Our Lady's Library
Articles, essays and stories from the pages of The Fatima Crusader Magazine
The Miracle of The Sun
October 13, 1917(1)
Here are briefly the facts; starting from the day after the events, by a reporter who cannotpossibly be accused of partiality in this matter and for a good reason! We refer to Avelino deAlmeida, the chief editor of "O Seculo," the large "liberal" anticlerical and masonic daily ofLisbon. He writes,
"From the road, where the carriages were crowded together and where hundreds of persons hadstayed for want of sufficient courage to advance across the muddy ground, we saw the hugecrowd turn towards the sun which appeared at its zenith, clear of the clouds. It resembled a flatplate of silver, and it was possible to stare at it without the least discomfort. It did not burn theeyes. It did not blind. We would say that it produced an eclipse. Then a tremendous cry rang out,and the crowd nearest us were heard to shout: "Miracle! Miracle!...Marvel!...Marvel!" Before thedazzled eyes of the people, whose attitude transported us to biblical times, and who,dumb-founded, heads uncovered, contemplated the blue of the sky, the sun trembled, it madestrange and abrupt movements, outside of all cosmic laws, "the sun danced", accordingto the typical expression of the peasants...(2)"
Attacked violently by all the anticlerical press, Avelino de Almeida renewed his testimony,fifteen days later, in his review, l'"Ilustra‡ao Portuguesa". This time he illustrated his accountwith a dozen photographs of the huge ecstatic crowd, and repeated as a refrain throughout hisarticle: "I saw...I saw...I saw." And he concluded fortuitously: "Miracle, as the people shouted?Natural phenomenon, as the experts say? For the moment, that does not concern me, I am onlysaying what I saw... The rest is a matter for Science and the Church.(3)
Saturday October 13, begins for the pilgrims, as a walk of penance because it had rained thewhole preceding night. Now, this "almost sudden change of weather, with the dusty roadstransformed into muddy quagmires by a pelting rain, causing to replace abruptly, for a day, thesweetness of autumn with the biting rigors of winter, did not succeed in moving them, to makethem give up or despair.(4)"
"From dawn, our reporter relates, visibly impressed by that calm courage, groups looming upagain, intrepid individuals who pass through, without stopping for a moment, the small town,whose silence is broken by the chant of hymns intoned by feminine voices in harmony whichcontrasts with the roughness of the men... The sun rises, but the aspect of the sky is threatening.Some black clouds accumulate, precisely from the Fatima side. Nothing however holds back thepilgrims who, from all roads and by all means of locomotion, flock in that direction... Somesmall bells on a chain tinkle; we see here and there a cart decorated with palms. However, thefestive atmosphere is discreet; the general manner is grave, the order perfect... Towards teno'clock, the sky is covered completely and a heavy rain begins to fall. The downpour, whippedby a bitter wind, beating against the face, inundates the gravel roads, and pierces to the bonethose who did not take the precaution of carrying an umbrella or some other means of protectionfrom the bad weather. But no one becomes impatient nor gives up following the road...
The Great Number of Pilgrims And Their Testimony
How many were assembled at the Cova da Iria?
The maximum estimate was from Dr. Almeida Garrett, and was proposed some months after theevent. It estimates the spectators at more than one hundred thousand. In "O Seculo" of October15, Avelino de Almeida wrote: "The crowd, by the unprejudiced calculations of cultivatedpersons very new to mystical influences, was estimated at thirty or forty thousand people." In hisarticle of October 29, he corrected his first estimate: "On October 13, according to thecalculations established by people free from every prejudice, some fifty thousand people weregathered on the moor of Fatima." A neutral newspaper, the "Primeiro de Janeiro", also estimatedthe crowd at fifty thousand individuals. We can therefore say, with a quasi-certainty, that thisfigure is a minimum; that is why the majority of historians propose as probable the presence of acrowd of seventy thousand witnesses.
In comparing the numerous accounts of witnesses, we can distinguish the diverse aspects and theresult of the astounding phenomena established by all. For each one of them, it would be possibleto line up some ten pages of witnesses which would constitute in themselves an impressive book.
Here is the first marvellous fact described by Dr. Almeida Garrett: "It must have been 1:30 pmwhen there arose at the exact spot where the children were, a column of smoke, thin, fine andbluish, which extended up to perhaps two meters above their heads, and evaporated at thatheight. This phenomenon, perfectly visible to the naked eye, lasted for a few seconds. Not havingnoted how long it had lasted, I cannot say whether it was more or less than a minute. The smokedissipated abruptly, and after some time, it came back to occur a second time, then a third time..."
The Sudden Stoppage Of The Rain.
Whereas "the low and heavy sky had a very dark color, laden with moisture, released an abundantand long lasting rain," during the time of the apparition, the rain stopped totally. Abruptly the skycleared: "The sun triumphantly pierced the thick bed of clouds hiding it until then, and shoneintensely." (Dr. Almeida Garrett).
This abrupt change of weather took all the eyewitnesses by surprise: "It was a day of heavy andcontinuous rain. But a few minutes before the miracle, it stopped raining." (Alfredo da SilvaSantos)
The Vision Of The Sun Without Burning The Retina.
"Suddenly I heard the uproar of thousands of voices, and I saw the whole multitude spread out inthat vast space at my feet,... turn their backs to that spot where, until then, all their expectationsfocused, and look at the sun on the other side... I turned around, too, toward the pointcommanding their gazes, and I could see the sun, like a very clear disc, with its sharp edge,which gleamed without hurting the sight... It could not be confused with the sun seen through afog (there was no fog at that moment), for it was neither veiled, nor dim. At Fatima, it kept itslight and heat, and stood out clearly in the sky, with a sharp edge, like a large gaming table. Themost astonishing thing was to be able to stare at the solar disc for a long time, brilliant with lightand heat, without hurting the eyes, or damaging the retina." (Dr. Almeida Garrett).
"And then we witnessed a unique spectacle, the reporter of "O Seculo" remarked in similar vein,an incredible spectacle, unbelievable if you did not witness it. From above the road... We see theimmense crowd turn towards the sun, which appeared at its zenith, clear of the clouds. It lookedlike a plate of dull silver, and it was possible to stare at it without the least discomfort. It did notburn the eyes. It did not blind. One might say that an eclipse had occurred." (Article of October15, 1917) "The people could look at the sun as we look at the moon." (Maria do Carmo)
Suddenly, the heavenly body began to tremble, to shake with abrupt movements, and finally toturn on itself at a dizzying speed while throwing out rays of light, all colors of the rainbow: "Thesun turned like a fire wheel, taking on all the colors of the rainbow." (Maria do Carmo) "Itappeared like a globe of snow turning on itself." (Father Louren‡o) "The pearl-like disc had agiddy motion. This was not the twinkling of a star in all its brilliance. It turned on itself withimpetuous speed." (Dr. Almeida Garrett) "At a certain moment, the sun stopped and then beganagain to dance, to spin; it stopped again, and began again to dance." (Ti Marto) It is indeedtherefore a triple "dance of the sun" which thousands of witnesses affirm, having contemplated itfor several minutes.
"The sun took on all the colors of the rainbow. Everything assumed those same colors: our faces,our clothes, the earth itself." (Maria do Carmo) "A light, whose colors changed from one momentto the next, was reflected on the people and on things", notes Dr. Pereira Gens.
"We suddenly heard a clamor, relates Almeida Garrett, like a cry of anguish of that entire crowd.The sun, in fact, keeping its rapid movement of rotation, seemed to free itself from the firmamentand blood-red, to plunge towards the earth, threatening to crush us with its fiery mass. Thosewere some terrifying seconds." "I saw the sun turn and it seemed to descend. It was like a bicyclewheel." (John Carreira) "The sun began to dance and, at a certain moment, it appeared to detachitself from the firmament and to rush forward on us, like a fire wheel." (Alfredo da Silva Santos)"I saw it perfectly descending as if it came to crash on the earth. It seemed to detach itself fromthe sky and rush toward us. It maintained itself at a short distance above our heads; but thatsort of attack was of very short duration... It seemed very near the people and it continued to turnin the opposite direction." (Maria do Carmo) "From those thousands of mouths, relates theengineer Mario Godinho, I heard shouts of joy and love to the Most Holy Virgin. And then Ibelieved. I had the certainty of not having been the victim of a suggestion. I had seen the sun as Iwould never see it again."
Everyone Had Dry Clothes.
A last astonishing fact: all those people, who were for the most part soaked to the bone, verifiedwith joy and amazement that they were dry. The fact is attested to in the canonical process.
The Vision Of The Solar Prodigy At A Distance.
A marvellous thing, the phenomenon could be admired from beyond Fatima. And even, someperfectly credible witnesses, who were very far away from the Cova da Iria, related having seenthe unprecedented spectacle of the dance of the sun, exactly like the thousands of pilgrimsgathered around the holm-oak.
In the small village of Alburitel, situated eighteen or nineteen kilometers from Fatima, the wholetown was able to enjoy the vision of the solar prodigy. The testimony frequently quoted is that ofFather Inacio Louren‡o, because it is the most detailed. But what he relates having seen, all thegood villagers, questioned by the investigators, confirmed seeing it in exactly the same way.
"In October, I will perform a miracle," Our Lady had sovereignly declared on July 13. And onOctober 13, it was at Her efficacious gesture that the marvellous "dance of the sun" began:"Then, opening Her hands, She made them reflect on the sun, and as She rose, the reflection ofHer own light continued to be projected on the sun itself."
Thus, the magnificent miracle, it is She Who promised it, Who announced it three months inadvance, and at Her gesture the miracle was fulfilled. That is the reply of the Queen of Heaven tothe instant supplication of Her shepherd: "I would like to ask You to tell us Who You are, and toperform a miracle so that all may believe that You are appearing to us." A response surpassing allexpectations and one of such magnitude, of such splendor, that no one would dare to dream itpossible.
The witnesses of the event were indeed innumerable, their testimonies agree and we are floodedwith the documents they have left us.
In the first place, the numerous accounts conveyed appeared at once in the Portuguese press. It isnoteworthy that the first to provide testimony were the anticlerical reporters. The three articles ofAvelino de Almeida, the one of October 13, immediately before the event, the other of October15, edited at Vila Nova de Ourem on the evening of the 13th, and a third article of October 29,merit a special mention. In spite of the jeering tone and voltarian irony which inspire in part thefirst article, in spite of the expected anticlerical tones which still appear in the article of the 15th.These texts from a reporter of talent, one who besides, is honest and conscientious, are historicaldocuments of prime importance(5). But he was not the only one to relate the facts, for otherreporters were present at the Cova da Iria.
Next there were the official investigations. In November, 1917, at the request of Bishop de LimaVidal, who was then directing the diocese of Lisbon, the Parish Priest of Fatima led hisinvestigation and questioned several witnesses of the parish. Unfortunately, he transcribed only four depositions!
The investigations of the historians fortunately compensated for those negligences of the officialinvestigators. Since Father Formigao, who obtained from Dr. Jos‚ Maria de Almeida Garrett,professor at the Faculty of Sciences of Coimbra, a very thorough account, the most scientificreport in our possession(6), all the top historians went to question the witnesses. Father daFonseca, in order to verify the points disputed by Father Dhanis; Father De Marchi, CanonBarthas, Father Dias Coelho and Father Richard.
In 1977, to commemorate the sixtieth anniversary of the last apparition, it was still possible toassemble in Fatima more than thirty persons who had been present at the solar prodigy and whocould reveal their memories.
Thanks to those numerous testimonies, it is possible to reconstruct a precise runningcommentary, allowing us to relive, hour by hour and minute by minute, this decisive day,assuredly one of the most important in the history of the world.
FOOTNOTES: 1) This chapter is an abridgment of "The Whole Truth About Fatima, Volume II, introduction, pages 5-10 (English editon) 2) O Seculo of October 15, 1917. 3) Article of October 29, 1917. 4) "Ilustra‡ao portuguesa," October 29, 1917. 5) We find the photographic reproduction of those three articles in "Fatima 50" of October 13, 1967, pages 6-10; 14-15. 6) "Novos Documentos de Fatima," Loyola editions, Sao Paulo, 1984, pages 60-63.