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 Danced offers a fascinating look at the cultural dynamics that informed one of the most turbulent periods in the nation’s history.
In When the Sun Danced, Jeffrey Bennett provides a sustained analysis of the sociopolitical context of the 1917 apparition of the Virgin Mary in Fátima, Portugal. This study of the intertwining of popular religious movements with Portuguese political history is a must-read for anyone interested in visions, religious experience, and the appropriation of religious movements for political purposes.
Jeffrey S. Bennet’s When the Sun Danced: Myth, Miracles, and Modernity in Early Twentieth Century Portugal is an in-depth and finely written investigation into the very apparition whose centennial was marked by Pope Francis’s canonization of the child-seers, Our Lady of Fatima.... I recommend this book most highly and agree with previous reviewers who feel it should take its place among the finest studies of modern Marian apparitions.... [F]or anyone wishing to fully understand the ways in which the Fatima apparition was ultimately transformed from a deeply national early twentieth-century phenomenon to a broadly international Cold War one.
Bennett's work is in the very best tradition of Marian apparition scholarship. His book is of equal or superior quality to other acclaimed works in this field, including William Christian Jr.'s Visionaries (Berkeley, CA, 1991), David Blackbourn's Marpingen (New York, 1994), and Ruth Harris's Lourdes (New York, 1998). The excellence of Bennett's scholarship ensures that this new book will make an immediate and lasting impact in the academy, especially so in the fields of comparative religion politics, sociology, and Portuguese studies.
Jeffrey S. Bennett is Assistant Professor of Sociology and Religious Studies at the University of Missouri, Kansas City.