Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times
Fátima (Portuguese pronunciation: [ˈfatimɐ] (listen)) is a city in the municipality of Ourém, Beira Litoral Province, in the Central Region and Middle Tagus Subregion of Portugal, with 71.29 km² of area and 11,788 inhabitants (2011). Its population density is 162.7 hab/km². The homonymous civil parish encompasses several villages and localities of which the city of Fátima, with a population of 7,756 residents, is the largest.
The worldwide fame of the city is permanently associated with the apparitions of the Virgin Mary reported by three little shepherds – Lúcia, Francisco and Jacinta – from May 13 until October 13 of 1917. The Catholic Church later recognized these events as “worthy of belief”. A small chapel, now known as the Chapel of the Apparitions, was built at the site of the alleged supernatural events, and a precious statue of Our Lady of Fátima installed.
Due to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátima, a Marian shrine complex containing two minor basilicas, located in the wealthy quarter of Cova da Iria, the city has become in one of the most important international destinations of religious tourism, receiving between 6 and 8 million pilgrims by year. It attracts the religious people, but also those who seek a peace lifestyle usually only found in the convents and monasteries.
Fátima was said to be the name of a Moorish princess kidnapped by a knight, Gonçalo Hermigues, and his companions. Hermigues took her to a small village in the Serra de Aire hills, in the recently created Kingdom of Portugal. According to the Western Catholic narrative, Fatima fell in love with her kidnapper and decided to convert to Christianity in order to marry him. She was baptized and given a Christian name, Oureana.
Whatever version is true, the place name recalls the Princess’ original Arab name rather than her Christian baptismal one.