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When the Sun Danced

When the Sun Danced: Myth, Miracles, and Modernity in Early Twentieth-Century Portugal

Jeffrey S. Bennett
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    When the Sun Danced
    Book Description:

    Between May and October of 1917, three young shepherds were reportedly visited six times by an apparition of the Virgin Mary near the town of Fátima in Portugal. At the final apparition event, approximately 70,000 visitors gathered to witness a prophesied miracle intended to convince the public that the children's visions were of divine origin. The miracle took the form of a solar anomaly; witnesses claimed that the sun began to "dance." Exploring the early development of the cult of the Virgin of Fátima and the overthrow of the liberal, secular government by pro-Catholic elements, Jeffrey Bennett offers the first book-length scholarly study of the cult's relationship to the rise of authoritarian politics in Portugal.When the Sun Dancedoffers a fascinating look at the cultural dynamics that informed one of the most turbulent periods in the nation's history.

    eISBN: 978-0-8139-3250-7
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-22)

    Today, more than a decade after the Vatican’s release of the much-heralded “third secret” of Fátima, some of the mystery and apocalyptic dread long associated with the Portuguese visions has dissipated. However, the popularity of the Virgin of Fátima and the “blessed” children who transmitted her messages to the world has not waned. According to the World Apostolate of Fátima, more than twenty million people currently participate in the apparition cult. Every year several million of these adherents travel to Portugal from places as far away as the Philippines, South Africa, and Argentina to visit the site where the Virgin...

  6. 1 Signs of the Times
    (pp. 23-42)

    Understanding how a set of stories told by three small shepherds from a rural village so greatly affected modern Portuguese history involves tacking back and forth between micro-and macrolevel processes, between individual and collective visions, between inherited pasts and hoped-for futures. It also entails recognizing that the apparition drama was surrounded by a range of related dramas and personae that both shaped and were shaped by it. In this chapter, I discuss some fragments of Portuguese history that communicate something about the affective climate and field of social concerns that characterized the opening decades of the Portuguese twentieth century. The...

  7. 2 Revolutionary Republicanism
    (pp. 43-68)

    It is impossible to understand how and why the Fátima apparitions became so politicized and thereby popularized, without taking into account the 1910 Republican revolution and its immediate aftermath. Therefore, in this chapter I provide a brief sketch of the revolution and discuss the postrevolutionary instability that left so many Portuguese hungry for the restoration of order. As I suggested in the introduction, the revolution can and should be viewed as a revitalization movement organized around a vision of the new republic, which represented a radical, life-affirming break with the past. However, the utopian vision of a modern, secular, democratic...

  8. 3 A Modern Miracle
    (pp. 69-123)

    To understand how the Marian visions at Fátima influenced national life, it is necessary to know something about the place and people at the heart of the apparition drama, for what became a national affair began as a family affair. Therefore, in this chapter I provide a general introduction to the parish of Fátima and the seers, along with a chronological account of the six apparition events. The shift in focus from an urban revolution to a rural social drama is admittedly disjunctive. However, exploring the way these separate realms of action intersected is the key to understanding how the...

  9. 4 Reenvisioning Mary
    (pp. 124-164)

    In this chapter I provide a set of analyses intended to make better sense of the events described in the previous chapter. The goal of these analyses is to draw attention to the ways in which the apparition claims were communicated and responded to as they spread beyond the local sphere, becoming translocal and national-level realities. Or, perhaps better, the chapter is concerned with explaining how and why the Fátima apparitions became critical historical events—that is, events that prompted a set of irreversible social, political, and cultural transformations in Portugal.

    In the preceding chapter, I noted that the first...

  10. 5 Time and the Signs
    (pp. 165-200)

    In this final chapter I highlight some of the ways the Fátima apparitions transformed Portuguese national life between 1918 and 1935. Broadly speaking, the chapter deals with the proliferation of miraculous cures that occurred at Fátima, the progressive development of the cult of the Virgin of Fátima, and some of the acts of consecration and commemoration that helped make Fátima the spiritual capital of the country after the collapse of the First Republic in 1926. While each of these topics warrants individual attention, in this chapter they are presented collectively to help put a very diffuse process of sociocultural and...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 201-218)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 219-224)
  13. Index
    (pp. 225-238)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 239-240)