The story of Fatima is permanently associated with events in which three local children: Lúcia and her cousins, Francisco and Jacinta Marto, saw, on 13 May 1917, a flash of light and visions of a “lady dressed in white”, while they were keeping their sheep in the shade of the holm oaks in the place called Cova da Iria. This place is now called the Chapel of the Apparitions.
Appearing to the children, the Blessed Virgin Mary said that she had been sent by God with a message for every man, woman and child of our century. She appeared at a time when civilization was being punished by war and bloody violence. She promised that Heaven would provide peace to the whole world if her requests for prayer, reparation, and consecration were heard and obeyed
Our Lady of Fatima explained to the children that war is a punishment for sin and warned that God would continue to punish the world for its disobedience of His Desire through wars and hunger, through the persecution of the Church, the Holy Father and the faithful Catholics. The Virgin asked them to pray a lot for the good of the world and announced that she would return during the following months on the 13th. The last apparition took place in October and was witnessed by about 70,000 pilgrims who saw the Miracle of the Sun.
The Message of Our Lady to the world is based on what has come to be called the "secret" that she entrusted to the three seers in July 1917. The secret consists of three parts. The first part of the secret was a horrendous vision of hell "where the souls of poor sinners go." The second part of the secret specifically prophesied the beginning of the Second World War. The last part of the secret (often called the "Third Secret") was written by Lúcia dos Santos in 1944 and has been in the possession of the Holy See since 1957.
Years later, Sister Lucy recounts that between April and October 1916 an angel had appeared to the three seers three times, twice in Loca do Cabeço and once at the well in the backyard of Lucia's house, Inviting them to prayer and penance.
To mark the site of the Apparitions a wooden arch with a cross was built. The little tree gradually disappeared carried off in pieces by the pilgrims. The construction of a small chapel in honor of Our Lady was started on August 6, 1918, with the alms of the faithful. It was 3.30 meters long, 2.80 meters wide and 2.85 meters high, made of stone and lime and covered with roof tiles. This was the first structure built in the Sanctuary.
Fatima is today considered by many as the Altar of the World, where it smacks of promises and burnt candles and and where millions of pilgrims flock, moved by the greatest force on earth: faith. Fatima, city of Peace. Land of Miracles and Apparitions.