OWL Magazine Korea

Macao, UNESCO Heritage Site – ‘Ruins of St. Paul’s’

In the heart of Macao Peninsula, which encompasses the old town of Macao, when you walk a bit northwest from Senado Square and pass through the beef jerky street, you’ll find yourself heading towards a prominent historic site.

The most renowned historical site in Macao, now designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site, is the Ruins of St. Paul’s, commonly referred to as St. Paul’s Cathedral Ruins.

“The Ruins of St. Paul’s Cathedral”

It’s not called St. Paul’s Cathedral anymore, but rather St. Paul’s Cathedral Ruins, for a simple reason. Now, you can no longer find St. Paul’s Cathedral here; only one wall of the building remains.

The St. Paul’s Cathedral in Macao dates back to the 17th century, a remnant of Portuguese heritage from that era. Constructed over a span of ten years starting in 1582, this structure was once the largest European-style cathedral in Asia.

However, due to an unexplained fire, the cathedral underwent multiple reconstruction and restoration efforts. Unfortunately, in 1835, a major fire broke out, resulting in the destruction of most of the cathedral, leaving only remnants.

“Only the Exterior Wall of the Cathedral Remains”

Today, only the exterior wall of St. Paul’s Cathedral endures. The surviving wall was built between 1620 and 1627 by the Italian architect Carlo Spinola. The building’s exterior is intricately crafted, blending various elements from both Eastern and Western cultures, featuring depictions of the Virgin Mary, Portuguese caravels, dragons, doves, angels and demons, lions, and Japanese chrysanthemums, among others.

“Nicknamed the ‘Montmartre of the East'”

St. Paul’s Cathedral is sometimes referred to as the ‘Montmartre of the East.’ Its atmosphere is said to bear a resemblance to Montmartre in the West, though direct comparison is difficult as I haven’t personally visited Montmartre.

“The Underground Cemetery and Museum of St. Paul’s Cathedral”

Currently, only the outer walls of St. Paul’s Cathedral remain. Beyond these walls, you can enter the former site of the cathedral, though there are restricted entry times. From Wednesday to Monday, you can enter from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM, and on Tuesday, from 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM.

You can access the underground area of St. Paul’s Cathedral, which houses an underground cemetery and a museum displaying artifacts from the 16th and 17th centuries.

Although I contemplated taking photos while exploring the museum, the solemn atmosphere dissuaded me, so I chose to appreciate it with my eyes and then left.

Despite only the outer walls remaining, the Ruins of St. Paul’s Cathedral, known as the ‘Montmartre of the East,’ holds the UNESCO World Heritage status. Therefore, if you’re traveling to Macao, this is a must-visit site.

“Macao Peninsula, Ruins of St. Paul’s Cathedral”