Portugal – Evora’s Capela dos Ossos

Evora was established by the Romans and had its halcyon days during the 17th century when the Portuguese royalty became residents. It is noted for the white building facades as well as the popular wrought iron and tile accents.


The city of Evora

One of the major tourist attractions is the Royal Church of St. Francis which, from the exterior, is similar to dozens of other churches one might encounter throughout Portugal. It is located within easy walking distance of the main square.


Royal Church of St. Francis

The building has arched arcades that open to an interior courtyard.


Royal Church of St. Francis - Arcade

Naturally, the church has beautifully detailed altars with ornate artwork.


Royal Church of St. Francis - beautiful altar

What distinguishes the Royal Church of St. Francis from almost every other church in the world is that it houses one of the most famous sights in Evora – the famous Capela dos Ossos (Bones Chapel) dating back to the 1500s.


wall of the Bones Chapel

“The Chapel’s story is a familiar one. By the 16th century, there were as many as 43 cemeteries in and around Évora that were taking up valuable land. Not wanting to condemn the souls of the people buried there, the monks decided to build the Chapel and relocate the bones.” – https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/portugals-chapel-bones


closer look at the skeletons of the Bones Chapel

Rather than trying to create a macabre setting, the monks thought they were paying homage to Evora’s deceased and hoped this would provide a place of tranquility and meditation. Bones were chosen to add decorations to the architectural elements of the chapel.


Skulls embedded in the arch of a support column

Here is a close up of one of the support columns. Note the partial skull, second from the bottom of the frame. This may have been damaged accidentally, but bones have been intentionally removed as collector items and visitors are now restricted from getting too close to the walls.


More skeletal remains in a support column

A very poignant display was of the Pompei-like presentation of the bodies below which, at one time, were hanging from the walls by a ropes as complete desiccated specimens until one fell. Now they rest peacefully in a glass coffins.


a desiccated adult body

There are stories associated with these bodies and you can read about them at the Ancient Origins website.


a desiccated child's body

One can only imagine how many bones are located within this structure and the time and patience it took to construct this edifice.


Another wall of bones

As one leaves the chapel to visit the main sanctuary, a somewhat morbid signs harkens to those leaving:


Inscription - We bones in here wait for yours to join us.

“We bones in here wait for yours to join us.”

 
More things to see and do in Evora in the next Portugal and Spain post!


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Read previous posts about our adventures traveling in Portugal and Spain:

Portugal – Alfama District, Lisbon Part 1

Portugal – Alfama District, Lisbon Part 2

Portugal – Lisbon Streets & Garden

Lisbon Portugal – The Belem and Tejo River District

Sintra Portugal – National Palace and Quaint Streets

Portugal – Seaside Resort of Cascais

Portugal – Lisbon’s Edward VII Park

Lisbon, Portugal – Walking the Avenue to the Rossio District

Lisbon, Portugal – Unique Gift Shop

 

Read more Hiking and Exploration posts HERE


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