Since I could not check into the hostel until 2 pm, Nelson kindly offered to store my bag so that I did not have to lug it around with me on my tour of the city. He also gave me a map and circled all of the places that I had to visit.
There were three principal regions that were of importance (Cathedral/Roman Temple; Chapel of Bones/Park/Market; Roman Aqueduct) and so I set off for the first . Traversing the cobble stoned streets I arrived at the Cathedral, without any difficulty. The front door was open and so I just assumed I could enter, which is partially true. However, tourists are supposed to pay for access, and the front doors were open only for morning mass. Oops. I thought that if I was interrupting mass the last thing I should do is take pictures, I also was not sure if it was allowed during tourist hours. The one exciting piece of art was a painting of the Santa Rosa of Lima.
After leaving the Cathedral I headed to the Roman Temple Diana. It is the only temple from this period still standing in Portugal. It is currently in the center of a plaza, which houses a Duke’s palace on one side, the city museum on another, and a park on the third. Coincidentally, it is also along the fastest route from our hostel to the university and so I spent plenty of time seeing this magnificent ruin.
Something interesting about Evora’s construction is that it built upon many hills; however, you do not notice that you are climbing hills. All of a sudden you look down and realize that you are above the rest of the city . This is the case with the view of the grass coat of arms of Evora taken from the park next to the temple. I had no idea that I was that high, since the climbs are so gradual, but if you look at this photo and those of the cityscape clearly I am on top of the world.
I continued wandering around this area finding many interesting buildings and sites. Unfortunately, it started to rain and I was wholly unprepared. I tried asking in Spanish for an umbrella and after three missed attempts with local shop owners, we figured out what I was looking for. I think it was one of the best purchases I have made in a while, since it seemed to rain every day that I was in Evora.
The town still is contained within its original circular wall, which means that everything is much closer than it appears on the map. I headed from the Cathedral over to the Convento de Ouro, which houses the franciscan Chapel of Bones. The gothic church is rather typical. There are radiating chapels dedicated to particular saints and families, as well as relics and important statues of the community, such is this one of Jesus carrying the cross.
What I loved most about this church, and almost all of them in Evora, were the tombstones that remained part of the floor. You can see them in the aisle leading to the altar. These, as Hugo van der Velden stressed on our trip to Holland in 2011, were an integral part of create lasting remembrance of a person or family in the community after his/her death. Generally, they had sayings along the lines as: “you who walk above me, hark now, soon you will join me in the dirt” to remind the humans of their mortality. Most of these marble tombstones in this church have been erased through the many feet that have crossed over them, but I still find them fascinating.
This discussion is particularly relevant given that alongside this church is the Chapel of Bones. This was created by the Fransicans who took all of the bones from the city’s graves to construct this site to remember to presence of death. Above the arch they have inscribed the saying “We bones who are here, we are waiting for yours”. I will let the photos speak for themselves:
There were two poems placed in the room to further help the viewer contemplate the meaning of life:
The scraggy skulls
Are my company
I have them night and day
In my memory;
Many were honoured
In the world by their talents,
And other vain ornaments
Which served vanity
Maybe in Eternity
The reason of their torments!
Look, you hasty walker?
Stop, don’t go further more;
No buisness is more important
Than this one at your display
Bear in mind how many were here
Think you’ll have a similiar end!
Then to reflect, this is reason enough
As we all did think it over.
Think, that you fortuntaely
Among all the world affairs
You do think so little about death
Though if you raise your eyes here
Stop… as in such a business
The sorter you go further, the more get ahead
-Antonio de Ascension
After leaving the site of death and contemplating my mortal existence, I ventured into the palace of the dukes (different from the first dukes…), which also contains the largest park of the city. The palace has been renovated many times over the centuries resembling a mixture of the original and contemporary. In the upper floor they have rotating expositions. This time it was drawing of animals (fish and other such creatures) and mixed media presentations, around the theme of books and love.
Outside there is still standing a ruin of an earlier chapel. This chapel was swarming with peacocks, which made for some spectacular photos. I ate some local goat cheeses from the artisan market next to the building and then continued on my tour.
I went back to the region that I had most explored earlier in the morning and looked at the convent de Salvador, as well as, the municipal building, which exhibits their local ruins. There are no signs so I have no idea from what period, which are currently on display with contemporary paintings.
I eventually made my way back to the aqueduct, which was interesting to see in the light of day. And then continued to walk around the wall of the city, until I eventually arrived at the university. After much walking and famished I chose a restaurant on the patio allowing me to watch the students saunter home after the day’s classes.
Wearily I headed home to the hostel, where I learned I would be sharing a room with two other students attending the conference. I met Flavia, one of my roommates from Rio de Janeiro and we instantly got along; however, both of us were exhausted and soon went to sleep. I didn’t even hear Daniel come in and get a tour of the space. And thus ends my first day in Evora.