Church made from skeletons: Chapel of Bones, Evora, Portugal

by Dave from The Longest Way Home ~ October 29th, 2011. Filed under: Photography.

Chapel of Bones, Evora, Portugal


Capela dos Ossos (Chapel of Bones), Evora Portugal

It’s Halloween weekend, so bringing something slightly creepy seems appropriate. Reading about how this chapel came about is also unsettling!

Above the entranceway is engraved the following quote:

“Nós ossos que aqui estamos pelos vossos esperamos”

(We bones, lying here, for yours we wait)

Further inside there are more:

Melior est die mortis die nativitatis”

(Better is the day of death than the day of birth)

Make no mistake about it, this is a chapel that was purposely built to make a deathly point of view, very clear.

Facts about the Chapel of Bones:

  • Built in the 14th century by a Franciscan monk to help reiterate to his fellow brothers that life was just a transitional stage.
  • The chapel of bones contains the skeletons of approximately 5,000 monks from the surrounding area.
  • A child’s remains hangs from one of ceilings within the small building along with many other decorative pieces made from bone.

Story behind the photograph from the chapel of bones:

Traveling Portugal was one of the highlights of my travels through Europe. It’s a pivotal link to many things on this journey, and a good place to start my overland phase of traveling.

I visited the chapel of bones with a fellow traveler at the time. Not an easy thing as he was more into the “cool look at the skulls” side of things. And I really wanted to know … why?

There’s a musty old smell about the place. And, at the time very few tourists were there. Which is a good thing, as the chapel is quite small.

When I took this photograph I never thought about putting any of my photographs online, nor publishing my journals online. This was of course, back in 2005.

Read more about Portugal here.

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Window made of bone from the Chapel of Bones, Evora, Portugal

Window made of bone from the Chapel of Bones, Evora, Portugal

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This is an additional photograph feature from my world travel photography gallery, detailing the story behind the picture 

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12 Great responses to Church made from skeletons: Chapel of Bones, Evora, Portugal

  1. hayadith says:

    wow..but I have a question, where they buried Franciscan monk?

  2. Mark says:

    Fascinating, I wonder how many other places in the world have things like this?

  3. Anna's World says:

    Great photo for Halloween! It’s the first one in your gallery right? Do you also consider it the first photo on your journey? Just curious :)

    • Hmmm, good question. No, actually I don’t. I think on this journey I would put the first photo down as being on the west coast of Portugal. Just a beach, not as dramatic as this, but that’s the way it is!

  4. Victoria says:

    Does seem a little creepy, but fascinating at the same time (kinda like we felt when visiting, “Bodies The Exhibition”). It is silly that we fear death so much, instead of accepting it as a natural part of life …

    • Interesting thought Victoria. Fearing Death. Many scholars agree. But the reality is, by instinct when we are faced with it, and have a choice, we run for all our lives in the opposite direction.

  5. lisa says:

    This is awesome! I was in Portugal years ago, I would have loved to have seen this :^(

  6. Priyank says:

    Hi Dave,
    The philosophy of designers, to show the triviality of death in a place of worship, is quite intriguing. I would be worried to pray here, unless it’s chapel dedicated to the devil. ;-)

    • Hi Priyank, good to see you again.

      You got it right, the philosophy behind this is really quite deep. As for praying there, didn’t actually see anyone. Wait … as memory serves me there were a few praying. Not sure who too though ;) Let’s go with the good guy!

  7. Certainly is an amazing place :)