8/8 – Tomar is a one hour bus ride from Fatima, where three shepherd children saw Our Lady of the Rosary in 1917, and 70,000 people witnessed the sun spinning like a silver disk in the sky. This is a major pilgrimage site for Catholics, and we won’t be this close again, so we are taking a day to experience it.
The sanctuary consists of a huge open area with a basilica at each end, and the Chapel of the Apparitions, marking the spot where the Lady was seen, to one side.
The children saw the Lady for six consecutive months on the 13th of each month, starting in May, so the crowds flock here on the 13th, with major festivities in May and October. Today is Monday, probably the lowest attendance day, and the museums and the original basilica were closed, but there were plenty of people and lots to see.
A piece of the Berlin Wall resides here, as well as the bullet removed from the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II.
A second basilica was built when the first proved inadequate to hold the crowds. It’s very open and modern, with discordant music, lighting and art.
The crucifix on the high altar contains a universal Jesus sculpted by an Irish artist, unlike any we’ve ever seen. Clean shaven, with long hair one one side and short on the other, the face holds traces of different ethnicities and both genders. I couldn’t get a clear pic, but hope this gives the idea:
Of course the streets are lined with shops selling religious souvenirs, but the atmosphere in the open sanctuary was solemn, with penitents crawling on their knees from one basilica to the other, and masses in different languages held every hour.
In case a reminder is needed, these signs are posted at each entrance:
At 9:30 in the evening, the bells rang to summon everyone back to the Chapel, where the rosary was recited in different languages and Ave Marias were sung while everyone held candles aloft.
At the conclusion, the illuminated cross and the statue of the Virgin were lifted from the altar, and all the people joined the procession, with their candles, around the square. An experience of a lifetime…