How Fatima Came To Be
There's a place in Portugal with a name
that's quite associated with Islam, but a name that's also attached to a
shrine that 's quite Christian. It's associated with Islam
because it bears the name of Mohammad's favorite daughter,1 and it's
Christian because the Blessed Virgin appeared near there in 1917.
The shrine and the town of the same
name are called Fatima, and there's surely a reason why the town received this name,
and the village before it. I don't know if there's any name that
doesn't have something of a history behind it, whether brief or more lengthy.
In looking into the
background of this name, I've come across differing accounts as to how Fatima
came to be. I will include two of them with this writing, one
saying the origin of the town's name is a legend. As to legend, here
are a couple ways it's defined: the Pocket Oxford English Dictionary
says, it's "a traditional story from the past which may or may not be true,"
whereas the American Heritage Dictionary says its "an unverified
popular story, especially one believed to be historical."
is the reality of what happened, whether a record remains to verify it or not.
The fact that a detail isn't recorded or remembered doesn't prove it didn't
occur. There's something factual behind the place name of
Fatima; otherwise it wouldn't have the name. The
aforementioned accounts, as to origin, appear quite within the bounds of what
As the story's told, Fatima as
a name grew out of a
period of Portuguese history known as the Reconquista, meaning the
reconquering in Portuguese, as well as Spanish.
Portugal and Spain are part of what is
called the Iberian Peninsula, the large European peninsula that lies
between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean,
across the inland sea
from northwest Africa.
peninsula was subject to
a series of invasions, one of which occurred in 711, when thousands of
Moorish soldiers led by Tariq ibn Ziyad crossed from Africa to
Europe, and landed near the promontory called thereafter Jebel
al-Tariq in Arabic (meaning the “mountain of Tariq”),
which evolved linguistically
Moors were a Berber people who became Muslims and adopted the Arab language.
Within seven years the Moors, along with an army led by an Arab governor
from Africa, brought most of the Iberian Peninsula under Muslim control.
time Moorish power weakened and
the Iberian territory, the
The Woman and the Dragon: Apparitions of Mary by David Lindsey, he
says Fatima begins with the legend of the origin of the town's Arabic name.
He relates that during the crusades against the Moors,
a Christian knight by the name of Don Gonçalo Hermingues captured the
daughter of the Muslim prince of Alcácer
do Sal. Her name was Fátima.
This beautiful princess who converted to Christianity, was baptized Oureana, and
married Gonçalo. It's from her Baptismal name that the village
of Ourem received its name.
But, tragically it's stated, his wife was taken
in death soon afterwards. A heart-broken Gonçalo joined the
Cistercian abbey of Alcobaça,3
devoting the remainder of his life to God. The Cisterians founded a
priory in the near-by mountains where Brother Gonçalo was sent. He took along the
remains of the wife he so loved, and named the place Fátima,
honoring her Muslim name.
Madigan in the Fatima Handbook tells the story this way. In
Moorish party was picnicking along the Sado River,4
were surprised from ambush, and those captured were taken to the king Alphonso Henriques at Santarem.
Among the captives was a young woman named Fátima,
and while they were travelling, the leader of the Christians fell in love
her. He was the knight Gonçalo Hermingues. He asked the king if
he could marry her, and the king agreed that he could, providing she consented to it, and that she would become a Christian.
Apparently she felt affection for him, as she agreed to both royal requirements. She was named "Oureana - the Golden One."
5 The king's wedding gift
the village of Abdegas, which took her name and over time the name was shortened to Ourem.
Madigan says that Oureana died young, and
also tells the reader that Gonçalo joined the Alcobaça
monastery. This account differs in that it says that the abbot
had her body transferred to monastic land, "not far from the couple's
village, and built a small commemorative chapel there" which became known by
her former name of Fátima,
most likely because her Christian name of Oureana was already being used.
One of the foregoing narratives says
Oureana died young, while the other says that she died soon after her
baptism and wedding. The comments to follow will be in keeping
with these stories.
Did Oreana suffer an accident or some breakdown of her health? Stricken in some
way, in her young years, it leaves one to wonder. One may visualize
tears welling up in Gonçalo's eyes, the soldier weeping, with sadness in his
heart and an ache of loss. The knight, captivated by
his captive, was now smitten by a sword of sorrow.
In using the word "soon," it strikes me that their life together could've
been just a few months in length, and if more, to have
short of a year. But it depends of what the language means to
the one saying it. I've come across the word applied to longer periods
seems they had no progeny of their own, yet in years to come, a great
spiritual effort would arise in Portugal for the good of mankind, an effort in which they would share, in a unique way.
We might describe it as a
progeny of people
a great body of humanity, animated and
given guidance from heaven ― responding to the message
of Fatima, communicated by the mother of God herself. It's a message
praying the Rosary for peace, suffering to repair for sin,
sacrifice for sinners and devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. It
also involves consecration, Communion of reparation, prophecy, the
miraculous and grace from God, so important in our lives.
This was brought into
earthly existence in 1917 and given growth through the course of years. It was
from out of the lives of that couple from long
ago. They gave it a name, the name of
Muslim Princess, dear to the heart of her Christian knight―a
name which lives on in the world.
The name has importance. Through the
name Fátima we've been given a connection between two major world
her name may be thought of as a bridge between Christendom and Islam.
It also seems to me that her conversion is a meaningful precedent for others
to follow, and that her coming to the kingdom of Christ, as a Muslim, may
and should be considered as part of the Fatima message.
Although the storied presence of Fátima6
in the world, is now distant in time, it
lingers in memory on a town and a shrine, a shrine that has drawn
a multitude of people.
Fátima, we have a geographical
location, a setting with meaning woven into it. And into this setting,
came a royal personage, the Queen of heaven, crowned in glory,
the one we call
Our Lady of Fatima.
February 5, 2010
Johnston wrote in his book Fatima The Great Sign: "The
Moslems, who have a certain devotion to Our Lady and recognise her Virgin
birth and Immaculate Conception, were intrigued by the fact that Mary had
appeared at Fatima, which was the name of Mohammed's favourite daughter and
regarded by the prophet as the highest woman in Heaven after Our
2. A British colony which lies on a
narrow peninsula, projecting out from the south of Spain. Its huge
rock of limestone covers about two miles square and is more than a quarter
mile high. The Rock of Gibraltar is one of ancient Pillars of
Hercules, promontories on the European and African sides at the entrance to
the Straits of Gibraltar.
A Consolata Missions publication, entitled
Fatima, says, "It can be truly said that Santa Maria de Alcobaça
is the cradle of Portuguese culture."
the first Portuguese king, when he was planning the conquest of Santarem
(then in Moorish hands), vowed to build a monastery dedicated to the
Blessed Virgin if victorious. That monastery is Alcobaça.
It was given to the monks of St. Bernard and enlarged by Alfonso's
successors. From then on, the struggle of the Cross against the
Islamic Crescent is said to have taken place under the standard of this
4. The Sado
River flows through southern Portugal, emptying into an estuary of the
Atlantic, and upon it is the city of Alcácer do Sal,
where the Muslim prince was from, the prince whose daughter was Fátima. It had different names in history
Al Qaşr (The Castle) and
Salatia (The city was important in the salt trade, and with the Romans
"achieved its golden era." It seems likely that Salatia derives from
the Latin for salt, Sal). At
the time of the Reconquista,
the Arabic Al Qaşr was kept,
but spelled phonetically in Latin, and Sal was combined with it―perhaps we might
humorously say, "salt was added."
interesting to note that "ouro" is Portuguese for gold, similar to
"oro," Spanish for gold.
(detail of a Portuguese 50 Escudos
note with the word "ouro" on it)
becoming Oureana, "the Golden One,"
there's an email address which begins with "aureanna."
Noticing its similarity to Oureana, I inquired into it, finding out
the person with the address, had named her daughter Aureanna,
combining the Latin "aurum" (Latin for gold) with Anna. She, however, wasn't aware of
either Oureana or "the Golden One."
The similarity seems coincidental. But it's
curious, moreso when you know that the great
grandmother of Aureanna is a member of The World Apostolate of Fatima.
I've endeavored to distinguish Fatima as a name in Portugal, from the name
the Princess, with the mark above the "á."
- Regarding the high regard that Muslims have for Mary ―
this is well and good and there is common ground here ― but in looking
at the whole picture, we must not let one aspect fool us. There are
important and basic differences that we must account for. We
must not focus on a mirage.