Away from the Old Town, Faro’s city center is landmarked by the 18th-century Carmo Church. The striking and much-photographed twin-towered façade of this Baroque beauty dominates the neighborhood, and is as much a site of devotion for locals as a sightseeing prize for tourists. A wander inside reveals an impressive altarpiece, glistening with gold leaf from Brazil, and an ornamented sacristy. But there’s a more ghoulish attraction behind the church, the Capela dos Ossos (Chapel of Bones).
Built in the 19th century, the chapel’s interior is lined with the remains of nearly 1,250 monks’ skulls and other bones arranged in bizarre symmetry that decorate the walls and even the barrel-vaulted ceiling. The bones were removed from the friars’ cemetery in 1816, a practice common throughout Catholic Europe at that time when skeletons were used to embellish ossuaries. The largest and best-known bone chapel in Portugal is at Évora, in the Alentejo.