The Algarve is normally somewhere that you associate with sunshine, beaches, and a laid-back lifestyle. Somewhere people go for a break to lie in the sun, read a page-turner, drink cheap beer, and just get away from it all. It’s not somewhere that you would associate with death, bone chapels, or anything macabre.
That’s why the bone chapel in Faro is so unusual. There are famous bone chapels in Czechia (the Sedlec Ossuary), Serbia (the skull tower of Nis), and Poland (Kaplica Czaszek), but these are all cold and dark places – the kind of places you’d expect to find a bone chapel.
The bone chapel in Faro isn’t the only bone chapel in Portugal. There are actually several of these chapels, the most famous of which is in Évora. In fact, this isn’t the only bone chapel on the Algarve: there’s an even lesser-known bone chapel in Alcantarilha, a small town near Armação de Pêra.
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Faro’s bone chapel is definitely one of the best, though. It’s nowhere near as big or as well-known as the bone chapel in Évora and because most of the tourists visiting the Algarve are more interested in the beach than its churches, it’s usually very quiet. Visiting outside of the popular summer months and you may even get the whole chapel to yourself.
And, that’s exactly what you want from a bone chapel if you’re to truly appreciate it. Yes, there’s something to be appreciated here. Although it might seem like bone chapels are simple gruesome and morbid for the sake of it, they have a higher motive.
Why Bone Chapels Exist
Look above the entrance of the bone chapel in Faro and you’ll see a message (written in Portuguese) that says: Pára aqui a considerar que a este estado hás-de chegar” (stop here and consider that you will reach this state too).
Évora’s bone chapel carries a similar message: “Nós ossos que aqui estamos pelos vossos esperamos” (We bones that are here, for yours await”).
Basically, both of them say life is short. You only get one life before you too become a pile of bones, so make the most of it. Or in modern terms: YOLO.
At least that’s the message that most of us can take from it today. The monks probably had a more religious theme, encouraging people to think about the life beyond this one.
Visiting Faro’s Bone Chapel
The Capela dos Ossos is a part of the Nossa Senhora do Carmo church, which can be found in Largo do Carmo in Faro City Centre. The bone chapel is located at the back of the church and, to get to it, you’ll need to go through the Nossa Senhora do Carmo church.
The church itself isn’t quite as interesting, but is still worthy of a visit and you entrance covers both the Nossa Senhora do Carmo and the Capela dos Ossos.
- Address: Largo do Carmo, 8000-148 Faro, Portugal (map)
- Cost: €2
- Monday – Friday: 10:00 – 13:00, 15:00-17:30 (during summer, the church stays open until 18:00).
- Saturday: 10:00 – 13:00