Evora, Portugal is a small town with a lot of character. It’s named as a Historic Centre by The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The town has been alive and well since the Roman Empire. It’s Golden Age was in the 15th Century so among the ruins of Ancient Rome there is medieval architecture everywhere.
The main attraction in Evora is the curious Chapela dos Ossos (Chapel of Bones). It was built toward the end of the 16th Century as a meditation chapel.As Evora was expanding the Franciscan Monks had to exhume the bodies of 43 cemeteries and put them in one area. So they wondered what to do with the 5000 bodies. They decided to make this chapel as a way to meditate on the brevity of life. Often, people fear death and this church was a way to examine death in a more romanticized manner.
There are two corpses that are different from the rest. The remains of a grown man and a infant boy are suspended from the ceiling. No one knows why these were kept separate from the rest. Theories are they were relatives, perhaps of noble blood or they were cursed by the wife.
A poem hangs in the chapel by Frair António da Ascenção:
Where are you going in such a hurry traveler? Pause… do not advance your travel; You have no greater concern Than this one: that on which you focus your sight.
Recall how many have passed from this world, Reflect on your similar end, There is good reason to reflect If only all did the same.
Ponder, you so influenced by fate, Among all the many concerns of the world, So little do you reflect on death;
If by chance you glance at this place, Stop… for the sake of your journey, The more you pause, the further on your journey you will be.
(translated by Rev. Carlos A. Martins)
It’s 2 euros to enter the chapel and another euro to take photos.
I understand that most people find this incredibly morbid and very jarring to see. It’s hard to talk about death. It’s even harder to look into all of these empty eyes and wonder who they were. I, personally, am kind of obsessed with these types of chapels. I think it’s amazing how people find these extravagant ways of coping with the fact we all will die.