|Facade of the Chapel of Bones|
|Rama, Ananth and our daughter Puja|
waiting outside the chapel.
In many bone chapels, or catacombs, the bones are just strewn arounnd, hardly serving any purpose. However at the Capela dos Ossos, the purpose of the bones is carved into the entry way, "Nos ossos que aqui estamos pelos vossos esperamos", meaning "Our bones that are here awaits yours!". Seems so scary yet so profound, the meaning : literally dripping from the bones. The 16th century monks who built the Chapel of Bones wanted visiters to contemplate the rather transient nature of life, and they used a rather macabre sense of humour in bringing the point home.
|A soft featured Madonna statue provides some comfort in the stark surroundings of this Chapel|
|Even the beautiful paintings in the ceiling are paintings of skulls|
This Chapel is inside the Igreja de Sao Francisco in Evora Portugal. The walls and the central piers are lined with human skulls and bones bedded in cement. Inside the dimly lit chapel, it takes a moment to realise that the interior walls amd pillars supporting the arched ceiling are composed entirely of neatly stacked leg bones, arm bones and skulls. Once the shock of this realisation subsides, we begin to appriciate the almost comical sights of hundreds of skulls lined up jaw to cranium, to make borders around the sections of vaulted ceiling.
A statue of Jesus and an ornate gilded altar are overshadowed by the Chapel's most gruesome decoration: two desiccated corpses hanging bizarrely on a side wall. They are the bodies of a man and a small child which are several centuries old, but there are still skin and shreds of clothing clinging to their pathetic frames. The story goes, that the man was a wife abuser and his little son was just as disrespectful to his mother. The man finally beat his wife to death, but before she succumbed, she put a curse on her husband and her child. She declared that they would soon follow her in death, but, since they were so evil, even Hell would not accept them. As predicted, the evil pair died. When they were to be buried, the ground mysteriously turned hard as rock, and their graves could not be dug. So, the monks took their bodies and put them on permanent display in the Chapel, as warning to other wife abusers and bad children. The legends shows the Franciscan monks to have been feminists way ahead of their time. In recognition of this, local women engaged to be married cut off their hair and place the braids at the Chapel entrance, making a symbolic sacrifice of their girlhood in suppplication of a happy marriage. This custom continues today, with several fresh braids on display.
|An art to be admired|
Now all this may just be rumours, for the truth is far less romantic; They were denizens of local cemetries facing eviction. Eveora went through a building boom in the late 1400s. Noblemen from Lisbon, less than 100 miles away, found that the area was good for hunting. They invited their friends to vaccation in their hunting lodges, and before long all the glitterati from the capital were buying up huge tracts of land, on which they built, large country estates. The local monks worried about the rampant construction encroaching on the area's burial grounds. They dug up the remains as a protective measure, and decided they would not only keep the bones safe within the church, but use them to glorify God as well. And so the chapel was built, as a place of meditation and prayer for the Franciscans. This Chapel is indeed a chilling display of imagination that no words can describe.
It is not as scary as it looks. The corpse of the evil man and the evil boy
Just opposite the evil man the evil child you would find a poem which reads:
Where are you going in such a hurry traveller?
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.