“Nos Ossos Que Aqui Estamos Pelos Vossos Esperamos”
“We Bones that are here, for yours await,” reads the ominous inscription above the entrance to the Capela dos Ossos (Chapel of Bones) in the otherwise pleasant and welcoming town of Évora, Portugal.
The Capela dos Ossos is a small chapel located next to the entrance of the Igreja de São Francisco (St. Francis Church). Franciscan monks built the adjacent chapel in the 16th century to ease overcrowding in the town graveyards.
Évora was a wealthy town during that time period and the monks, concerned about the values of society, decided to build the chapel with the bones on display as a way to encourage reflection on the transitory nature of the human condition.
The bones and skulls of about 5000 corpses decorate the chapel’s walls, columns, and arches. They’re carefully arranged and held together by cement. The ceiling is decorated with different motifs associated with death.
Walking through the chapel was not the eerie visit that I had expected, although I’m sure that it’s different for everyone. I found it to be a peaceful and meditative experience and did indeed stop to contemplate the transient nature of life.
Where are you going in such a hurry traveler?
Stop … do not proceed;
You have no greater concern,
Than this one: that on which you focus your sight.
Recall how many have passed from this world,
Reflect on your similar end,
There is good reason to reflect
If only all did the same.
Ponder, you so influenced by fate,
Among the many concerns of the world,
So little do you reflect on death;
If by chance you glance at this place,
Stop … for the sake of your journey,
The more you pause, the further on your journey you will be.
This Sonnet is attributed to António da Ascensão Teles, parish priest of the village of São Pedro.
Know Before You Go:
Summer Hours: (June 1-September 30): Open daily from 9:00am – 6:30pm.
Winter Hours: (October 1 – May 31): Open daily from 9:00am – 5:00 pm.
Cost: €4.00 / Adult
€3.00 / young people up to 25 years old
€3.00 / Senior over 65
€10.00 / Family 2 adults & 2 young people
FYI: The church and chapel underwent an extensive renovation from June 2014 through October 2015.