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!


Continue reading about our trip to Portugal and Spain.


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All original content on this blog is copyrighted by Jeffrey B. Ross with ALL Rights Reserved. While reference links back to JBRish.com are appreciated and encouraged, please acquire approval for any reproduction of original content from this website.

©Jeffrey B. Ross 2014 – 2018 – JBRish.com

Portugal – Alfama District, Lisbon Part 1

Breaking away from our routine of traveling to national parks in the United States, we decided to journey overseas with a noted tour company to see a part of the world in which we have been interested for a long time. So off it was to Portugal and Spain.

Map of Portugal with Lisbon noted

Map Via

We arrived in Lisbon relatively early in the day. After we checked in at our hotel, we were anxious to get out and about to visit some of the sights we researched. High on the list was the Alfama district in Lisbon.

One of Alfama’s distinctions is that it is the oldest neighborhood in Lisbon. It is located along the Tejo river and is very picturesque. The concierge at the hotel explained that we needed to take a taxi to the tram stop and then take the number 28 to Alfama.

Tram #28 headed to Alfama

The #28 tram’s route traverses the city’s center thus making it a very busy mode of transportation as tourists use this to arrive at many of Lisbon’s popular attractions. It is less expensive than a tour bus, but there is no guide to point out the sights. We had to be careful as there were two different #28 trams. We determined we needed the one with the destination noted as Prazeres.

You can read more about it HERE

This popular tram usually operates from 7AM until 11PM daily. Check out the current schedules to be sure.

NOTE – Pickpockets often frequent this tram so be careful and keep your valuables close. We had no problems at all (besides the usual language barrier).

Little did we understand that the tram was going to drop us off quite a distance from the main section of Alfama and that we also needed to board a small van to take us to Alfama’s central location; no extra charge. Streets are so narrow in places that cars cannot navigate them. Bicycles and smaller motorized transports are plentiful on these narrow side streets.

As we were walking to board the jitney, we passed a trash can that was quite unique. We didn’t realize that this was customary in Portugal and Spain. Trash/recycle receptacles are sometimes painted and serve as a work of contemporary art. The city sponsors some to the container art. Apparently a number of other European cities have adopted this colorful method of camouflaging these streetside bins.

Art covered trash=recycle bins

We managed to find our way to the small van and disembarked near the Miradouro das Portas do Sol (Viewpoint of the Doors of the Sun) which is a large terraced area with an elevated point of view looking over Alfama. The first thing visitors are going to notice is the famous red roofs. This is Alfama’s trademark!

Landmark red roofs of Alfama seen from Miradouro das Portas do Sol

In the picture above, the river is barely visible, but some of the prominent buildings can be clearly seen. The large building in the upper left (with the two towers) is the Church or Monastery of São Vicente de Fora which Wikipedia translates as “Monastery of St. Vincent .” Just off to the the right of the Monastery is the dome of the National Pantheon.

Saint Vincent is Lisbon’s patron saint and a statue to honor him stands as a sentinel at the Portas del Sol close to where most visitors will arrive at one point or another during their explorations. There are several vendors and street merchants at this location trying to capitalize on the crowds that often gather in this area.

Statue of Lisbon's patron saint, Saint Vincent

Here is another photograph of Alfama taken from the Miradouro de Santa Luzia which is another great viewing area. The Tejo river is located along the horizon. More central with a single tower visible is the iglesia de Santo Estevao (Church of St. Stephen).

Another view of the port of Alfama seen from Miradouro de Santa Luzia

As we began to make our way through the old streets of Alfama on the way to the Thieve’s Market, we passed by ancient structures. Here is a crossover near the Campo de Santa Clara (market square).

crossover near the Campo de Santa Clara (market square)

The Thieves Market is similar to flea markets around the world. It is only open on Tuesday and Saturdays in the square near the Panteão Nacional and São Vicente de Fora dating back to the late 1880’s.

Vendors at the Thieves Market in Alfama

There was a large variety of goods for sale including books, crafts and other typical flea market wares.

Wheelbarrow with dishes for sale

Continue reading about our trip to Portugal and Spain.


Read more Hiking and Exploration posts HERE

All original content on this blog is copyrighted by Jeffrey B. Ross with ALL Rights Reserved. While reference links back to JBRish.com are appreciated and encouraged, please acquire approval for any reproduction of original content from this website.

©Jeffrey B. Ross – 2018 – JBRish.com