Another early away today – destination Fatima. Sav Nav doing its job well until we found a brand new motorway and she got a little confused as she thought we were driving over fields. Iain doing fine until suddenly motorway ends, Sat Nav is in melt down and road signs show everywhere but Fatima! A bit of quick finger in the air and a good guess and we are back on the right road, passing two Pilgrims walking to Rome on our way!
We had heard there was a good aire in Fatima in one of the carparks – understatement of the decade. We have a bay twice the width and length of the van, water, drainage and a concrete picnic table/bench. Add to that we are 100 yards from the Basilica and have a wonderful view of the tower from our window and I am not sure we could pay for a better parking spot – and this is free! There are 20-30 other vans here with more arriving hourly, its a busy little carpark for sure.
Fatima itself – so not what we expected. The plaza is the size of a couple of Wembley football stadiums with the Basilica at one end and Ingreja Santissima Trindade at the other. Despite the size the place has a calm and reflective mood, we lit candles for those no longer with us and sat in at one of the open air masses for a few prayers then just wandered around. We were surprised to see people crossing the plaza to the Basilica on their knees, we read it was an act of penance and is a daily occurrence as people arrive on bloodied knees at the edge of town. It wasn’t as busy as we expected though so no queuing to see anything.
Underneath the plaza we found there were several more chapels and rows of confessionals, above each door showed the languages that priest could take confession in – at least 20 languages at a quick count.
If inside was amazing, outside in town was weird to extremes. Hundreds and hundred of religious shops, literally. You could buy a keyring for €1 or a bronze Madonna for €2000, plates showing Jesus in flashing lights and everything in between. Shops that were just stalls, shops that were department stores – even the hotels and coffee shops were selling statues and crosses. Did we resist? haha no, we look like we are heading to a rosary convention, I couldn’t stop myself.
Not sure I have ever been anywhere like this before. I think it is somewhere that needs to be seen to be understood, for sure it is inspiring. Whether you believe or not everywhere you go you see images of the 3 shepherd children who look so innocent and tales of the final vision which was witnessed by 70,000 – then you realise this wasn’t back in biblical days it was during WWI so fairly recent – it is a very thought provoking place.
So the good of being right next to the Basilica is going to be tested as the bells are rung – loudly – every 15 minutes, could be a long – but tuneful – night.