PRACA PONTE, MACAU â€“ It was New Yearâ€™s Eve and I just got off the ferry that brought me from Hong Kong to Macau after about fifty five minutes of rocky sea sailing.Â Good thing I came prepared and armed with my warm jacket, gloves and thick socks â€“ ready to brave the cold December weather of Macau.Â I wasted no time and with a map on hand headed to the town centre to start my tour of the Macau Churches near famous Senado Square.
Macau got its Christian influence when it was colonized by the Portuguese in 1557.Â Priests, who were the first settlers, named the place â€œCity of the Name of God, Macau.â€Â Churches were built by priests who belong to the Jesuits and monastic orders and these were named after known saints.
Unfortunately, Macauâ€™s churches have been subjected to religious and political disputes plus natural calamities and fires that most of them were destroyed.Â Itâ€™s a good thing that these churches were later on painstakingly rebuilt and restored as close as possible to their original glory.Â In total, there are about 20, 000 Catholic Churches in Macau that home to both Portuguese and Chinese priests.Â Here are some churches near Largo do Senado:
ST. AUGUSTINEâ€™S (Santo Agostinho) â€“ Largo de Santo Agostinho
You can start your tour by crossing the street from Senado Square and following road signs to reach St. Augustineâ€™s Church.Â This church was originally built by Spanish Augustinian priests but was taken over by the Portuguese after three years.Â The church is famous for the cross-carrying figure of Jesus Christ at the altar.
The church is associated with the colourful story of Maria de Moura who was a known figure in the 1700s.Â She married Captain Antonio Albuquerque Coelho who lost his arm when attached by one of her bitter suitors.Â Their love story tragically ended when she died in child birth.Â She was buried in the church grounds together with her baby and the severed arm of her husband.
Perhaps the most notable community participation of St. Augustineâ€™s Church are the yearly Easter processions wherein the statue of Jesus Christ is carried through the streets by thousands of devotees then returned to the church afterwards.
THE CATHEDRAL (Se) â€“ Largo da Se
From the St. Augustineâ€™s church, you would have to cross the street again towards Senado Square and walk towards your right.Â Donâ€™t worry, it wonâ€™t be too hard to find the church.
The current location of The Cathedral used to be occupied by previous cathedrals.Â The Cathedral was rebuilt in 1937 and its fascade now has two strong towers.Â The Cathedral is open daily from 7:30 am to 6:30 pm.
ST. DOMINICâ€™S (Sao Domingo) â€“ Largo de S. Domingos
Three Spanish Domican priests who came from Acapulco, Mexico built this church in 1587.Â Its clean and cream-colored fascade can be seen after a mere three minute walk from the street entrance of Senado Square.Â The baroque inspired altar is home to a statue of the Virgin and Child and delicate ivory and wooden statues of saints.
The history of St. Dominicâ€™s Church is peppered with controversy including a murder of a military officer at the church altar in 1644, priests locking themselves within the churchâ€™s walls for three whole days, and it was even used as barracks by the government.
Finally in 1997, the church underwent major renovation and was opened to the public with an additional Museum of Sacred Art on the upper floors.Â St. Dominicâ€™s Church is open daily from 10:00 am to 6:00 am.
ST. PAULâ€™S (Sao Paulo) â€“ Rua de S. Paulo
Coming from St. Dominicâ€™s church, you would have to go through a five minute walk uphill to get to St. Paulâ€™s Church or what is left of it.
This is perhaps the most popular among all the churches in Macau.Â St. Paulâ€™s Church was built in 1602 with its fascade being completed by 1627 by selected Japanese exiles and locals crafts masters.Â They worked under direct supervision from the Italian Jesuit Carlo Spinola.Â As history would have it, the church was destroyed because of a kitchen fire in 1835.Â The only part of the church that survived the fire was the fascade which was covered with delicate statues of the Virgin Mary, saints, angels, devils, etc.Â Aside from these statues, one can also take a closer look at the intricate carvings on the concrete stone.
In an effort to save this historical architecture, restoration was done between 1990 and 1995 and the back part of the churchâ€™s fascade was transformed into a museum.Â Nowadays, the Ruinas de S. Paulo or the Ruins of St. Paulâ€™s are seen as an important landmark of Macau and serves as a symbolic altar watching over the city.
You can visit the Fascade of the Church of Mater Dei anytime.Â The Museum of Sacred Art located at the back of the fascade where one can view exhibits of sculptures, paintings, etc. is open from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm.
Currently, these magnificent structures that are symbols of Christianity are already part of the lives of people of Macau.Â Make sure that you visit these churches before making a beeline towards the retail shops in Senado Square. You wouldnâ€™t regret it.
Looking for budget accommodations in Macau?Â Try Best Western Sun Sun Hotel Macau.Â It is strategically located within Centro (city centre) — just a ten minute walk to Casino Pointe 16 and about fifteen minutes walk away from Senado Square.