2017 was the 100th anniversary of one of the most amazing miracles of the 20th century: the spectacular “Miracle of the Sun” that occurred in front of tens of thousands in Fatima, Portugal.
Three poor children claimed that the Blessed Virgin Mary was appearing to them – and that she would perform a public miracle on October 13th, 1917 in a certain field.
That’s quite the claim, so when the day came the field was filled tens of thousands of people: believers, skeptics, journalists, and even photographers.
And then it happened: the Sun started spinning, then zig-zagging around the sky, and it gave off brilliant colors.
So did anyone get a photograph??
This picture has been floating around the Internet purporting to be exactly that:
The sun is the slightly darker spot in the middle of the right side.
Of course, a main feature of the Miracle of the Sun was that the Sun moved, which wouldn’t exactly be captured in a photo. But still, if real, this would be an incredible historical artifact.
There’s only one problem: it wasn’t taken in Fatima in 1917.
There were several photos of the crowd published soon after the event. But none of the sun.
The photograph above surfaced years later. It was indeed published in 1951 by L’Osservatore Romano, purporting to be a lost photo of the miracle. But it was later discovered to have been a case of mistaken identity: the photo was taken of a different strange solar phenomenon in a different town in Portugal in 1925.
It’s not clear why there were photos taken of the crowds during the Miracle of Sun, but none of the Sun itself. Maybe the photographers couldn’t see it (not everyone could)? Or maybe no photos taken of the sky turned out.
Either way, all we’re left with is the eye-witness testimony.
“As if like a bolt from the blue, the clouds were wrenched apart, and the sun at its zenith appeared in all its splendor. It began to revolve vertiginously on its axis, like the most magnificent firewheel that could be imagined, taking on all the colors of the rainbow and sending forth multicolored flashes of light, producing the most astounding effect. This sublime and incomparable spectacle, which was repeated three distinct times, lasted for about ten minutes. The immense multitude, overcome by the evidence of such a tremendous prodigy, threw themselves on their knees.”
—Dr. Manuel Formigão, a professor at the seminary at Santarém, and a priest.
“I feel incapable of describing what I saw. I looked fixedly at the sun, which seemed pale and did not hurt my eyes. Looking like a ball of snow, revolving on itself, it suddenly seemed to come down in a zig-zag, menacing the earth. Terrified, I ran and hid myself among the people, who were weeping and expecting the end of the world at any moment.”
—Rev. Joaquim Lourenço, describing his boyhood experience in Alburitel, eighteen kilometers from Fátima.