Wednesday, July 17: After visiting the Cathedral, I take a long walk to the far side of town and I discover (Voila!) this is where all the tourists are! I have been on the quiet side of town and wondered why I seemed to have Évora all to myself.
I finally come across Giraldo Square (Praça do Giraldo), which is considered the center of the city. The Renaissance fountain (fonte Henriquina) dates from 1570. Its eight jets symbolize the eight streets leading into the square.
At the northern end of the square lies St. Anton’s church (Igreja de Santo Antão), also from the 16th century. In 1483 Fernando II, Duke of Braganza, was decapitated on this square, in the presence of his brother-in-law King John II. This square also witnessed thousands of autos-da-fé (rituals of public penance of condemned heretics and apostates that took place when the Portuguese Inquistion had decided their punishment, followed by the execution by the civil authorities of the sentences imposed) during the period of the Inquisition; 22,000 condemnations, it seems, in about 200 years (Wikipedia: Évora).
I stop at a cafe in the square for a little bowl of bean soup for lunch.
I’m in search of the St. Francis Church, known in Portuguese as the Igreja de São Francisco. I find it, but when I arrive it is after 1:00 and it’s closed for siesta time. It opens again at 2:30, so I have some time to kill. I don’t want to walk all the way back to the other side of town, so instead I visit the Jardim Público de Évora, just south of the Church.
It’s quite hot at this time of day. Sometimes I wonder why on earth I’m out here in the heat while everyone else is taking a siesta! I sit down next to a fountain just to hear the sound of the flowing water and imagine being cool.
On the way out, I encounter these pretty peacocks and I keep waiting and hoping they will spread out their feathers for a turquoise and green color extravaganza. They never oblige me with a show. 😦
I find this little Moorish inspired pavilion, where I take shelter in the shade for a few moments.
And I find this pretty little garden as I make my way out.
When I leave the gardens, the Church of St. Francis is still not open, so I wander up the street a bit, where I make a brief stop to admire the Largo da Graça, a church nearby that’s designated as a national monument. It too is closed for siesta.
Since all the sights seem to be closed for siesta, I find a little bakery where I stop for a cold drink and a pastel de nata. I think I’m developing an addiction to these sweet delectable treats.
Finally, when I return to St. Francis Church, I head straight for one of the chapels decorated in Baroque style, the Capela dos Ossos, or the Chapel of Bones, totally covered with human bones. First I enter through the Chapter House, which was transformed at the end of the 19th century into the Capela dos Passos. The space was decorated with tile paneling alluding to the Passion of Christ.
Built in the first half of the 17th century, as an extension of the Chapter House of the Convent of São Francisco, the Chapel of Bones is an invitation to reflect on the transitory nature of the human condition, summarized in the words above its entrance: WE BONES HERE, FOR YOURS AWAIT (Nós ossos que aqui estamos pelos vossos esperamos).
The walls and columns are lined with the carefully arranged bones and skulls of some 5,000 people, held together by cement. Most of the bones came from the cemeteries that were situated inside several dozen churches. Some of these skulls have been scribbled with graffiti. Two desiccated corpses, one of which is a child, dangle from a chain (Wikipedia: Capela dos Ossos). According to Lonely Planet Portugal, 17th century Franciscan monks constructed this as a memento mori (reminder of death).
The ceiling’s decoration, dating from 1810 and full of symbols, allegories and quotations from the Holy Scriptures, affirms another life in the glory of God.
I then go next door to St. Francis Church, or the Igreja de São Francisco, which was built between the end of the 15th and the early 16th centuries in mixed Gothic-Manueline styles. It was dedicated to St. Francis. The wide nave is a masterpiece of late Gothic architecture. Legend has it that the Portuguese navigator Gil Vicente is buried here (Lonely Planet Portugal).
After exploring this area of town, I simply enjoy walking through the streets of Evora in search of the Água de Prata Aqueduct (Aqueduct of Silver Water).