Recently, on a trip to Portugal, I got to spend some time in Evora. I had read about this town and its main attraction…Capela Dos Ossos or Chapel of the Bones. Luckily my travel partner was as excited to view this site as I was! The chapel was built between 1460 and 1510 and is attached to the Church of St. Francis, which itself is worth a visit!
The Chapel of the Bones was constructed by three Franciscan monks when the bodies of the cities’ two overflowing cemeteries had to be exhumed. They took the 5000 bones from the bodies and made the chapel, using the bones as decorations on the walls, the columns, and the ceiling.
As you enter the chapel you pass under a doorway that has the following inscription…”Nos ossos que aqui estamos pelos vossos esperamos” which translates roughly to…”We bones, are here, waiting for yours”…
The roof of the chapel is white brick and when you look up you will find different themes and pictures to do with death.
As I walked around and viewed the walls and columns, I was immediately struck by not only how many bones are actually here, but how precisely they were placed. The care taken to position each one where needed was clearly evident.
Some may think this display of bones is chilling or frightful, but I found it both fascinating and peaceful. The fact that the bones were so reverently cared for and preserved is remarkable.
Buried in a coffin within the chapel are the bones of the three Franciscan monks that so lovingly and painstakingly placed the bones into this chapel. Notice the skulls that even line the ceiling motifs.
This chapel may not take a lot of time to see, however it is a popular destination in Portugal so you will find it can get busy. Take your time to read the information that they have displayed within the chapel, as well as just standing and staring at this strange sight.
Being close to Lisbon, Evora is easily accessible by bus for a day trip. However, spending at least one night here allows you plenty of time to visit this chapel, as well as seeing other sites in this pretty town.