The sculpture of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima, venerated in the Chapel of the Apparitions, was ordered in 1919 by a devotee from Torres Novas, Gilberto Fernandes dos Santos, to the firm Casa Fânzeres, of Braga; this statue would correspond to the wish of the pilgrims to have, besides the Chapel, a statue they could identify as the «Lady embraced of light» who appeared to the three Shepherds in 1917.
Work of the saints’ carver José Ferreira Thedim and inspired by a picture of Our Lady of Lapa (in Ponte de Lima), the statue was «modelled and executed (…) in accordance with the account of the seers» as Canon Manuel Formigão transmitted to him (magazine Fatima XXI, p. 34), in other words the sculptor wasn’t given the benefit of the direct testimony of Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta.
The statue is 1,04 meters high and made of cedar wood from Brazil. Casa Fânzeres, of Braga, used polychromy and golden applications.
The statue was blessed on May 13th, 1920, by the parish priest Fr. Manuel Marques Ferreira, in the Parish Church, and taken to the Chapel of the Apparitions on June 13th, of that year.
At night, the statue was kept inside by a custodian (Maria Carreira, known as Maria da Capelinha), that is why on March 6th, 1922, the statue escaped without a scratch of an explosion.
The crown worn by the statue only on days of great pilgrimages, was offered by the women of Portugal on October 13th, 1942 as resultado de uma subscrição pública,
It is made of gold, weighs 1,2 kilos and has 313 pearls and 2679 precious stones.
It is a unique work executed freely by the jewelry shop Joalharia Leitão & Irmão, of Lisbon and 12 artists worked on it for three months.
However, its biggest preciosity was added only in 1989 when on April 26th it was enchased in it the bullet extracted from the body of John Paul II, after the attempt on his life in saint Peter’s Square, in Rome, on May 13th, 1981.
The Pope offered the bullet to the Shrine of Fatima on March 26th, 1984, for he always said that the «maternal hand» of Our Lady had deflected the trajectory of the projectile letting him survive.
The statue, solemnly crowned by cardinal Aloisi Masella, Pontifical legate, on May 13th, 1946, was restored by its author in 1951 and many times since then.
The statue is from May 1982 on the top of a plinth in the outside of the Chapel that marks the exact spot where was the holmoak tree on which Our Lady appeared to the three Shepherds (the tree disappeared due to the devotion of the devotees).
Protected by a glass bulletproof covering, the statue was kept inside the Chapel of the Apparitions at the end of the day, a few minutes before midnight, for security measures.
Since 2009, this practice was abandoned because the Shrine of Fatima started to broadcast online 24 hours a day the Chapel of the Apparitions with a camera pointing at the statue.
The sculpture that represents Our Lady is then permanently outside for everyone to see, not only in Cova da Iria, but in the entire world through the online broadcasting.
Statue trips out of Chapel of the Aparitions
Since it was placed in the Chapel of the Apparitions, in June 1920, the statue has left it 12 times which the last was in 2013 at the request of Pope Francis.
Chronology of the trips of the statue of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima:
1 - April 7th to 13th, 1942 – to attend the Closure of the II National Congress of Catholic Young Women, at the Church of Our Lady of Fatima, in Lisbon.