The Chapel of Bones in Evora

By : May 15th, 2021 Places and Monuments 0 Comments

The Chapel of Bones was built in the 17th century, at the initiative of three Franciscan friars whose aim was to convey the message of the transience and fragility of human life. This message is clearly passed on to visitors right at the entrance, through the warning: “We bones that we are here, for yours we wait”.

It was a model in vogue at the time, with the intention of provoking through the image a reflection on the transience of human life and the consequent commitment to a permanent Christian experience. Both the walls and the pillars are covered with a few thousand bones and skulls, from the burial spaces connected to the convent. The frescoes that decorate the vaulted ceiling, dating from 1810, feature a variety of symbols illustrated by biblical passages and others with the instruments of the Passion of Christ.Deep down, it shows the macabre taste of the Baroque man for necrophilia.

This chapel of skulls and bones was built in the place where the friars’ dormitory and reflection room were originally located. It is formed by three naves about 18,70m long and 11m wide. Natural light strategically enters these ships through only three small cracks on the left side. The walls of the Chapel of Bones and the eight pillars that comprise it are lined with human bones and skulls, carefully arranged, connected by brown cement. The vaults are made of brick plastered in white and painted with motifs that symbolize or allude to death. In addition to the bones, the Chapel of Bones is also decorated with statues of a religious nature and a Renaissance and Baroque style painting.

The arches are decorated with rows of skulls, cornices and white naves. It is estimated that there are about 5000 human skulls that are found there, among countless bones, from the graves of the convent church and other churches and cemeteries in the city.
In the 16th century, there were nearly forty-two monastic cemeteries in the city, which took up too much space. As a solution, those monks extracted the bones from the floor and used them to build and “decorate” this chapel.


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