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Dead on Display: Portugal's Chapel of Bones (Capela dos Ossos)

Be warned:Capela dos Ossos in Evora, also known as Chapel of Bones, is not for the faint of heart. This chapel, which is one of the famous monuments in Portugal, attracts the adventurous and the curious alike, with its skull-decked walls, dangling corpses, and creepy legends.

A step inside the ghastly chapel will remind you of a haunted house in a carnival; ironically, you’ll see a crucifix hanging on a backdrop of thousands of skulls held together by white cement. Look up the ceiling if you’re brave enough, and spot 2 skeletons hanging from the wall.

Terrified? Don’t be. Chapel of Bones wasn’t designed to scare people off; instead, it was built by monks in the 16th century to remind everyone that life is transitory, just as what the message on the door chapel says: “Our bones that are here await yours.”

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As much as thousands (an estimate of 5,000) of real human skeletons are on display in the chapel, loads of scary stories about the corpses abound as well. Legends say the skulls belonged to soldiers who died in a major battle or plague, while the 2 hanging bodies are from an unfaithful husband and son who were cursed by a jealous wife. While the identity of the 2 bodies remains a mystery, history and research reveals that the skulls really belonged to monks, whose bodies you’ll see in a white coffin inside the chapel.

Odd as it is, the Chapel of Bones is a must-see; wrapped in an air of mystery, it’s an adventure you shouldn’t miss on your Portugal holiday.

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