This beautiful little town in the middle of Portugal, is the capital of the Alentejo region, famous not only for it’s history but also for it’s wineries. To think if in 57BC the Romans had marched 50 miles north or south on their way to Lisbon, this little town might never have existed. From 715 to 1166 it was ruled by the Moors and then finally conquered by the Portuguese.
Once again the question is always “where to park”, followed by “what the heck is it like in July”. Jim drove right to the town square. Parked in a taxi stand as I hopped out to go into the tourist office. When I came out there was poor MJ standing and Jim was gone. I guess he couldn’t talk the taxi people into letting him wait there. Luckily the city isn’t that big so he went around and came back. All the streets have parking, good luck finding one, so we headed down to the arena and then walked back up to the main square. We were to meet Doug and Lindsey at the Cathedral. For such a little town there are a number of cathedrals/churches. After a few missed turns we finally made it. Whew.
The Cathedral Evora sits on the highest point in the city. There is a bell tower with yes the customary spiral staircase that is wide enough for 1 person, which is great for me as I figure it would be hard to fall down too far when you have a railing and a wall to hold on to. Just don’t take too big of a knapsack or try to turn around. The view is amazing, you can walk around the whole way for a 360 degree view of the city. The first building was erected in 1184 and has been added on to since then. The ceiling in the main church is so high you almost have to tip over to see the top. How on earth did they build these stunning structures with the few tools they had. Not to mention the engineering skills.
After glimpsing the Roman Temple (or Temple of Diana) from the Bell Tower we definitely needed a closer look. Evora is very hilly, so when going there try and plan your stops so you are not going up and down and up and down the way we did. Up to the Cathedral, down to lunch, up to the Temple. LOL. It did allow us to walk along a number of narrow windy roads. The temple was built around 1BC and dedicated to the cult of Augustus. Luckily it was incorporated into the medieval buildings rather than being destroyed as the city changed hands.
Our next stop was once again a church called “Our Lady of Grace” which is the main catholic church in our town at home. Built between 1537 and 1546. I am always surprised at the gargoyle and monster figures on the old churches.
The Chapel of Bones or Capela dos Ossos in Portuguese was our next stop. It is part of the Church of St. Francis built in the 1500’s. The Chapel of Bones was decorated with the remains of 5000 bones from different church cemeteries around the town. This is just a small number of bones compared to the chapels in Rome and Paris. These were real people and their ancestors could still be living in the town. The bones fit together so perfectly, especially around the doors, it makes the people seem like they were all the same size.
This poem at the entrance to the chapel was written to remind us to reflect on our existence.
Where are you going in such a hurry traveler?
Stop … do not proceed;
You have no greater concern,
Than this one: that on which you focus your sight.
Recall how many have passed from this world,
Reflect on your similar end,
There is good reason to reflect
If only all did the same.
Ponder, you so influenced by fate,
Among the many concerns of the world,
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 more you will progress.
by Fr. António da Ascenção
I love this picture of Evora taken in the Diana Gardens, the modern loving couple taking a selfie in front of the marble couple looking through the Roman Temple with the Evora Cathedral looking down on everything that is happening. A timeless view.