The Lovely Bones… Portugal

March 26, 2010

This popular book and recently-released film, starring Rachel Weisz as the mother of murdered Susie Salmon, is an unexpectedly uplifting film. The Lovely Bones describes Susie’s experiences in the after-life as she looks down from heaven on her family and friends whilst they heal and as she herself comes to terms with her own death. It is a gentle film that celebrates life.

I thought of The Lovely Bones during a visit last week to The Bones Chapel (Capela dos Ossos) in the UNESCO World Heritage Centre of Évora in the Alentejo region of Portugal. The walls of this 16th century Franciscan Chapel are covered completely with human skulls and bones. Initiated by a group of monks, it was thought that such a display of death would be conducive to meditation about life. A slightly eerie place, it has to be said – the inscription above the entrance to the Chapel translates as ‘Our bones are here; we are waiting for yours’ – but the concept makes sense and is positive rather than downbeat. The Alentejo, a beautiful, lesser-known region of Portugal to the south and east of Lisbon, combines the Atlantic Coast, vineyards, cork tree forests, sweeping plains and several historical towns – some of whose 14th century origins are clearly visible – plus boutique, unusual accommodation options. I was on an educational trip to the Alentejo with Sunvil Real Portugal. It was a big surprise to me – very unexpected and very beautiful. Mika Bishop.