Fatima is a small Portuguese town that has around 10,000 inhabitants. This town located about 110 km from Lisbon, became famous in the world in 1917 mainly thanks to the Marian apparitions which then led to the construction of the Sanctuary of Fatima. Over the years it has become one of the most important Marian shrines in the world. Fatima is located in the heart of the Serra de Aire, just over 300 meters above sea level. The country is located along the border of three different geographical and administrative areas: Ribatejo, Extremadura and Beira Litoral.
The birth of the Sanctuary of Fatima is in fact linked to the apparitions of the Virgin Mary. The Mother of God appeared to three little shepherds (Lúcia dos Santos, Francisco Marto and Jacinta Marto), between 13 May and 13 October 1917, in a place called Cova da Iria (which is located near the village of Aljustrel, 1 km from Fátima).
Today pilgrims gather in the Cova, an immense esplanade, where a small chapel was built on the spot where the Virgin appeared to the three boys. It is impressive to observe some pilgrims making their prayers walking on their knees along the esplanade.
On the far side of the esplanade stands the gigantic Basilica, with the central tower 65 meters high. The Basilica, in neo-baroque style, was built starting from 1928 and was finished in 1953. Inside the basilica there are the tombs of Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco, the chapel of the apparition and the miraculous source.
More than six million pilgrims visit the Fatima Shrine each year. This is why today the economy of the Fatima area is based on religious tourism. Around the esplanade there are, as now in every pilgrimage center, a considerable amount of shops and stalls. These shops sell all sorts of religious objects and items. In addition to the aforementioned souvenir shops, activities such as catering have developed. Finally, there are many facilities to accommodate pilgrims such as hotels, B & Bs and rooms for rent.