Monday, September 13, 2010

The Pilgrimage to Fatima

In the square at Fatima
In 1917, three children were tending their sheep by a tree, when they were visited by the Virgin Mary, who gave them three secret messages. From this beginning has sprung an entire Catholic organization, worldwide, and Fatima is its heart. This town is constantly busy with people making a pilgrimage to attend mass, pay homage to the shrine, perform penances, sacrifice burnt offerings, and be separated from their dollars by the tourist industry there. There is a huge cathedral, and a religious center surrounding an enormous square, and today it was full of folks devoted to the holy city.
Manuel and John, the Baptist
We went into the religious center and looked at the mementos of the shepherd children, the displays of churches under the umbrella of Fatima worldwide, and the worship facility very similar to the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City. There is room after room devoted to prayer and confession and contemplation of the sacred artwork depicting the life of Christ. There's an entire area where people go to buy candles of all imaginable sizes to light or to throw upon the fire, all run upon the honor system; you just pick out the candles you want, drop your money in a slot nearby, and head for the burning area to light them. On one side of the square, there's a chunk of the Berlin wall to commemorate the new unity of Berlin.

The Tomb of Henry the Navigator
We ate lunch at a very nice little Madeiran place called the Restaurante Santa Rita, I had the linguica and Michele had the coelho na fatima, or rabbit. Everything was delicious, and the place was packed. After lunch we went to the new Museu de Viha Christo, which is a series of tableaus of scenes from the life of Christ, from Mary's angelic visitation all the way to his ascension. Quite nicely done, but very sparsely attended; entry was 7 euros apiece. It did have lovely WCs.

Onward from Fatima to Batalha, where the Portugese fought a decisive battle agains the Spaniards, we visited the Monastery of Santa Maria, where a number of the Portugese kings are entombed, including Henry the Navigator. There's a section of the Monastery that was intended to be a series of seven chapels, on which construction was suspended after Vasco de Gama returned from India, that remains unfinished to this day, which is quite interesting, architecturaly. There was also a huge antique sale going on in the village square near the monastery that had plenty of good old junk.

The overlook at Nazare
We next visited Nazare, a seacoast town with spectacular views and beaches, for a brief break to get out of the car and walk around. This town was just archtypal Europe, to me, with it's picturesque square, narrow streets, peasant garb, and roving bands of musicians. Really would like to go back sometime to explore it further.
Onwards from there to the Lago de Obidos, an immense tidal lagoon near the town of Obidos, where we enjoyed a beautiful sunset, and a quartet of cafes in a restaurant overlooking the water. We made a brief stop after dark to climb up the castle walls in town, before heading back south to Cascais. A great day, just needed more daylight hours to get it all done.

No comments: