Arch. Myriam B. Mahiques Curriculum Vitae

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Capela Dos Ossos (Church of St Francis, Portugal)

I had never seen this chapel before and I was astonished when I found it on line. This is not the only  example of bones used for decoration and construction, but anyway, I selected this chapel from the site sacred, which I´ve found really interesting. All pictures were downloaded from the site, same for the excerpts here:

¨The Church of St. Francis itself was built in the Gothic style with Manueline influences between 1460 and 1510. Its Capela dos Ossos was created by a few Franciscan monks in the 16th century as a practical solution to a problem - as many as 42 monastic cemeteries were taking up valuable space in Evora, so they moved all the bones to a single consecrated chapel. Seeing an opportunity to contemplate and communicate the inevitability of death, the monks chose to display the bones prominently rather than storing them away. Inside, human bones and skulls completely cover the chapel's walls and pillars - the number of skeletons has been estimated at 5,000. Legend has it the bones come from soldiers of a major battle or plague victims, but in reality they are people from all walks of life who were buried in Evora's medieval cemeteries.
Interestingly, the bones of the monks who assembled the chapel are not on display - they are kept in a small white coffin in the chapel. In addition to all the bones, there are two full corpses hanging high on a wall. Their identities are unknown, but there are plenty of legends: one popular story says they are an adulterous man and his infant son, cursed by his jealous wife.¨

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