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Portugal is a route of temples, cults and religious festivals, where we can walk full of faith or a more universal root spirituality, crossing history through the cultural richness of the Order of the Templars. Discover all these components when visiting Fatima, one of the largest sanctuaries in the world and Tomar city of great charm, for its artistic and cultural richness. The greatest exponent is in the Convent of Christ, one of the most important Renaissance works in Portugal.
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The Sanctuary of Fátima annually welcomes hundred of thousands of pilgrims and tourists. Many come to participate in the celebrations that commemorate the apparitions of Our Lady to the three witness of Fátima.
In the Fátima calendar, the dates May 13th (the first apparition) and October 13th mean a rise in the numbers visiting the Sanctuary – built on the site of the first apparition – and the places where the three children lived in Aljustrel, a village located around two kilometres away.
In Aljustrel, there is a religious route tracing the spots where Lúcia de Jesus, aged 10, and cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto, aged nine and seven respectively, declared they saw the Angel of Our Lady of Fátima.
Between April and October 1916, the three children bore witness that they saw the Angel on three occasions with them being invited to join in prayer and penitence.
In May 1917, the children were tending a small flock of sheep in Cova da Iria, within the parish of Fátima, in the council of Vila Nova de Ourém. Around mid-day, after saying the rosary as was their custom, they set about building a small construction out of loose stones on the spot where there now is the Basilica.
Suddenly, they saw a brilliant light and above a small holm-oak tree (where the Chapel of the Apparitions now is) appeared a «Lady more brilliant than the Sun». The Lady told the three shepherds that much prayer was required and invited them to return to Cova da Iria at the same time on the 13th of each of the five following months.
The children did just that and on the 13th of June, July, September and October, the Lady again appeared before them and talked to them.
On 19th August, there was an apparition at Valinhos, some 500 metres from Aljustrel, as, on that 13th, the children had been taken by the Council Administrator to Vila Nova de Ourém.
For the final apparition, on 13th October, around 70,000 people were in attendance, the Lady told them she was the «Lady of the Rosary» and that they were to build a chapel there in Her honour.
After the apparition, all those observed the miracle, promised to the three children in July and September: the sun, resembling a silver disc, could be looked upon without difficulty. It then began rotating, taking the form of a wheel of fire, seeming to disappear into the earth.
Later, in Spain, Lúcia, who joined the order of Saint Dorothy, experienced a further three visions of Our Lady (10th December 1925, 15th February 1926 and during the night of 13th to 14th June 1929).
The vision called for the five first Saturdays to be devoted to the conversion of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
This final request was part of the «Three Secrets of Fátima» – a set of revelations made to Lúcia by Our Lady. Lúcia later wrote to Pope Pius XIIth to inform him of what had been revealed to her.
On 13th October 1930, the Bishop of Leiria gave the seal of church approval to the apparitions, officially authorising worship of Our Lady of Fátima, declaring it «Divine Providence».
13th May 2000, Pope John Paul II visited Fátima to beatify the witnesses Francisco and Jacinta Marto.
Duration: 1 hour
The three shepherd children to whom Our Lady appeared – Lúcia and her cousins, Francisco and Jacinta – were born in the small village of Aljustrel, around 2 kms from the sanctuary of Fátima.
The single-storey cottages formerly inhabited by the little shepherds are very similar in terms of architecture and simplicity and are open to the general public. The house inhabited by the brother and sister, Jacinta and Francisco was built in 1888 and is located around 200 m from the house of their cousin, Lúcia, built in 1885. The House-Museum of Aljustrel is located next to the latter, displaying agricultural implements, cooking utensils, clothes and furniture, in order to demonstrate the everyday lives of local mountain dwellers in the early 20th century.
Duration: 30 minutes
The development of Tomar is closely linked to the Order of the Templars, which received these lands in 1159 as a reward for the assistance they gave Dom Afonso Henriques (the First King of Portugal) in the Christian reconquest of the territory.
It was Dom Gualdim Pais, the first Grand Master of the Order in Portugal, who founded the castle and the remarkable Convent of Christ inside. Enlarged and altered over the centuries, this retains the influences of various architectural styles; it is the centrepiece of the city and classified as a World Heritage site by UNESCO.
Tomar, known as the city of the Templars, reveals other traces of their influence, particularly the Sete Montes Park, where traditionally rites of initiation are said to have taken place, and the Church of Santa Maria do Olival, founded by the Templars in the 12th century and containing the tombs of various Masters of the Order.
The Order of the Templars was suppressed in France in the early 14th century, but in Portugal it was transformed into the Order of Christ on the initiative of King Dom Dinis. This was subsequently approved by the Pope, and it was decided that the immense wealth they possessed should pass to the Order of Christ, which came to play an important part in the historic Portuguese Discoveries.
The Jews, after being expelled from Spain, founded a colony here in the narrow streets of the historical centre, in which one of the oldest synagogues in Portugal is conserved, complemented by the Abraão Zacuto Luso-Hebrew Museum.
Duration: 2 Hour
In 1983, UNESCO awarded the classification of world heritage to the Templar Castle and the Convent of the Knights of Christ in Tomar, a unique monument in the history of the western world. Built on a site that was originally used for Roman worship, this vast monumental complex illustrates seven centuries of Portugal’s history and contains several important mementoes of decisive moments in the history of the western world.
Afonso Henriques, our first king, bestowed upon the Knights of the Temple of Jerusalem vast tracts of land between the Mondego and Tagus rivers. Legend has it that, on reaching this region, the Knights were inspired by favourable omens to choose a hill on which to establish a castle and the name that they were to give to it: Tomar. The year was 1160 and D. Gualdim Pais, the Provincial Master of the Order of the Temple, ordered the castle to be built and the region to be settled.
The Order of the Temple was disbanded in 1314 as a result of its persecution by the French king Philip IV, the Fair. However, at the wishes of the Portuguese king D. Dinis, the members of the order, its property and privileges were all totally integrated into a new order – the Militia of the Knights of Christ in 1319. The Templars were thus able to continue their sacred mission of Chivalry in Portugal. Outwardly, the main sign marking the change was to be seen in the Order’s cross, which now had straight arms instead of the curved arms of the Templar cross.
Together with Prince Henry the Navigator, the new military Order began to prepare the Portuguese nation for the great enterprise of the maritime discoveries of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Tomar Castle was by then a Convent and the headquarters of the Order, and Prince Henry was made its governor and perpetual administrator. The lay master transformed the knights into navigators whose mission it was to expand the kingdom and spread the faith through the maritime discoveries. This was why the caravels bore the Cross of the Knights of Christ on their sails, and this sign was to be carved into various stone landmarks all around the world.
Duration: 1 hour
Located in the centre of Tomar alongside one of the city’s main avenues, the 39-hectare “Mata dos Sete Montes” National Woodland is the city’s main park. The woodlands provide a link to the castle. They are also known as the Convent Enclosure since they form an integral part of the convent and were used by the Order of Christ for growing and harvesting crops.
The wood’s leafy vegetation includes centuries-old cypress trees, Judas trees, oak trees and olive trees, and harbour a miniature church in the form of a cylindrical tower known as the “Charolinha”. This carved stone church appears to be a replica of the lantern towers of the Convent of Christ, built in accordance with plans drawn up by João de Castilho – the architect entrusted with the Renaissance works in the convent. Surrounded by a circular tank, the Charolinha is a “Casa de Fresco”. It seems to be isolated from the world, a secret hidden retreat accessible via a stone bridge.
Duration: 30 minutes