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The story of Fatima is associated with three children: Lucia de Jesus, 10, and Francisco and Jacinta Marto, her cousins, 9 and 7 years, the May 13, 1917, guarding the flock in the shade of one holmoak tree of a place called Cova da Iria and that by midday, after praying the rosary, as usual did, amused themselves by building a small stone house on the spot where now stands the Basilica. Suddenly, they saw an intense light, thinking it lightning, they decided to leave, but soon after, another flash lit up the place and on top of an holmoak tree (where now stands the Chapel of Apparitions), a "Lady brighter than the sun ", from whose hands hung a white rosary. The Blessed Virgin said it had been sent by God with a message for every man, woman and child. Appeared at a time when civilization was being burdened by war and bloody violence, She promised that Heaven would grant peace to the world if Her requests for prayer, reparation and consecration were heard and obeyed.

Our Lady of Fatima explained to children that war is a punishment for sin and warned that God would further castigate the world for its disobedience to His Will by means of war, famine and persecution of the Church of the Holy Father and the faithful. The Virgin asked them to pray a lot and announced that he would return for another five consecutive months, on day 13 at noon.
The children did so, and the 13th day of June, July, September and October, the Lady again appeared to them and spoke to them in the Cova da Iria. The August 19, the sign was in Valinhos, about 500 meters from Aljustrel, because in 13 day, the children had been taken by the County Administrator.

The Message of Our Lady to the world based on what has been called the "Secret" which She confided to the three child seers in July 1917. The Secret actually consists of three parts. The first part of the Secret was a horrifying vision of hell "where the souls of poor sinners." The second part of the Secret specifically prophesied the outbreak of the Second World War. The last part of the secret (called the "Third Secret") was written by Lucia dos Santos, in 1944 and is in possession of the Holy See since 1957.

Years later, Sister Lucy says that between April and October 1916, an angel had appeared to the three seers, three times, two in the Cabeço and another at the well of the backyard of Lucia, inviting them to prayer and penance.

At the last apparition, on October 13, in the presence of about 70,000 people, the Lady told them it was the "Lady of the Rosary" and to do a chapel in her honor. After the apparition all present witnessed the miracle promised to the three children in July and September: the sun, whirling on itself like a wheel of fire, like crashing into the Earth.

Fatima is now regarded by many as the Altar of the World, where millions of pilgrims flock moved by the strongest force in the world: faith.