Image of Virgin Mary of Fatima: Meaning of the Cord and Sphere

Image of Virgin Mary of Fatima

Source: Museum of the Shrine of Fatima

The Image of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima, venerated in the Chapel of the Apparitions, and whose centennial is celebrated during this year of 2020, came from the initiative of a devotee from Torres Novas, Gilberto Fernandes dos Santos. He sought to endow the chapel with an image that would serve as a reference to the emerging cult. Commissioned to ‘Casa Fânzeres’, in Braga.

The Image of Virgin Mary of Fatima was sculpted in Brazilian cedar wood by José Ferreira Thedim, following closely the model of ‘Nossa Senhora da Lapa’, an image created for the homonymous church in Ponte de Lima, in 1908.

The Image of Virgin Mary of Fatima inherited from her model the garments (tunic and overcoat opened in the lower area, under a mantle), of a whiteness accentuated by the golden hem, and the gesture (hands uplifted in prayer, at chest height).

However, the Image of Fatima acquired unprecedented motifs, such as the star and the cord with a tassel at its end. The first is not based on the sources taken to establish the physical portrait of the Virgin Mary.

On the contrary, the cord with tassel is based on the interrogations carried out on the three small seers, when they refer to “strings that ran across and also from top to bottom”[2] or “two golden cords that drop down from her neck and are then tied in a tassel, also golden, about halfway up her body”[3].

The information came to be restated again, by the detailed description made by Lúcia de Jesus: “She was dressed in white, covered from her head to the bottom of her dress with a mantle braided in gold, tied with a gold cord that ended in a golden tassel”[4]. To these attributes is added yet another one, of key importance: the rosary.


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The presence of the cord with a tassel or sphere constitutes, thus, an attribute that comes from the descriptions made of the Virgin Mary by the small seers and, more than a meaning, has a function, as a constitutive element of the mantle that covered Our Lady from head to feet.

The last century’s 40’s chroniclers interpreted the sphere, which appears above all in the two iconographic subtypes of Fatima (Pilgrim Image of Our Lady and Immaculate Heart of Mary), as a symbol of the world that Our Lady of Fatima protects close to her chest[5].

[1] For a thorough study on this subject see Duarte, Marco Daniel Carrola – Fátima e a criação artística (1917-2007): o Santuário e a Iconografia – a arte como cenário e como protagonista de uma específica mensagem. Coimbra: Universidade de Coimbra, 2012, vol. II, policopiado. Doctoral dissertation in Arts and Humanities, Department of History, Archaeology and Arts, speciality of History of Art, presented to the Faculty of Arts and Humanities of the University of Coimbra, 4 vols. From the same author, see also the entry “Iconografia”. In AZEVEDO, Carlos A. Moreira; CRISTINO, Luciano (coordenação) – Enciclopédia de Fátima. Estoril: Princípia, 2007, p. 252-257; “A iconografia da Senhora de Fátima: da criação ‘ex nihilo’ às composições plásticas dos artistas”. In Cultura. Revista de História e Teoria das Ideias [Online]. Vol. 27 (2010), p. 235-270 [Accessed in 04.30.2019] Available at <>; “A imagem de Nossa Senhora do Rosário de Fátima: quando a matéria se transforma em arte e a arte se transfigura em ícone”. In Fátima XXI: revista cultural do Santuário de Fátima. Fátima: Santuário de Fátima. nr. 4 (10.13.2015), p. 33-47; among others.

[2] Questioning of Lúcia by Father Manuel Marques Ferreira, parish priest of Fatima, on the apparition in June at Cova da Iria, after June 14th, 1917. Documentação Crítica de Fátima. Seleção de documentos (1917-1930). Fátima: Santuário de Fátima, 2012, doc. 2, p.19.

[3] Questioning of the seers Lúcia, Francisco and Jacinta, and Maria Rosa, mother of Lúcia, by Dr. Manuel Nunes Formigão, on his second visit to Cova da Iria, in order to complement his impressions collected on the 13th of September 1917. DCF, 2012, doc. 10, p.43.

[4] Official questioning of Lúcia de Jesus, by the priests, Manuel Nunes Formigão and Manuel Marques dos Santos, members of the Canonical Commission, accompanied by Father Manuel Pereira Lopes on July 8th, 1924 (free translation). DCF, 2012, doc. 74, p.272.

[5] Duarte, Marco Daniel Carrola – Fátima e a criação artística, above-mentioned, vol. II, p.156-160; 171.

Let us remain close in the same prayer! May the Lord bless you abundantly!