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We came across this little chapel when googling charnel house. Don’t ask us why, but another word we found was necrotourist.

This is a beautiful, naively designed room whose decorative elements happen to be bones. It’s not the first nor the only one of its kind, but it has a special interest for us Architects in that the bones are placed in a highly structural and rigid grid system. In fact, the only non-skeletal parts of the chapel are the linear elements in mortar which divide the walls and ceiling into neat shelves and squares. Something like an osseous rusticated wall with coffered vaulted ceiling.

Inside these, a precise number of parts is placed according to its location: 3 skulls per square at the bottom of the vault, then 2 and then 1 per square as you go up, with the background being a consistent number of tibia bones lining up. Of course there are pilasters, capitals and cornices rendered in this fashion. If this is not Classical refinement applied to a vernacular structure, then what is?

So when we went to the South this Summer, we skipped the beach for a day and became necrotourists ourselves. And all the better for it: enjoy!

Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Carmo, Capela dos Ossos, Faro

PS by the way, the floor pavers had to be tombstones.

archived in INTERIORS ArchesCeilings: VaultedChurches & ChapelsFaroFloors: stonePilastersTexturesTombstonesVernacular
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