On Pilgrimage to Macau’s Ruins of St Paul’s

st pauls cathedral macauFor those wishing to visit the holiest, most well-known religious sites in the world, there are few places as beautiful or striking as Macau’s St Paul’s Cathedral. If you’re thinking of visiting this amazing relic of Catholic history, but aren’t sure of what the experience will entail, read forth; Macau and the Cathedral are excellent places for pilgrims to visit, and here’s why.

Beginning in the 15th and early 16th centuries, Portuguese missionaries, merchants and explorers were the first Christians and, indeed, the first westerners to visit the far east. With them they brought Christian teaching to the Buddhist, Taoist and Muslim peoples of Asia, however establishing a permanent ecumenical foothold on the continent was a priority; a base from which to prosthelytize the word of god.

St Paul’s was the result of this drive to spread Christian teachings, the wondrous building being first laid down in 1580 and then subsequently rebuilt between 1602 and 1637 by skilled Japanese craftsmen after the original building was damaged by fire. Although the building was almost completely razed during a fire in 1835, the exquisite ivory-coloured stone facade survives to this day, its magnificently decorated frontage a testament to the zeal and purpose that filled the souls of those earliest of Christian missionaries, and their wealthy patrons.

The Cathedral has, since its conception, been the centre of Catholicism in Asia, and as such was named after the religion’s most lauded saint. Standing atop a hill, sixty-six stone steps must be surmounted to reach the foot of the ruin, and many find this ascension is one of the more enlightening moments of their pilgrimage.

Of course, Macau has an enormous amount of things to do and see beside the ruin. The peninsula is the hub of the Asian gambling industry, with many casinos and gaming halls located throughout. If you’re thinking of visiting one of these for the experience, it’s a good idea to get some practice in online at a site such as SpinPalace.com first; you don’t want to lose out on holiday spending money, after all!

Other sites in Macau include the near-Venetian Senado Square, the hub of the Macanese historic centre. In 2005 the square was inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, given the square’s historic ties with both Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and the peninsula’s Portuguese era. Fashion houses and fine restaurants line Senado Square, and visitors will often be presented with all manner of cultural activities and exhibitions that take place beneath the grand buildings of Senado. Visiting during Christmas or the Chinese Spring Festival is always a great idea; fireworks displays, dragon dances and food fairs will be your reward!

The ancient A-Ma Temple should also be towards the top of visitors’ itineraries. Having been built in 1488, the temple is one of the oldest Taoist temples in Macau, and is dedicated to Matsu, the goddess of fishermen and seafarers. Legend tells that when the first Portuguese sailors landed near to the temple and asked what the name of the place was, locals replied “A-Ma-Gau” (bay of the goddess A-Ma), leading to the Portuguese to name the area “Macao”!

Macau is an amazing place to visit, whether you’re a pilgrim or a tourist more generally. Have you visited the territory? Tell us of your experiences in the comments section below.