The Chapel of Bones from Campo Maior is one of the most significant and original examples of Christian funerary art in Portugal, given its aesthetic uniqueness. Little is known about the construction of the Chapel of the Bones itself, having been probably promoted by the Confraternity of the Souls of Campo Maior around the year 1766.
This chapel is deeply connected to an unavoidable historical episode: the explosion of the castle’s armoury due to a lightning strike, after wich half the town was destroyed, with 316 dead and about 2000 wounded according to local records.
Popular legend has it that the chapel was decorated with the bones of the dead from that explosion. Through the restoration process, and the anthropological and archaeological study, it was found that the bones inside the chapel show no signs of violent impact, which means that this legend has no sustainable basis.
The bones from the chapel are presumed to have come from the churchyard of the Igreja Matriz, which was totally redesigned when the town was rebuilt after the explosion.
In fact, during the archaeological excavation of the churchyard for the promotion of accessibility to the Igreja Matriz, only many scattered bones were identified. The inexistence of long bones and skulls seems to point to the fact that this area of the funerary space surrounding the church has been moved, and that the bones that were absent here were eventually used to integrate the interior of the Chapel of Bones, since the dating attributable to the vestiges found points to the 18th century, the time of its construction.