The pilgrimage to Fatima is a way to connect with these traditions and show devotion and respect for the Virgin Mary and the values she represents.

Today, the sanctuary in Fatima consists of two churches, the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary and the modern Basilica of the Holy Trinity, built in 2007. Between the two places of worship there is a large square where the procession of candles takes place and where the pilgrims can walk the way on their knees to demonstrate their faith and sacrifice.

For most Portuguese, the pilgrimage to Fatima is an opportunity to honor and unite the history and religious culture of their country, to unite their peace of mind in their devotion. Enjoy this May 13 and get to know this fascinating place with so much dedication.



By Lala