The Chapel of Bones or Macabre Bone Chapel
If you are interested in the slightly more macabre side of history and tradition then a visit to one of the Chapels of Bones in Portugal should be on your list of hidden gems.
An intriguing and fascinating historical artifact is the largest Chapel of Bones which is open to visitors, is in Évora, and was built by a Franciscan monk.

It is based on the Ossuary of San Bernadino alla Ossa in Italy. The legend details that the bones belonged to soldiers who died in battle or were victims of the plague, in reality, however, they came from people who were buried in Évora’s cemeteries and they needed to make more space.

The number of skeletons used to decorate the chapel were counted and came to roughly 5,000 that are arranged in various ways. The writing over the door when you enter the chapel translates to “We bones that here, waiting for yours” which is haunting but really reminds visitors of the temporality of the material world and the futility of life. What is even more creepy is that an adult and child corpse have hung in the Chapel of Bones since roughly the 17th century, with some saying that these skeletons are those of sinners which is why they could not be buried.

Although this chapel is perhaps the most famous of its kind in Portugal, there are other examples to be found in the Algarve that are less well known and far less frequently visited, these being in Lagos, Faro and in Alcantarilha.

One of the strangest attractions in the Algarve but a worthy visit is to the Chapel of Bones in Alcantarilha as it provokes nothing more than sheer curiosity.

It gives off such an eerie and chilling feeling when you stand in that small chamber and see real life human bones lining the chapel walls as decoration. It is a relatively small room and the bones and skulls make the room appear even smaller, almost closing in on you – any claustrophobic’s nightmare and definitely not for the faint hearted.

Attached to the side of Alcantarilha’s parish Church we can find this macabre chapel, home to 1,500 bones and skulls, most likely taken from a nearby cemetery and their bodies were kept there because it was seen as them being closer to God. It is covered with bones and skulls which some people say are friars who died in the region, however there is no hard evidence to support this. Built in the 16th Century, the Chapel of Bones is small and definitely one of the country’s less well-known chapels. It is completely free and definitely something curious to go and see and ponder your own mortality if you are nearby. Overall, this is a morbid but enamouring piece of history and well worth a visit.