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Bone Chapel (Capela dos Ossos) - Historical Building Evora - Portugal

The Igreja de São Francisco (St. Francis Church) is a fairly typical Portuguese cathedral, with the requisite high columns, majestic spires, etc. Around back, however, you’ll find something special: the Capela dos Ossos, or Bone Chapel. Constructed back on the 16th century by some monks who wanted to remind men of their own mortality, the bone chapel is a small, creepy chapel, the walls and ceiling of which are covered in bones and skulls. No one knows who the bones belong to – apparently they were dug up from a local cemetery which was already old when the monks got to it with their shovels. According to the taped talk that they play when visitors are there, the bones of 5,000 people were used to make up the chapel.

The chapel has been defaced a bit over time: where visitors can reach over the ropes, bones are chipped, stained, and sometimes even drawn or written upon, which is a shame because it does tend to distract a bit. Overall, the chapel is a bit creepy but fascinating, and not nearly as gruesome as you’d think. If it’s possible to tastefully make a chapel out of the remains of 5,000 people, this is the place.

There is a taped recording describing the chapel, available in several languages. If you would like to hear the tape in your language, simply ask the person at the desk where you bought your entrance ticket and they’ll play it over the loudspeaker. This is suggested, as there is a lot of information on the tape, including the identities of the occupants of the three caskets in front of the altar, and translations for the signs that are on the walls.

Note that if you want to take photos in the chapel – and you will want to take photos – there is a small extra charge as you enter.

Inside St. Francis Church
Evora, Portugal

Historical Building

Getting There
The St. Francis church is only a couple of blocks from the main plaza in Evora.

Price Description: There is a small entry fee. Permission to take photos costs a little more.

By Christopher Minster
I am a writer and editor at V!VA Travel guides here in Quito, where I specialize in adding quality content to the site and also in spooky things like...
03 Oct 2007

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