Weekly Photo Challenge: Dem Broken Bones

The Weekly Photo Challenge is broken.

We are passionate about travel…always have been…always will be. I’m back in the states digitizing my photos and I found the perfect photos to represent broken. While roaming through Portugal, we discovered the Capela dos Ossos ( Chapel of Bones) in Évora.

This small chapel was built in the 16th century by a Franciscan monk, who wanted to send the message that life is transitory. A broken skeleton dangles near the entrance, reminding all who enter that “Better is the day of death, than the day of birth.”


Broken pieces of pelvic bones and shattered knee caps adorn the windows.

IMG_7918The number of broken skeletons of monks was calculated to be about 5000, coming from the cemeteries that were situated inside several dozen churches. Some of these skulls have been scribbled with graffiti.

IMG_7921The ceiling is made of white-painted brick and is painted with death motifs. Skulls embedded in cement make an interesting border.

IMG_7925It reminds me of the old spiritual, Dem Bones.
Toe bone connected to the foot bone Foot bone connected to the heel bone Heel bone connected to the ankle bone Ankle bone connected to the shin bone Shin bone connected to the knee bone Knee bone connected to the thigh bone…

But, here the bones are all disconnected and broken.

IMG_7919Dem bones, dem bones gonna walk around.
Dem bones, dem bones gonna walk around.
Dem bones, dem bones gonna walk around.
Now hear the word of the Lord.

IMG_7922Inside the Capela dos Ossos a poem about the need to reflect on one’s existence hangs in an old wooden frame:

Where are you going in such a hurry traveler?
Stop … do not proceed;
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 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.

by Fr. António da Ascenção (translation by Fr. Carlos A. Martins, CC)

12 thoughts on “Weekly Photo Challenge: Dem Broken Bones

  1. hi,,
    wonderful,,,,,,,, all the way around them bones ..
    thats all we are on the outside ,,,

    and the more you stop to pause….
    the further on your journey you will be,,

    love it ,,theres always reason to reflect ,especially about death,,
    which most humans prefer to discard thoughts of ,,,death
    don’t be fearful
    death…..is ….life
    thanks for sharing ,,,beautiful in every way!

  2. I’ve heard of primitive cultures doing this but it’s creepy and there’s no way I’d ever go to that chapel. How would anyone be able to concentrate on the service with skulls staring out at them.


    • Oh, definitely check this place out. We rented a car and drove all around Portugal. When we just happened upon Evora, there was a big fair in progress. I really enjoyed that small town. If you rent a car, watch out for the cork trucks. The drivers in Portugal are maniacs.

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