We bones are here, waiting for yours.
As you enter the Capelo Dos Ossos in Évora, Portugal, don’t miss the message above the door – “Nos ossos que aqui estamos pelos vossos esperamos”. The Capelo Dos Ossos was created in an all too familiar story: three Franciscan monks meet two overflowing cemeteries and decide to use the bones of their brethren to decorate the walls. While it may seem like a less than obvious choice to us nowadays, this was seemingly quite common practice at the time judging by the prevalence of similar ossuaries across Europe and the world. The chapel, which was established in the first half of the 17th Century, is apparently an invitation to reflect on the transitory nature of the human condition.
In addition to the bones of 5,000 people cemented into the walls, the Capelo Dos Ossos contains two mummies, one of which is a child, dressed in rags. Originally, they hung from the ceiling by chains, they now rest in glass cases. In the white coffin at the front of the room are the remains of the three Franciscan monks who founded the church. In the floor tomb lies Bishop Jacinto Carlos da Silveira, who died when Évora was invaded by French troops n 1808.
How to visit the Capelo Dos Ossos
Trains to Évora leave from the Lisboa – Sete Rios station. There are two trains in the morning, 07:14 and 09:14, and two trains in the evening 17:14 and 19:14. Return times are equally infrequent – 07:06, 09:06, 16:57 and 19:06. The journey takes about an hour and a half and will cost about €10+- each way. Use the Portuguese Railways site to help plan your trip.
The Capelo Dos Ossos forms part of the Igreja Real de Sao Francisco (Royal Church of St. Francis). Entry is €4 and photography is permitted. The Capelo Dos Ossos is quite small and tour groups pass through regularly, however, they don’t seem to stay long and after about 30-40 minutes of waiting I was able to get plenty of photos without any other tourists in them. There was also the added bonus of listening to middle-aged folk on a package tour and their incredulity at being taken to such a macabre location. Seeing that the photos on the postcards had tourists in them only made me smugger.
remember you will die
remember you are alive