Anta de Pavia Evora

4 Hidden Attractions of Evora

Evora is one of the few UNESCO medieval cities in Portugal. Historically, Evora has fell under Roman domination which has rewarded us with the Roman temple of Diana. In 1165 the Moors took over the city; La Mouraria and the now improved fortified walls were left behind. The kings of Portugal made this city famous and its beauty and friendly vibe speaks for itself. Nowadays this pretty historic Portuguese city is particularly festive in the run-up to Christmas, with roasted chestnuts, special cakes and Nativity scenes dotted around the streets.

Evora, in the Alentejo region of Portugal, comes into its own at this time of year, basking under ravishingly blue skies and brilliant sunshine. Within its old medieval walls, crisp cool air, enticing colours and flavours fill the historic centre, the chestnuts are roasted in the cobbled squares, while the leafy trees have turned a warm orange and excellent, unpretentious restaurants offer hearty dishes of local game, such as hare or wild boar, paired with rich regional red wines. During the Christmas Festivities, Evora is particularly lively with bakeries displaying their bejewelled bolo de rei cakes and brightly painted, life-sized Alentejano presépio (Alentejo Nativity scenes) dotted around the city.

Where to stay

The gloriously restored 15th-century Convento do Espinheiro Hotel & Spa rises in white‑washed splendour on a hill just north of the main city walls. the Hotel Convento do Espinheiro, A Luxury Collection Hotel & Spa has given life to a 15th century convent, considered a national monument, where important nobles have outlined the history of Portugal. The Convento do Espinheiro Hotel & Spa offers a total of 92 rooms with 6 different categories of room, including 6 large suites, decorated in a variety of styles to suit your preference. It houses one amazing restaurant, the Divinus Restaurant, which is located the convent’s ancient wine-cellar converted into the Wine-Bar. It is an exclusive location, entirely dedicated to wine-tasting and the enjoyment of the excellent Alentejo regional produce. The hotel also has two pools, one indoor and one outdor and in this latter there’s a delicious bar that provides great summer heat relaxation.

4 Weird and Hidden Attractions

Chapel of Bones

The Chapel of Bones in Evora, is part of the larger Royal Church of St. Francis, and was constructed by Franciscan monks in the late 16th century. The Chapel’s story is a familiar one. By the 16th century, there were as many as 43 cemeteries in and around Evora that were taking up valuable land. Not wanting to condemn the souls of the people buried there, the monks decided to build the Chapel and relocate the bones. However, rather than interring the bones behind closed doors, the monks, who were concerned about society’s values at the time, thought it best to put them on display. They thought this would provide Evora, a town noted for its wealth in the early 1600s, with a helpful place to meditate on the transience of material things in the undeniable presence of death. This is made clear by the thought-provoking message above the chapel door: “Nós ossos que aqui estamos, pelos vossos esperamos,” or: “We bones, are here, waiting for yours.”

The design of the Chapel of Bones in Evora is based on the ossuary of San Bernadino alla Ossa in Milan, Italy. The immediate view as you enter the Chapel gives you some idea of its scale and the sheer number of bodies that are interred here, some 5.000 corpses. Among them, in a small white coffin by the altar, are the bones of the three Franciscan monks who founded the church in the 13th century. Also included are two desiccated corpses hanging by chains from the wall next to a cross. One is that of a child.

The purpose of the Chapel is made clear by a poem (translated below by Rev. Carlos A. Martins), written by Father Antonio da Ascencao, that hangs from one pillars:

“Where are you going in such a hurry traveler? Pause… do not advance your travel; 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 all 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 further on your journey you will be.”

Just in case all that death should cause you to despair, at the end of the Chapel, above the altar, you can read the Latin phrases: “I die in the light” and “The day that I die is better than the day that I was born.”

Almendres Cromlech

Built over several different periods between 5000 and 4000 BCE, the Almendres Cromlech are the finest example of Neolithic structures on the Iberian Peninsula, though it remained undiscovered until 1966. The site consists of several classic megalithic structures, primarily cromlechs, and menhir stones. Arranged in patterns of two concentric rings, an eastern circle and a larger oval in the west, the 95 almond-shaped stones seen today represent a gradual process of accumulation and redistribution over time. The smaller ring to the east is the oldest section of the site, constructed during the early Neolithic period circa 6000 BCE, while the western oval ring is thought to have been built during the Almendres era 5000 BCE. During a third period around 3000 BCE, many of the stones seem to have been repositioned to better align with the moon, sun and stars. As is common with such ancient sites, the purpose of Almendres Cromlech remains unknown. With the stones’ final repositioning to be in-line with celestial bodies, geometric patterns already found at Almendres Cromlech were strengthened further, making the intentionality of the stones’ presence and arrangement undoubtable, even if the deeper rationale and rituals contained therein remain a mystery.

Anta de Pavia

Even without its history, the Anta de Pavia would stand out (picture above). In the dead center of a square in Pavia, surrounded by white-washed, red-roofed buildings, is a giant boulder that has stood there for centuries. Originally a dolmen, the 4 meter high stone was used as a burial chamber before paganism fell out of favor. When Christianity supplanted most other beliefs, the massive rock was re-designated a small chapel dedicated to São Dinis in the 17th century. The inner chamber of the dolmen was turned into the nave of the chapel, and although it remains sparse, the interior features a small blue-tiled altar. While the chapel is an interesting landmark, it is even more so as it tells a common story of the conversion of medieval Portugal, and many similarly converted pagan structures exist across the country. However not all Portuguese have given up the old ways and while praying to Christ, many are known to slip in a prayer to the old gods.

Dolmen Chapel of Sao Brissos

About 350 years ago this Neolithic dolmen was converted into a small Catholic Chapel known as Chapel of São Brissos Cromlech. Dolmens, sacred monuments made of standing stones capped with a top stone, appear throughout Western Europe, but rarely, if ever, have they been converted to new use in such a way.

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