Almost every tourist to the Portuguese city of Évora will have visited the Capela dos Ossos – a small sixteenth century chapel lined from floor to ceiling with the bones of locals past. Few however, will have visited the other public ossuary in town, nor indeed would have even known that a second one existed.
Opposite Évora’s Roman Temple stands the Igreja de São João. Halfway down the nave of this church, in between the prayer pews, a trap door reveals a small cavernous space under the floor where another set of bones lie.
This ossuary is obviously much smaller and is not laid out so decoratively as the one inside the Church of Saint Francis, so understandably it doesn’t draw the same level of interest as the Capela. But the Church of Saint John the Evangelist does have something else and something just as unique to tempt visitors to its door: beautiful decorative tiles traditional in Portugal, known as azulejos… and it has them in abundance.
The Chapel of Bones and the Church of Saint John the Evangelist are opened daily to the public and are sign posted throughout the city. There is a small entrance fee required to gain entry to both.
The entrance to the chapel is around the back of the main Church of Saint Francis, and your ticket will also gain you access to the floors above where a huge and fascinating array of nativity scenes from around the world are presently (2016) being exhibited. The views from to the roof terraces are also stunning.
Hold on to your ticket for the Church of Saint John the Evangelist as it also entitles you to entry into the Duke’s palace next door. The palace isn’t palatial nor the most splendid in Portugal, but there are some interesting displays both contemporary and classical in some of the rooms. What the palace also has is possibly the best view of the Roman Temple anywhere in the city.
Évora and the Portuguese Stonehenge
Évora: a cork-ing place to visit with its strange stone giants and preserved Roman ruins
Lisbon: views for miles and decorative tiles at the Mosteiro de Sao Vicente da Fora
Hallstatt: the home of Austria’s bone house