As the story goes, in 1917, three children came face to face with an apparition of the Virgin Mary, while taking their flock of sheep out to pasture. Mary told them to return to the site at the same hour on the thirteenth day of the next five consecutive months, which the children did faithfully. A miracle was promised, and on October 13, Mary appeared once more, asking that a chapel be built upon the site in her honour. Soon afterward, 70,000 people witnessed the sun "whirling on itself like a wheel of fire, (and) it seemed about to fall upon the earth."
The chapel became the enormous Santuário de Fátima, where pilgrims from all over the world come to show their devotion— some walking across the country, some shuffling upon their knees from the entrance of the complex to the chapel. There were people from as far away as Venezuela and Korea, people in wheelchairs, people with desperation on their brows, people who looked overjoyed.
What I found interesting, were these beeswax sculptures of body parts, located near a fire pit into which pilgrims tossed enormous candles in prayer. The sculptures reminded me of Mexican milagros, little folk charms used for healing. Milagros can be made of anything really, but are typically found embossed in tin, and can be rather ornate. Here in Fátima, prayers for healing took the form of wax body parts, softly molded and pale. The image of a child, of hearts, a pancreas, and a pair of legs, brought a pang of sadness in my chest. I hope the people who left them there get what they need.
The air was hot, and fragrant with that sweet honey smell of beeswax.