A huge crowd gathered outside in fields called Cova da Iria near Fatima, Portugal on October 13, 1917 to see an apparition of Saint Mary (the Virgin Mary) and witness a miracle she had promised in her previous Fatima apparitions to perform that day. Around midday, a supernatural phenomenon took place with the sun that captured the attention of those gathered there (estimated by the media to be more than 70,000 people) while healing many people in the crowd, witnesses reported. Here's the story of this famous event that has come to be known as the Miracle of the Sun:
A Miracle So That All May See and Believe
Mary had appeared in Fatima on the 13th of each month from May 1917 until this day exactly six months later, communicating with three local children (Lucia dos Santos, 10, and her cousins Francisco Marto, 9, and Jacinta Marto, 7), the children said. Prior to that, an angel had appeared to the children on three separate occasions to prepare them for Mary's appearances, they reported.During her August and September 1917 apparitions, Mary told the children that, on October 13, 1917 around midday, "I will perform a miracle so that all may see and believe."
A Stormy Start
The night of October 12, 1917 brought a furious storm to Fatima, with pounding rain, thunder, lightning, and strong winds. Throughout the morning, the rain continued to fall, drenching the thousands of people who traveled to the muddy fields hoping to see Mary and the miracle she had promised. Yet, undeterred by the weather, they continued to make the trek.
The crowd gathered in the fields, praying, talking, and singing as they waited for the middle of the day and for the children to arrive. After Lucia, Franciso, and Jacinta arrived, Lucia asked the people in the crowd to take down their umbrellas. They did so, and as the rain continued to fall, a strong flash of lightning appeared in the sky and a cloud moved from the east toward the west, stopping over the same Holm oak tree where Mary had appeared during her previous five monthly visits to the children.
Look at the Sun!
Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta then fell to their knees on the muddy field and began communicating with Mary as the huge crowd watched them. Although the people in the crowd couldn't see Mary, they could hear the children talk to her, and when Lucia cried out: "Look at the sun!" people directed their attention to the sky, where the rain clouds suddenly parted and the sun shone with great intensity, emanating a strong light and heat that dried people's skin and clothes from the drenching rain they'd just experienced.
Fascinated, people stared at the sun as it turned into a dull silver disc in the sky. They later reported that doing so didn't hurt their eyes, as it normally would have. Reporter Avelino de Almeida, who had previously written newspaper articles that mocked the children's reports about the Fatima apparitions, wrote in the newspaper O Seculo of witnessing the Miracle of the Sun: "...one could see the immense multitude turn towards the sun, which appeared free from clouds and at its zenith. It looked like a plaque of dull silver and it was possible to look at it without the least discomfort. It might have been an eclipse which was taking place. But at that moment a great shout went up and one could hear the spectators nearest at hand shouting: 'A miracle! A miracle!' Before the astonished eyes of the crowd, whose aspect was biblical as they stood bareheaded, eagerly searching the sky, the sun trembled, made sudden incredible movements outside all cosmic laws - the sun danced...".
The sun soon began to move around the sky (as if it were "dancing" witnesses reported), swirling around like a massive wheel. Then red flames that reflected all the colors of the rainbow came out of the sun, making everything in sight appear tinted with a variety of changing colors, such as green, blue, purple, and yellow. People who looked at each other while this was happening saw each other bathed in colored light.
As the solar phenomenon continued, the sun tilted on its axis and zigzagged across the sky. Then it appeared to be falling out of the sky, as it moved closer and closer to the crowd and grew larger and larger in the process. People screamed out confessions and prayers as the sun approached them. Many witnesses reported that they thought the end of the world was occurring.
Then the phenomenon (which had lasted about 10 minutes) stopped. The sun slowly started to move back up into the sky until it reached its usual place there.
People in the crowd began to shout out exclamations as they noticed that they had been miraculously healed of a wide variety of the illnesses and injuries from which they had suffered before the sun had behaved supernaturally. Doctors who examined witnesses later couldn't give any medical explanations for their healing.
Others, who had not been present at the field, reported seeing the sun's special effects (like its movement and changing colors) from miles away. Only those who were directly bathed in the sun's light on the field, however, experienced miraculous physical healing.
Lucia, Franciso, and Jacinta reported seeing visions of Mary, Jesus Christ, and Saint Joseph in the sky while the Miracle of the Sun was happening, and some (but not all) of the people in the crowd also reported seeing the visions in addition to the sun's dramatic behavior that everyone witnessed.
The Miracle of the Sun marked the end of Mary's apparitions at Fatima. Spiritual pilgrims travel from all over the world now to visit the Fatima shrine that commemorates the apparitions and offers worship services.