Capela dos Ossos
The Capela dos Ossos (English: Chapel of Bones) is one of the best known monuments in Évora, Portugal. It is a small interior chapel located next to the entrance of the Church of St. Francis. The Chapel gets its name because the interior walls are covered and decorated with human skulls and bones.
The Capela dos Ossos was built in the 16th century by a Franciscan monk who, in the Counter-Reformation spirit of that era, wanted to prod his fellow brothers into contemplation and transmit the message of life being transitory. This is clearly shown in the famous warning at the entrance Nós ossos que aqui estamos pelos vossos esperamos (“We, the bones that are here, await yours.").
The chapel is formed by three spans 18.7 meters long and 11 meters wide. Light enters through three small openings on the left. Its walls and eight pillars are decorated in carefully arranged bones and skulls held together by cement. The ceiling is made of white painted brick and is painted with death motifs. The number of skeletons of monks was calculated to be about 5000, coming from the cemeteries that were situated inside several dozen churches. Some of these skulls have been scribbled with graffiti. Two desiccated corpses, one of which is a child, dangle from a chain. And at the roof of chapel, the phrase "Melior est die mortis die nativitatis (Better is the day of death than the day of birth)" (Ecclesiastes, 7, 1) from Vulgate is written.
Aonde vais, caminhante, acelerado?
Pára...não prossigas mais avante;
Negócio, não tens mais importante,
Do que este, à tua vista apresentado.
Recorda quantos desta vida têm passado,
Reflecte em que terás fim semelhante,
Que para meditar causa é bastante
Terem todos mais nisto parado.
Pondera, que influido d'essa sorte,
Entre negociações do mundo tantas,
Tão pouco consideras na morte;
Porém, se os olhos aqui levantas,
Pára...porque em negócio deste porte,
Quanto mais tu parares, mais adiantas.
por Padre António da Ascenção
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 all 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.
by Fr. António da Ascenção (translation by Fr. Carlos A. Martins, CC)
- Turner, J., Grove Dictionary of Art, MacMillan, 1996 - ISBN 0-19-517068-7.
- The Rough Guide to Portugal - 11th edition March 2005 - ISBN 1-84353-438-X.
- Rentes de Carvalho, J., Portugal - De Arbeiderspers, Amsterdam, 1999 - ISBN 90-295-3466-4.
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