Capela dos Ossos Portugal chapel of bones with kids

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Our 11-year-old daughter first bought the Faro Chapel of bones to my attention. Straight away I thought surely this is one of the most interesting things to see in Faro Portugal. This definitely made our what to do in Faro list.

I knew there was a Bone Chapel in the Czech Republic but not in Portugal. After doing a little research on the Evora Bone Chapel we found another in Faro Portugal.

What was it with the Portuguese church and the Capela dos Ossos (Bone Chapels)  As it happens we would be going to both of these places where the Bone Churches were.

Capela dos Ossos in Spanish is what the Bone Chapels are known as. Because Willow had taken the time to research a place that was of interest to here, we decided to visit 2 of these Chapel of Bones on our last family holidays in picturesque Portugal.

 We visited the Chapel at Igreja Do Carmo Faro Church and the Chapel at St Francis in Evora, Portugal. Faro is the capital of the Algarve region and Evora is one of the many easy day trips from Lisbon.

A question my wife and I posed many times was should we take the kids? How would this impact on our kids? Would it cause nightmares? Would it be upsetting or would they just shrug it off? Is it even acceptable from a cultural and learning point of view to even expose an 8 and 11-year-old to skulls and bones?

Our youngest was adamant that she did not want to see the Chapel or the people’s bones. I think she had notions of dead people as in whole people skin, hair and faces.  We had no real answers to any of these questions till we stood just outside the entrance at Igreja Do Carmo in Faro Portugal.

Capelo Dos Ossos Faro – Igreja Do Carmo

Located close to the Faro old town, its only 5 minutes to the chapel. To get to Capelo Dos Ossos Faro Chapel you first must pay a small entry fee and enter.  You walk through the equally amazing Faro church. The church dates from 1719 and was built with money made in Portugal’s Brazilian gold fields.

Out the back of the church lies the Bone Chapel. The walls and ceiling are lined with the bones of 1200 Carmelite monks that were exhumed from a nearby church cemetery. First off The chapel is small around 5 meters long and a bit over 2 meters wide.

The bones and skills are placed in a repetitive pattern in the Faro chapel of bones. The small chapel has large crucifixes at one end for prayer. I was not sure what to expect myself.

Over the entry, a sign reads “stop here and consider the fate that will befall you”. Strangely it was not what I had imagined. Being small and open to the sunlight made it feel, should I say more like a display than a chapel or something you would expect when you think of a Bone Church.

I was also surprised that the bones were not protected by anything and that you could touch them if you wanted to. A gentleman that was manning the Chapel said that people do touch them and it damages them. The Bone Chapel has also had the issue with people taking bones from the Chapel which we were all very disappointed in. This church is certainly on the Algarve sightseeing trail.

Capela dos Ossos Evora Portugal – Igreja de são francisco évora

capela dos ossos
capela dos ossos


The igreja de são francisco évora chapel is on a far grander scale than the Faro chapel. Capela dos Ossos Evora was built in the 16th century by a Franciscan monk. Capela dos Ossos Evora sits inside Igreja de são Francisco évora (St Francis church)

This huge Gothic-style church was built in the late 14th century. This Bone Chapel measures 18 meters long and 11 meters wide. They say it took the bones of 5000 people to create this spiritual masterpiece.

Famously when you enter there is a sign saying “We bones that here are, For yours await “. The bones are arranged on the walls and the 8 pillars that support the Chapel. We spent far more time looking at this chapel. Not sure if it was the size or the dull lighting that created a far more macabre scene for this Chapel.

Igreja de são Francisco évora was truly a statement made in the sheer number of bones on display. This Bone Chapel was very different from the one in Faro as well. The church it was in was larger and you did not actually have to walk through the Church to get to it.

 These bones were also protected from anyone touching them at all or really getting up close to them. Just outside of the Bone Chapel was a little area where the girls sat on benches while they waited for us to finish looking. This church is one of many amazing Portugal Landmarks in the Evora region.

capela dos ossos
capela dos ossos

Ok, so what happened to the children? Marley did have a quick look at the door at the Faro Chapel then sat outside. There was a lovely lady who was visiting the Bone Chapel with her son and had decided to sit outside after she had seen the Bone Chapel, so Marley sat and had a chat to her while she waited for us.

Even outside you could still see the skulls and bones. Willow came and had a look before heading outside to sit and chat as well. In Evora, Marley did not come in at all and Willow only briefly. I think it depends on individual children as to how you expose them to such places. Neither of them thought badly of the Bone Chapels but I think it was a little overwhelming for them.

It was great that they were able to then ask questions about who, what and why people were in these Bone Chapels which made them understand a little more.

For me, I enjoyed the experience and the work that must have gone into creating such, dare I say religious pieces of art basically. There is no fear or horror when visiting these places. I stood in awe fascinated that some would be willing to do this to create such places. These Bone Chapel are more than just a tourist attraction.

They were built as a message, a statement as such on the facilities of life. Should the Capela dos Ossos be a tourist attraction or a place or worship? That’s a question for the  Portuguese Church. But then again the cemeteries could just as easily been full and they may have needed the land!

Capela dos Ossos Portugal chapel of bones with kids

6 thoughts on “Capela dos Ossos Portugal chapel of bones with kids”

  1. I’ve seen many bone chapels in my life. They are especially popular in Europe where the Middle Ages had many victims during cholera, and other fatally diseases. But this bone chapel from Portugal seems more elaborate and has so many intricate architectural details. It may be overwhelming for children as you said, but it’s a proof and a lesson of history after all

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  2. I love this type of stuff and I travel all over Europe to see it. It intrigues me for sure how it all comes about. I never knew about the one in Faro Portugal either and it definitely going on the list now. The first time I saw the catacombs of Paris I was little overwhelmed to by the bones, I think it is natural

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  3. What a cool experience! I agree that visiting sites like this really depends on the children. My boys would have loved this when they were young, and actually, I’m sure they would love it even more as teenagers.

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  4. I have never been to a bone chapel and think this would be a cool site to see. I can imagine why some kids may be a bit scared at the thought of seeing so many bones in one place! I’m sure I would be in awe and not afraid and hope my kids would be the same 🙂

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  5. I’m not sure how I would react to this either, it seems like such a strange construction to me – why anyone would want to build it is still a mystery to me! It’s good to let the kids decide for themselves I think, death is part of life after all, but we don’t necessarily need to be reminded of it!

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  6. As i permanent resident in the city of Faro, i would also advise you to visit all the Eastern Algarve area. It’s still a very unknown area for many holidaymakers. There are very beautiful cosy small hisotrical and traditional villages near to the sea and the beaches are more quiet and safer than on the western algarve. Tavira, Olhão, Cabanas de Tavira, Monte Gordo are my advised villages.

    Take Care and enjoy your travellings

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