Apparitions at Fatima: May-October 1917

Post by Olive Morrin, Special Collections & Archives

From Samhailteacha Fatima

The 13th May  2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the first apparition at Fatima.  On that day Lucia dos Santos aged ten and her cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto aged 9 and 7 were tending Lucia’s family herd of sheep on the hills outside Fatima when the first of six apparitions of Our Lady appeared to the children.  The apparitions occurred on the 13th of each month except in August when the children were not allowed to go to Cova da Iria where the apparitions occurred.  She appeared instead on the 19th August when they returned. 


Lucia recalls what happened that first day. “a beautiful lady clothed in white, more brilliant than the sun, surrounded by a light more intense and clearer than a tumbler of crystal-clear water through which the sun is shining”. The lady spoke to the children and said she would not harm them and that on the thirteenth day of each month she would return for six months in succession.

Word began to spread about the apparitions and by the fifth apparition about 30,000 people accompanied the children to the site.  On the sixth and last apparition on the 13th October a crowd of about 70,000 people accompanied the children in torrential rain.  Lucia had asked for a miracle and during the apparition Lucia asked people to look at the sun.  According to eye witnesses the sun began to turn in different directions and project bands of light in different colours.  It then went back to its original position but then seemed as if it was falling from the sky and the people were terrified. 

Portugal had entered World War I on the Allies side in 1917 and Lucia brother had been called up.  The 1918 flu pandemic or “Spanish flu” ravaged Europe after the war.  Lucia’s father died and five members of the Marto family.  Francisco in 1918 and Jacinta in 1920 from the effects of a combination of flu and tuberculosis.  

Much controversy and speculation has surrounded the Three Secrets of Fatima.  Lucia claimed on July 13th 1917 the Virgin Mary entrusted the children with three secrets.  According to Catholic interpretation the secrets cover Hell, World War 1, World War II and the Pope John Paul II assassination attempt.  Two of the secrets were revealed by Lucia in 1941 at the request of her bishop.  In 1943 she was instructed by her bishop to reveal the third secret which she was reluctant to do until she received an order to put it in writing.  She did so with the proviso that it not be revealed until 1960.  The text of the third secret was eventually publically revealed in 2000 by John Paul II. Cardinal Ratzinger who later became Pope Benedict XVI wrote a commentary at the time “A careful reading of the text of the so-called third ‘secret’ of Fatima……will probably prove disappointing or surprising after all the speculation it has stirred.  No great mystery is revealed; nor is the future unveiled”.

Lucia became a nun and died at the Carmelite convent of Santa Teresa in Coimbra, Portugal on 13th February 2005 aged 97.

The Library holds a number of books relating to the apparitions of Fatima and Special Collections holds four pamphlets and one book relating to what happened at Fatima.  Three of the pamphlets are published by the Catholic Truth Society and the fourth by the Holy Ghost Fathers. The Library has also recently received as part of the Pearse Hutchinson Collection a copy of the Fatima story in Irish called Samhailteacha Fatima by Matias Ó Eidhin. 


The apparitions of Our Lady at Fatima: the story of the apparitions by H.s. Caires. Published by the Catholic Truth Society 1946

Mary warns the world: Fatima by J. Mullins. Published by the Holy Ghost Fathers 1943

Our Lady of Fatima by Francis De Zulueta. Published by the Catholic Truth Society 1935

What happened at Fatima by J.J. Gannon. Published by the Catholic Truth Society 1969

Samhailteacha Fatima by Maitias Ó hEidhin. Published by Oifig Díolta Foillseacháin Rialtais, 1948


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