The primary building at the shrine is the Basilica of Our Lady of Fatima, a gleaming Neoclassical church begun on May 13, 1928, and consecrated on October 7, 1953. Its slender central spire rises 65 meters high. The church is flanked by monumental colonnades and overlooks a large open plaza, the center of which is occupied by a Monument to the Sacred Heart of Jesus (1932). The monument stands over a spring that was discovered there and was, according to the shrine, "the instrument of many graces."
Guards at the basilica doors may stop visitors who are not suitably dressed, which means general modesty, no shorts on men, and skirts or dresses on women. Inside, there are 15 altars dedicated to the 15 mysteries of the rosary as well as the tombs of the young visionaries, Francisco Marto and Jacinta Marto, who died in 1919 and 1920 respectively and were beatified in 2000.
The high altar painting depicts the Message of Our Lady of Fatima to the three children. Included in the painting are figures of the local bishop as well as Pope Pius XII (who consecrated the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in 1942), Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI. The four corners of the basilica are occupied by statues of men especially devoted to the rosary and the Immaculate Heart of Mary: St. Anthony Claret, St. Dominic of Gusman, St. John Eudes and King St. Stephen of Hungary. The great organ (1952) has 12,000 pipes.
The other main stop for pilgrims to Fatima is the Chapel of Apparitions, an open-air chapel built on the site of the appearances. It is open year-round for regular services and can be virtually visited by a high-resolution webcam. The original chapel was built in 1919, then blown up on the night of March 6, 1922, by those who suspected the church of staging the miracles. Inside the modern chapel is a single white column over the site of a small holm oak tree over which the Virgin Mary appeared on May 13, 1917. That oak fell victim to souvenir collectors long ago, but a large replacement tree grows near the entrance to the sanctuary by the rectory.
Near the entrance to the sanctuary by the rectory is a Berlin Wall Monument, containing a 5,732-pound chunk of the wall donated by a Portuguese emigrant to Germany after it fell in 1989. He offered it as a memorial of God's intervention in bringing down Communism, as promised at Fatima.
Printed with permission from Sacred Destinations â€“ Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima.