The Historic Centre of Évora, on the list of UNESCO World Heritage is the capital of the Alentejo Province, and has been shaped by more than twenty centuries of history, going as far back as Celtic times. It fell under Roman domination and still retains, among other ruins, those of the Temple of Diana.
There are a number of buildings from the medieval period, the best known of which is the Cathedral that was completed in the 13th century. But it was in the 15th century, when the Portuguese kings began living in Évora on an increasingly regular basis that Évora’s golden age began. At that time, convents and royal palaces sprung up everywhere: St Claire Convent, the royal church and convent of São Francisco, not far from the royal palace of the same name, and Os Lóios Convent with the São João Evangelista Church. These are remarkable monuments that were either entirely new buildings or else constructed within already existing establishments, and which are characterised by the Manueline style that survived in the major creations of the 16th century.
But one of the reasons we were visting Évora was to see the Capela dos Ossos. The Chapel of Bones is a fascinating chapel with a very macabre atmosphere. Ranking as one of Evora’s most visited sites, this eerie tourist attraction is not for the faint hearted. This small, unassuming chapel is actually home to the final resting place of hundreds of bodies; all exhumed from the city’s graveyards in the 16th Century. The main entrance to the Chapel of Bones greets visitors with a foretelling Portuguese inscription:
“We, the bones that are here await yours.”
Walk inside the chapel and tourists can feel a chill down their spine when they realise that human bones are incorporated into every aspect of the chapel interior. There are actually of 5,000 bones intricately cast into the cement from floor to ceiling. Skulls line the roof and walls, watching visitors from every aspect. The Chapel of Bones is both a spell-binding and incredibly eerie experience.