Undiscovered Destinations: Evora, Portugal

The ruins and walled-city of Evora, Portugal is an unspoken and steadfast secret for wanderers that want delve into ancient Portuguese history, architecture, and religion off-the-radar. Where romantic, gothic, manueline, mannerist, and baroque architectural styles meet, and remnants of proceeding Celtic, Roman, Visigothic, and Moorish cultures remain, Evora is a spectacular glimpse into the past. And the small, village-town paints an idyllic scene for discovery.

Monument in Evora, Portugal

Monument in Evora, Portugal

What to Do

In the case of Evora, ancient does not mean uninteresting. Check out the morbid masterpiece of the Chapel of Bones in the Royal Church of St. Francis for an attention-grabbing ghastly portrait. The large arch bearing the cynical message “we bones that are here, await yours” will send shivers down your spine before you even sight the walls and pillars plastered with an estimated 5,000 human skulls with an additional two, complete hanging corpses. The monks’ friendly reminder of our common, human mortality culminates with the chapel’s end at a crucifix, alter, and a bit more cheerful propositions like “I die in the light.”

Skulls Wall in Evora, Portugal

 

Before you get too creeped out, not all of the city is this gruesome. On an optimist note, check out the 2nd century AD Roman temple near some Roman baths that miraculously withstood an otherwise devastating 1755 earthquake. Today the decorative carvings of the 14 corinthian columns stand tall and strong intact (But sorry to burst your bubble, this was also once an execution site during the inquisition, oops!). There’s also a charming main square, Praca de Giraldo, with great cafes, shops, bars to grab a drink, sit back, and chat around an enchanting fountain.

 

Main square in Evora, Portugal

Main square in Evora, Portugal

Évora Cathedral and Cloisters

 Évora Cathedral and Cloisters

But in one of the hidden corners of Évora lies the core of all its knowledge and perseverance: the 16th century University where still today hundreds of students search for the much wanted sapience São João Evangelista and Lóios Convent floor to ceiling azulejos that blue tiling so typical of Portugal.

These scenes from the life of Sao Lourenco Justiniano, who founded the Loios order, date from the 18th century. Look out for the two open trapdoors in the floor; one shows you a Moorish cistern and the other is full of the bones of the convent’s monks – across the way Evora Cathedral – portugese gothic sculpture the fine Gothic cloister is entered through a portal with statues of the evangelists. Dark, narrow corridors lead up to a terrace, affording a rare close-up look at the tower and roof as well as providing nice views over the town and surrounding countryside – sit among glorious churches, convents and the former palaces of Portuguese kings.

Its elaborate classrooms look onto a serene courtyard with a central fountain (all graduating students symbolically bathe here to pass their knowledge onto freshers)

Hostels in Evora, Portugal - Book your hostel at Gomio.com

 

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