You might have heard of Evora’s famous bone chapel, and you might have heard of Faro’s slightly less famous version. But did you know there’s an even smaller chapel of bones located in Alcantarilha not far from the famous Algarve coastline? We recommend anyone travelling to the west Algarve along the N125 or even A22 to make a quick stop here. It’s located in a small town and makes for great coffee stop. It’s a morbid if not fascinating little piece of history.
Where is Alcantarilha and the Chapel of Bones?
Alcantarilha is a small town not far from the Algarve coast near to Armacao de Pera. The N125, the popular tourist route (also the toll free route) across the Algarve goes right through the town. So, it’s convenient for a quick stop for anyone crossing the Algarve. Hidden on some steep and traditional Portuguese streets is the 16th century Church of Nossa Senhora da Conceição that serves the local parish of Alcantarilha.
The Church of Nossa Senhora da Conceição in Alcantarilha
The church of Nossa Senhora da Conceição is a typical church of the Algarve region. It’s notable in that it reflects multiple architectural styles from the Algarve’s long history. You’ll find evidence of Manueline, Rococo and Neoclassicisist periods in the church’s architecture and features. Although the church does looks a little plain compared to Algarve standards, inside is a stunning gold vaulted interior which is typically Manueline. The altarpiece is a later addition and dates from 1769 and is in Rococo style. Rounding off the architectural styles is the Neoclassical facade and bell tower that was completed in 1858. Similar features to the facade and bell tower can also be found on the nearby church of Santa Maria de Tavira, and the parish church of São Brás de Alportel.
The Capela dos Ossos – The Bone Chapel of Alcantarilha
Behind the main church is the Capela dos Ossos or the bone chapel of Alcantarilha. It’s a small chapel of bones that reportedly houses the skeletons of over 1,500 people. It’s tiny compared to the standards of Evora and even Faro, but it offers a unique experience. There really is only space for two or three people to stand inside and look around. Inside you’ll find the walls, the ceiling and even the altar made up of the skulls and the thigh bones of those that inhabit the chapel.
Looking at the skulls lining the chapel walls will likely make you aware of your own mortality so maybe this attraction is not for everyone. Each time we’ve stopped there, we’ve been the only visitors. The bone chapel is well worth a visit if you need somewhere to stop or if you’re curious about bone chapels! It’s also completely free. It offers some unique small-town history that you can’t find in the nearby commercial and tourist centers. Discovering the chapel and walking around the town will remind you of some of the best things about small town life in the Algarve. Outside the chapel is a small square with benches and a small village shop. Across the road from the church are several coffee shops and a restaurant if you’re in need of refreshment.
Let us know in the comments if you’re planning on visiting, or if there’s anything you think we might have missed!