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Ruins of St. Paul’s

Ruins of St. Paul’s
Undoubtedly Macau’s blockbuster tourist attraction, St Paul’s is the ruins of a 16th century Jesuit church, which many believe to have been the most important church in Asia during Christianity’s early forays into the region. The church was almost wholly destroyed by fire in 1835, while being used as a barracks, and all that remains is the remarkably impressive facade. Set in stone, the four storey facade is held aloft by slender columns and adorned with intricate carvings of biblical scenes, saints and more Asian inspired images.


Overview

The Ruins of St. Paul's Cathedral (shèng bǎo luó dà jiào táng 圣保罗大教堂) are Macau's most famous landmark. Atop one of the island's seven hills, this spectacular facade is a symbol of Ruins of St. Paul’sMacau and an image that was projected throughout China leading up to the hand-over in December 1999.

St. Paul's Cathedral was first built in the 17th Century, with the design of an Italian Jesuit and the work of Japanese Christians. This mammoth and spectacular building dominated the city until 1835 when it was savagely destroyed by fire, sparing only the facade, the mosaic floor and stone steps approaching the building. The ruins of St. Paul's are still impressive and inspiring despite this destruction, and likely even more so as a result.

The magnificent and delicately carved facade looms over visitors as they climb the steps. The facade depicts various scenes from Christianity, harmoniously combining the style which is the epitome of Macau—a combination of renaissance and oriental art and design.

Even today, the ruins are held to be the most impressive monument to Christianity in the east. Behind the facade is Saint Paul's Museum which houses various religious relics and artifacts including the tomb of the Jesuit monk who designed the Cathedral.


History

First constructed in 1580, St. Paul’s Church caught fires in 1595 and 1601 respectively. Reconstruction started in 1602 after the church was burnt down and completed in 1637. Unfortunately, a violent typhoon hit Macau in 1835 and the church caught fire for the third time.

Ruins of St. Paul’sNow, front facade and the grand stone stairs appear in front of people. From the bottom this structure has five tiers. The first tier is consisted of ten Ionic columns with three entrances. The second tier has ten Corinthian columns with three windows. A Catholic saint is engraved in each of four tabernacles between columns. As for the two tiers as a whole, it is said it represents the Society of Jesus and the activities of missionaries.

The remaining three tiers are the most ornamented. The statue of Madonna stands in the middle part of the third tier, while the statue of Jesus stands on the fourth. The walls are covered with bas-reliefs in various patterns. The triangular combination of the upper three tiers reflects the Holy Trinity as well as the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is worth mentioning that the stone lions at the sides of the third and fourth tiers are extremely Chinese. There are also bas-reliefs of chrysanthemum and cherry, as well as Chinese inscriptions. The whole façade has been acknowledged as a perfect fusion of western and eastern cultures.


Features

Ruins of St. Paul’sThe ruins now consist of the southern stone facade—intricately carved between 1620 and 1627 by Japanese Christians in exile from their homeland and local craftsmen under the direction of Italian Jesuit Carlo Spinola—and the crypts of the Jesuits who established and maintained the Cathedral. The facade sits on a small hill, with 66 stone steps leading up to it. The carvings include Jesuit images with Oriental themes, such as a woman stepping on a seven-headed hydra, described by Chinese characters as “Holy Mother tramples the heads of the dragon”. A few of the other carvings are the founders of the Jesuit Order, the conquest of Death by Jesus, and at the very top, a dove with wings outstretched.


Function

All that remains of the greatest of Macau’s churches is its magnificent stone facade and grand staircase. The church was built in 1602 adjoining the Jesuit College of St. Paul’s, the first Western college in the Far East where missionaries such as Matteo Ricci (lì mǎ dòu 利玛窦) and Adam Schall (tāng ruò  wàng 汤若望) studied Chinese before serving at the Ming Court in Beijing as astronomers and mathematicians. The church, made of taipa and wood, was brilliantly decorated and furnished, according to early travelers. The facade of carved stone was built in 1620-27 by Japanese Christian exiles and local craftsmen under the direction of Italian Jesuit Carlo Spinola.

Ruins of St. Paul’sAfter the expulsion of the Jesuits, the college was used as an army barracks and in 1835 a fire started in the kitchens and destroyed the college and the body of the church. The surviving facade rises in 4 colonnaded tiers, and is covered with carvings and statues which eloquently illustrate the early days of the Church in Asia. There are statues of the Virgin and saints, symbols of the Garden of Eden and the Crucifixion, angels and the devil, a Chinese dragon and a Japanese chrysanthemum, a Portuguese sailing ship and pious warnings inscribed in Chinese.

After restoration work, lasting from 1990 to 1995, the back side of the Ruins of St. Paul’s was turned into a museum. The ruins are regarded as the symbol of Macau and now offer visitors a new site where they can view the remains of the former Church of the Mother of God, visit a Crypt where the relics of the Martyrs of Japan and Vietnam rest, and a museum of Sacred Art where there are exhibits of paintings, sculptures and liturgical objects from churches and monasteries in the City.


Conservation

Ruins of St. Paul’sResisting calls for the dangerously leaning structure to be demolished, from 1990 to 1995 the ruins were excavated under the auspices of the Instituto Cultural de Macau to study its historic past. The crypt and the foundations were uncovered, revealing the architectural plan of the building. Numerous religious artifacts were also found together with the relics of the Japanese Christian martyrs and the monastic clergy, including the founder of the Jesuit College in Macau, Father Alessandro Valignano. The ruins were restored by the Macanese government into a museum, and the facade is now buttressed with concrete and steel in a way which preserves the aesthetic integrity of the facade. A steel stairway allows tourists to climb up to the top of the facade from the rear. It is customary to throw coins into the top window of the ruins from the stairs, for luck.

Location: Rua de Sao Paulo, Macau
Opening Hours: The whole day
Transportation: Take bus No. 8, No. 16 and No. 17
Admission: Free
Recommended Golden Season: The whole year


Attractions Nearby

Love LaneLove Lane

Love Lane (liàn ài xiàng 恋爱巷) is located in the Macao Peninsula. It is situated in the heart of the parish south of Kao, the Ruins of St. Paul Street and its length is 50 meters. Love Lane has over 80 years of history. Its name comes from the early Portuguese name “Travessa da Paixão”. “Paixão” could be interpreted as obsessive and passionate. The Love Lane was actually the architectural style of inadvertently coincide with the meaning of the name --- romantic and moving. Ruins of St. Paul walking along the right side, there are a few people through a small side lane. It has a romantic name- Love Lane. The films Isabella and Prince and the Showgirl were shot here.

Location: Hang Kin (Tong House), Macao Kao parishes Love Lane, 10-18
Opening Hours: The whole day
Admission Fee: Free


Na Tcha Temple

Na Tcha TempleThe Na Tcha Temple (né zhà miào 哪咤庙), located near the Ruin of St Paul, was constructed in the 24th year Guangxu (光绪) Reign (1898). There are couplets on the gate: “The loop of universe represses the evil and the wheel of wind and fire brings blessings and peace”. The temple consists of a main hall and a worship pavilion, whose architectural style inherits that of the Na Tcha Temple Calcada das Verdades. The temple is dedicated to Na Tcha , God of Earth, Monkey King, Sam Leong (mother of Mencius) and Emperor Ziwei. The Na Tcha Chinese Temple was rebuilt in 1901. The temple's altar dates back to 1888 and the incense burner to 1898. The temple was recently restored in 1995 and again in 2000, regaining many of its original features. The restoration work included repairs to the temple's roof, consolidation of the walls and the replacement of decayed wood in the structure.

Location: Near the Ruins of St. Paul's, Macau
Opening Hours: 8:00 - 17:00
Admission Fee: Free

Last Updated on Friday, 27 July 2012 14:05
 

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