Capela dos Ossos : Chapel of bones in Evora, Portugal
Everyone who thinks this may be a gruesome and strange chapel that is a key attraction in the UNESCO city of Evora, but it has a fascinating history. It really is a must visit site in Evora not just for the curiosity factor but for the wonderful way they actually celebrate the past and innovation of presenting this chapel of bones.
For those that think this is a creepy attraction to visit, it’s not and a worthwhile site to see in the historic district of Evora.
What to expect from the chapel of bones
The entrance to the chapel of bones truly says it all when you visit, stating “We, the bones that are here await yours”. That is a macabre statement at the start but when you enter the intimate chapel, you are greeted with over 5000 bones that are intricately cemented into place in detailed fashion on the walls, ceiling and overall design of the chapel.
You’ll spot skulls and bones watching you from all angles on the walls, columns to arches and altar piece area in an eerie, provocative and striking display.
History of Capela dos Ossos, Chapel of bones Evora
The chapel is a small part of the larger Igregia de Sao Francisco – Church of St. Francis which was the royal church of Evora at that time. This large and beautiful Manueline – Gothic church was completed in 1510 and a gorgeous display of beautiful details with the blue azulejo tiles, carved altar with golden inlays, statuary and paintings.
The chapel sits next door to the main church and was built in the 16th century with the bones exhumed from local graves in town. Taking up much valuable space around the city, the bones were taken out and the monks built this beautiful chapel and relocate the bones. The chapel was created to showcase the importance of societies values and collection of materials and wealth and to contemplate life and death in this space.
Entrance to the church and chapel of bones
The entrance to the beautiful church of San Francisco is free to explore the gorgeous interior. There is an entrance fee to see the chapel of bones. You enter to the right side of the church through a courtyard area to the ticket office.
The Chapel of bones entrance fee is 5 Euro for adults, 3.5 Euro for ages under 25 or over 65 years.
Entrance includes a visit to the museum upstairs, collections and a fantastic view of Evora outdoors from the terrace
What to see inside the Chapel of bones
Surprisingly the interior of the chapel of bones is not as macabre and scary as you might have expected. Housed in a small and bright chapel, you might not see the bones initially well designed into the walls and details with colorful ceilings and painted details that might lead you to think it was a nice chapel.
Then you will instantly see more details to seeing that the walls and columns feature the skulls and bones of the exhumed bones from the area.
Cemented into place, the bones are designed into intricate patterns and displayed on the walls and then columns. Also, In the ornate painted ceilings, skulls line the archways in detailed lines as accent pieces to the painted surfaces
In the glass coffins are the remains of two children sleeping peacefully in these coffins.
A memento to life and death
Visitors to this chapel are really given the intent to contemplate the meaning of life and death with this presentation. This is what the original purpose of the building of this little chapel and if you take the time to read the details, you’ll understand the profound message.
What else to see at Capela dos Ossos, Chapel of bones Evora
Upstairs museum area
Upstairs is a museum portion to the visit with various galleries showing paintings, murals and other collections of Evora and its historical and royal patronage. There’s also a temporary exhibit space and at the time of visit included an amazing collection of Jesus crèche in wood, ceramics, mosaics and other cool materials.
Fantastic views of Evora
There’s also an outdoor terrace you can visit with fantastic views of Evora from above worth the visit alone.
Other things to see around Evora
Visit the city center Evora Market and public market days
Held on Saturday mornings in the square fronting the Evora Palace, the daily market of Evora has the various produce, fresh fruit, meats and other delicacies in tents in the outdoor section. There is also a daily market with stalls in the same area for more specialty food products and stalls selling regional prepared foods and artisanal products for sale from the region.
Giraldo Square in Evora
The grand main square in the central district of Evora, Giraldo square fronts the basilica of St. Andrew. Named in honor of Giraldo the Fearless who defeated the Moors in 1165 and was made the governor of Evora, the square was a former Roman market and eventually renamed in his honor.
The beautiful fountain at the plaza draws its water originally from the aqueduct where fresh water was sourced directly to this fountain for the public to use in ancient times.
Templo Romano Evora
Located in a prominent square in the old town this historic Roman Temple is dedicated to the cult of Augustus is and one of the finest examples of Roman temples located in the Iberian country.
Situated on an elevated platform the temple consists of 14 columns and was incorporated into a slaughter house, a royal palace and eventually turned into a historic monument on its own.
Many locals call this the Temple of Diana which is different than the actual dedication because of a legend during the 17th century of this temple being dedicated to the goddess of hunting. This has lead to naming this site the templo Romano of Evora to not confuse visitors to this historic attraction.
Check out these posts to visiting Evora
Explore the surrounding countryside and attractions in Alentejo
Traditional Portuguese dishes to enjoy
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Conclusion to visiting the Capela dos Ossos, Chapel of bones in Evora
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