Approaching Évora, Roman walls suggest you should keep out. While this town in Portugal’s Alto Alentejo region looks like it is indeed ready for battle, upon entering you will find what appears to be a quaint medieval settlement. Évora has fooled you yet again. This town is not cute and quaint, but downright spooky. If you love horror movies and find yourself counting down the days to Halloween, if ghost shows really do it for you, Évora is your town. With many cheap flights to Europe, visiting Évora is relatively easy.
Flickr: Sr. Ganso
Play I Spy Gargoyles at the Sé
The Cathedral of Évora looks ready and willing for battle just by its design alone. The Sé features a number of domes in different shapes and sizes. Quasimodo maybe hanging out in Notre Dame in Paris, but his Portuguese cousin could be here in Évora. You must pay to enter the Cathedral and enjoy walking on its roof. Roof access to the Sé comes through dark and narrow corridors that lead up to the terrace, allowing you to get up close and personal with those domes, along with Évora from above. At night, the domes are lit up, only adding to their spook factor. This cathedral is unlike most you see in Europe. It also carries a bit of history for it was here explorer Vasco da Gama had his ship flags blessed.
From Roman Temple to Slaughterhouse
Near Évora’s Cathedral is the Templo Romano, out in the open air and in plain sight. Rediscovered in the 19th century, the temple is believed to date back to the second century. The Corinthian columns are incredibly intact, making it the best-preserved Roman monument in all of Portugal. But why is it so preserved? The temple was walled up in the Middle Ages, inadvertently contributing to its preservation. The Templo Romano did not always have the best of intentions. It was used as the town’s slaughterhouse at one time. Knowing this, your skin might crawl while standing next to those Corinthian columns.
A Pleasant Town Square on the Surface
Praca do Giraldo is the main square in town. Here, you will discover mostly tourist cafes and their menus, but it is a pleasant place to perch while in town, or so it seems. On the surface, Praca do Giraldo has all of the elements of a fine town square. Dig a little deeper and it was the site of a public burning of victims of the Spanish Inquisition in the 16th century. In the 1970s, agrarian reforms were also debated in this seemingly uncomplicated space.
Them Bones, Them Bones at Capela Dos Ossos
Rounding out the spookiness of Évora, Capela Dos Ossos fits the bill. Literally meaning, the Chapel of Bones, the chapel within Igreja de São Francisco is composed of the skulls and bones from 5,000 people. The chapel was constructed in the 17th century in such a fashion to serve as a reminder of death, a note on the human condition. Perhaps the creepiest element to the Capela Dos Ossos is the words at its entrance. A sign at the top of the chapel reads, “Our bones await yours”. Admission into the Capela Dos Ossos costs just €1.50, or you could wait and seemingly get in for free according to those words.
Most in Europe are looking for those quaint towns, those places that seem so sweet. Évora is sweet, but it is also a good place to get to know the past in more ways than one. The town will have the hairs on the back of your neck standing up and the goose bumps plaguing your arms. If you enjoy being spooked, Évora has all of the elements for spooking so grab yourself one of those last minute flights and get exploring.
Written by: Suzy Guese