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Évora: Exploring History and the Intriguing Chapel of Bones, Portugal

Explore the fascinating history of Évora and the enigmatic Chapel of Bones in Portugal. Discover the city's rich Roman history and the courage of Geraldo Sem Pavor. Discover the intriguing Capela dos Ossos, a macabre relic that challenges our perspective on life and death.


Évora is a city located in the Alentejo region and is one of the cities that most attract visitors in Portugal. Its stone streets are full of history and, just like in Óbidos, they are full of whitewashed houses. Évora is also home to remnants of Roman times. Among all the city's monuments, the enigmatic Capela dos Ossos stands out, a place that challenges our perception of life and death.


Évora: A Glimpse of its History


In Roman times, Évora was known as "Liberalitas Julia". One of the focal points of the city was the Roman forum, sacred to the goddess of the hunt, Diana. This temple, over 2000 years old, was almost completely destroyed during the barbarian invasion.


roman temple
Ruins of the Roman Temple - personal archive

When the Moors arrived in Portugal in 715 AD, they took control of Évora, until, in 1166, the city was retaken by Geraldo “Sem Pavor”. The 17th century was a period of conflicts and reconquests, where Geraldo Geraldes stood out in the battle for the recovery of lands dominated by the Moors. Geraldo led a group of men that included outlaws and highwaymen, and he volunteered to lead the attacks on the city of Évora. Legend has it that he and his men infiltrated the city walls, achieving their goal and becoming part of local history.


The city flourished during the Middle Ages and today is a historic destination in Portugal, with its Medieval and Renaissance architecture, including the Cathedral and the University of Évora, founded in 1559 and one of the oldest in Europe.


Chapel of Bones: A Macabre and Fascinating Relic


chapel of bones
Chapel of Bones Portal - personal archive

The Capela dos Ossos is located inside the Church of São Francisco and is known for its decor, which is somewhat gloomy. The chapel was built in the 17th century on the initiative of three Franciscan monks, with the aim of emphasizing the ephemeral nature of life and the inevitability of death. The interior of the Capela dos Ossos is lined with carefully arranged human bones, including skulls and femurs, which make up part of the walls and pillars. At the entrance, the inscription confronts us with the strange truth: We bones that are here, for yours we await.


chapel of bones
Wall of Bones and Mummy: demystifying local legends, the mummies were identified as being of a woman and a child

According to information from the official website of the city of Évora (link below), the place used to be a kind of dormitory and place of reflection for the friars. By deactivating two monastic cemeteries that occupied a lot of space in the city, they came up with the idea of extracting the bones from the ground and "decorating" the chapel.


It is estimated that around 5000 human bones from these graves and other ancient cemeteries in the city are present. Undoubtedly, the Capela dos Ossos is an interesting tourist spot in Évora. However, be sure to check out the incredible display of nativity scenes of different types and origins, also present in the Church of São Francisco.


cribs
cribs - personal archive

Reflections and a curiosity


The main objective of the friars who idealized the Capela dos Ossos was to promote reflection on the ephemeral nature of life, making us question how much time we waste with trivialities. However, this thought also has another aspect: can we ask why we should keep fighting if everything is passing? Every exposed bone is a silent reminder that life is precious, and that we must focus our efforts on what really matters. Do you agree?


I also leave here a personal curiosity: Does anyone know why the skulls arranged on the walls seem, for the most part, to belong to women and children? After research, I learned that this could be due to poor health conditions and high infant mortality at the time, in addition to limited life expectancy. Well, this is a question that continues to raise reflections. If you have another answer, feel free to write in the comments.



If Capela dos Ossos piqued your curiosity ✨, be sure to share 📲 and continue to explore other vintage destinations on the blog that reveal the mysteries of the past . Each location holds its own unique stories 📜, ready to be unraveled 🔍.


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