Évora is one of Portugal’s best preserved medieval cities, it thrived from the 14thto the 16th centuries, when it was favoured by royalty. It was declared an archbishopric in 1540 and in 1559 a Jesuit university was established here. After King Dom Henrique died in 1580 and the Spanish seized the Portuguese throne, the Portuguese royal court left Évora. The university closed in 1759 and French forces plundered the town in 1808, which exacerbated the plight of the city’s decline. It is suggested that this decline was the main reason Évora remained so well preserved, Évora’s obscurity in the 19th and 20th centuries meant it remained unaffected by modern expansion.
In 1973 the university was re-established and in 1986 UNESCO declared Évora a World Heritage Site, because: “This museum-city, whose roots go back to Roman times, reached its golden age in the15th century, when it became the residence of the Portuguese kings. Its unique quality stems from the whitewashed houses decorated with azulejos and wrought-iron balconies dating from the 16th to the 18th century” and is “the finest example of a city of the Golden Age of Portugal”
The narrow cobbled streets, often there is only room for humans or cars, but not at the same time, wind, maze like, around the city, leading to the many places of interest here, too many to see in two days. The darkish yellow paint is a feature of the buildings here.
The Igreja de São Francisco, built between 1475 and 1550 in the Manueline-Gothic style, was renovated in 2015, which is why it looks so new. The Capela dos Ossos, (Chapel of Bones) was built in the 17th century and is, interesting.
Three Franciscan monks in the 17th century had a problem of what to do with the overflowing graveyards of their churches and monasteries. Their solution was to line the walls and columns of the memento mori (reminder of death) with the bones and skulls of 5000 humans. Thousands of bones are arranged in patterns, covering every wall and column in the Capela dos Ossos.
It seems as if great thought was used to position the bones and skulls, the designs are clear and particular bones have been used for certain parts of the pattern. The frescos that decorate the ceiling, date from 1810 and skulls have been incorporated in the design. There is an inscription at the entrance of the chapel which states ‘We bones that are here await yours’. Macabrely fascinating.
I came across this church walking to another monument, the Igreja da Nossa Senhora da Graça, built in the 16th century and Renaissance in style.