Sunday, May 5, 2013

for yours, we await



There's a morbid inscription just above the entrance to Évora's Capela dos Ossos, or Chapel of Bones: NOS OSSOS QUE AQUI ESTAMOS PELOS VOSSOS ESPERAMOS. Simply put, "We bones that are here, for yours await."

As your eyes adjust to the light in the dim chapel, thousands of dismembered skeletons studding the walls in patterns come into focus, and though you knew you what you came to visit, the sheer number of skulls, femurs, and iliac crests is overwhelming.



The 16th century chapel, an extension of the Igreja Real de São Francisco, was built by Franciscan monks to confront us with the transitory nature of life. It is said that the bodies of around 5000 monks were exhumed and reassembled to decorate the chapel. I wondered about the grisly process it took to achieve such a task— and who were these 5000? I picked a column to study, and examined the individual ridges and valleys of its stacked skulls. Each was so different, and yet in such a setting, those differences didn't matter at all. Then I thought of my skull, which I have a vague notion of from MRIs, and was reminded of an art class in college where a professor asked us to draw our own skulls based on what we could feel with our hands. It was an interesting experiment.



The sounds of children singing and screaming after each other crept in through the window, from an outside park.

7 comments:

Sue Pownall said...

ewwww I hope they wait a long time for my bones.

szaza said...

Mine too!

Murray Dewhurst said...

Really enjoying your travel posts Samantha. You seem to be visiting a few places that I've been myself, but a long time ago. It's nice to get a reminder through your sketches and photographs. I managed a sketch down in there (I couldn't resist sketching some graffiti carved into a skull).

szaza said...

Thanks so much, Murray!
It's an incredible place, isn't it? Do you have a link to the sketch you did? I'd like to see it.

Murray Dewhurst said...

Here it is, quite a basic little sketch...
http://www.flickr.com/photos/mrdewhurst/3286311226/in/set-72157623855501037

szaza said...

Oh I really like it!
Kind of weird that someone would carve graffiti into someone's skull...

Murray Dewhurst said...

It is isn't it! I was initially quite shocked that someone could be so disrespectful, but then I sort of saw the humour in it.