“Wanderings in Evora”

Evora, Portugal. May 2019. (12 photos)

This is Part 7 of my Portugal 2019 photo series, and also Part 11 of my Europe 2019 photo series.

Recently I spent a month visiting France and Portugal, with a short visit to Singapore for good measure.

About a 90 minute bus ride to the east of Lisbon, one finds the city of Evora, the capital of Portugal’s south-central Alentejo region. Just like many other towns and cities in Portugal, it has its share of whitewashed painted houses, cobblestone roads, narrow laneways and pastelarias.

“The ancient walled city of Evora”

More than that, Evora has a history dating back more than five millennia.

The Romans conquered the town in 57 BC and expanded it into a walled town. During the barbarian invasions, Evora came under the rule of the Visigothic king Leovigild in 584. In 715, the city was conquered by the Moors under Tariq ibn-Ziyad. Evora was wrested from the Moors through a surprise attack by Gerald the Fearless (Geraldo Sem Pavor) in September 1165. The town came under the rule of the Portuguese king Afonso I in 1166. It then flourished as one of the most dynamic cities in the Kingdom of Portugal during the Middle Ages, especially in the 15th century. In the 19th-century, Evora declined in national power, as a result of the War of Two Brothers. In 1834, Évora was the site of the surrender of the forces of King Miguel I, which marked the end of the Liberal Wars. The many monuments erected by major artists of each period now testify to Évora’s lively cultural and rich artistic and historical heritage.

The variety of architectural styles (Romanesque, Gothic, Manueline, Renaissance, Baroque), the palaces and the picturesque labyrinth of squares and narrow streets of the city centre are all part of the rich heritage of this UNESCO World Heritage site.

Forever and Evora just seem to be synonymous.

“Praca do Giraldo”

The main square of the historic centre. In the background is the Igreja de Santo Antão. The Square is famous for 2 reasons:

The most historic significant event that occurred in the Praca do Giraldo was the beheading of the Duke of Braganza in 1484 by his brother-in-law, King John II. King John II ordered the death of his brother-in-law as the duke was in league with the Spanish nobility to overthrow the Portuguese king.

Later on the Praca do Giraldo was a regional court for the Spanish Inquisitions, which in total condemned over 22,000 people in a 200 year period. In 1573 convicts of the court were burnt alive on giant pyres that were constructed in the centre of the square, quite possibly the same spot where I was sitting calmly drinking my espresso.

“Igreja da Nossa Senhora da Graca”

Built in 1511, the beautiful design of this old church and convent stands the test of time. Currently this convent is used by the Portuguese Armed Forces.

“Nos ossos que aqui estamos pelos vossos esperamos”

Translated as, “We bones that here are, for yours await”

The Capela dos Ossos (Chapel of Bones) is one of the best known monuments in Evora. It is a small chapel located inside the Igreja de São Francisco (Church of St Francis).

“Forever in Evora”

The Chapel of Bones gets its name because the interior walls are covered and decorated with human skulls and bones. It was built in the 16th century by a Franciscan friar who, in the Counter-Reformation spirit of that era, wanted to prod his fellow brothers into contemplation and transmit the message of life being transitory.

“Memento mori”

If it interests you, last year I visited and posted about the Bone Church in Kutna Hora in the Czech Republic.

“Let’s continue walking around town”

“Up on the roof”

It shouldn’t surprise you that within the historic centre of Evora there is a Cathedral (Se de Evora). This is the seat of the Archdiocese of Evora. However, it did surprise me that they let you walk on the roof of the Cathedral which I was happy to do and take photos…

“Above Evora”

“Templo Romano”

Ruins of a first century Roman Temple, with the Igreja de São João Evangelista (Church of St John the Baptist) founded in 1485 nearby.

“Forever and Evora”

Just outside the walls of the city there’s an interesting cemetery.

Of course, this is just a glimpse of Evora. There’s a lot more including a Roman Aqueduct and many other beautiful buildings and parks. In hindsight I should have stayed for a night or two in Evora.

In May and June 2019, I visited France, Portugal and Singapore.

This is Part 11 of this photographic series and Part 7 of the posts about Portugal.

Leica Etcetera, Photography Etcetera

Forever and Evora


66 thoughts on “Forever and Evora

  1. Beautiful! What an amazing history. Just to think that the buildings have even survived that long. I must say, though, the bones/skulls are a bit on the macabre side. Makes me wonder where they got all those bones and skulls….. :O

    • Macabre but fascinating, and designed by a monk. Contemplation taken too far perhaps! 🙂
      To see historical relics such as in Evora is very interesting to me. It really makes you think.

  2. It was November time and mostly cool when we were there but I liked the city very much. Did you continue on to Elvas? Maybe not if you travelled by bus. A quirky place with an interesting fortress and huge aqueduct close by. And an excellent pelourinho 🤗💕

    • I’ve seen skulls in Portugal, Czech Republic and Greece (Meteora) – macabre but interesting. Yet I haven’t seen the ones in the Catacombs of Paris – that just seems too touristy.

      I enjoyed the day trips. Something different each time, just trying to get as broad a Portugal experience as I could in my limited time there.

        • To each their own, but I like to see new and different places when I visit a new country. But if I were to find a particular “happy place” I would have no problem returning.

        • I love going back if I love a certain place, like Athens, that’s not what I meant.
          I’ve met quite a few people who visit a country, without visiting it. They stay at a seaside resort and go to the same beach for 7 days.

        • Got it. My apologies for misunderstanding the comment. I completely agree with you. I need to be experiencing the culture and sights in order to legitimately say I’ve been there.

      • Right! I will be there in October – we will check them out. That is one thing I have never done in Paris. I’m also going to be on the hunt for all the cool street art you found on your journey!

        • I know the Catacombs are incredibly popular which is why I haven’t been to them. In Summer, queues go for hours, but it should be much better in October. You will need to buy a ticket, I believe.
          As for street art, it’s everywhere in the outer areas of Paris.

  3. We considered visiting Evora on our trip to Portugal, but the association with religious intolerance was a little off-putting. It slid to the bottom of our list and eventually dropped out of our itinerary. It looks nice in a completely Portuguese way though.

    • I completely understand. Having said that, I would not hesitate to visit places Aschwitz. Humanity has a dark and chequered history. The dark history aside, it is a beautiful walled Portuguese town.

    • An eclectic mix of sights for sure, Janet, with a long history. On that beautiful blue sky day, the town from above was like a postcard. I stayed quite a while there, up on the roof.

  4. The Chapel of Bones is a bit eerie. I have not seen anything that extensive before. I did see a tower with skulls in Cambodia at one of the killing fields and it was also eerie. The yellow on the wall in the narrow street is a direct contrast to the bones; so bright, so cheerful.

  5. What a stunning place! I had no idea that there was such a place in Portugal – which is why I love you blog and your beautiful photos. Another great post. ☺

  6. “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition”

    Sorry. Had to be said. Evora looks like a very interesting place with lots to see. Not so sure about those bones, but it is common in Europe. I have a vague recollection of visiting catacombs of St Paul’s in Malta, but no recollection of seeing any bones.

    • Good one, Jude. No need to ever apologise for quoting Monty Python here. 🙂

      Lots more I didn’t show here, or have a chance to see for myself in Evora. I don’t quite understand the numerous displays of skeletal remains throughout Europe but it is fascinating (to me).

  7. Heide says:

    Evora certainly looks worthy of at least a couple of nights! What a beautiful and historical city — I had no idea. Thank you for putting it on your readers’ maps.

  8. J.D. Riso says:

    Memento mori…you, sir, embody the spirit of this truth with your rich travels. And the fact that you drink espresso! Life is too short to drink watery coffee. 🙂

  9. Magnificent wall of skulls and bones. Each one is one person who lived many stories, and there is probably endless stories within that wall. Not every day you get to walk on top of a cathedral roof. Lovely shot of the top and the sky above it. Very expanse.

    • Different times back then. It’s interesting how there are several places like this in Europe, using human skeletal remains as artwork as it were. I find this kind of thing fascinating. I know it’s not for everyone.
      It’s always good to get a high viewpoint and that cathedral roof was perfect.

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