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Chapel of Bones – Portugal

By Charlene Lowe Kemp

Capela dos Ossos, also known as the chapel of Bones, is located next to the church of St. Francis in the medieval Portuguese town of Evora. 

The 16th century chapel is a large room which the walls are filled with the bones of over 5,000 monks. Evora, in the 16th century, had around 43 cemeteries, that took up to much land. The decision was made to destroy some of the cemeteries so the corpses of 5,000 monks was exhumed in a effort to save their souls from condemnation. These bones was sent to Capela dos Ossos. The exisiting monks soon realised that it would be better if they displayed the bones rather than hide them. So they set about creating a place for meditation, a place where the undeniable reminder of death would help people transcend the material world.

When you enter the chapel you will see the words

“Nos ossos que aqui estamos, pelos vossos esperamos.” 

“We, the bones that are here await yours.”

Wrote on the door, a reminder that death happens to everyone giving people the perspective before they enter the chapel to prey. 

The corpse of a women and a child hang from a wall, no body knows who they are but legend has it that a powerful man had onced cursed them. They was refused burial in the local cemeteries so the corpses received shelter from the chapel.

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