We first learned about bone churches when we watched the terrific series, Long Way Round. Hosted by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman, the series depicts the two friends’ motorcycle trek across the world through Europe and Asia, and eventually to New York. One of the seemingly quirkier (at least to us) and fascinating places they visit is the Sedlek Ossuary in Kutna Hora, Czech Republic. We researched this more and discovered that bone churches are pretty common throughout Europe.
So as we planned for our trip to Portugal this past summer, our handy dandy Lonely Planet travel guide told us that there were a number of bone churches in Portugal, including one in Faro, close to where we were staying in the glorious Algarve region. We made it a planned stop on our drive from the Algarve to Lisbon. We found the church, Igreja do Carmo, paid the 1 Euro entrance fee, and made our way through to the Chapel of Bones (Capela de Ossos) behind the main building. We ducked in from the bright sunshine, our eyes taking a moment to adjust to the dim interior. Almost immediately, the amazing craftsmanship of the bone church jumped out at us. An entire chapel lined with skulls and bones. It might sound eerie and it was, a bit. But an absolutely fascinating and haunting experience, enhanced by the inscription over the door, “Stop here and think of the fate that will befall you.”