Ruins of St. Paul’s

Opening hours

Façade of the Church of Mater Dei: 24/7
 
Sacred Art Museum and Crypt
09:00 - 18:00 (No admission after 17:30)Closed on Tuesdays after 14:00-18:00
 
Ruins of St Paul's
09:00 - 18:00 (No admission after 17:30)

Introduction

The Ruins of St. Paul’s refer to the façade of what was originally the Church of Mater Dei built in 1602-1640 and the ruins of St. Paul’s College, which stood adjacent to the Church, both destroyed by fire in 1835. As a whole, the old Church of Mater Dei, St. Paul’s College and Mount Fortress were all Jesuit constructions and formed what can be perceived as the Macao’s “acropolis”.

The façade of the Ruins of St. Paul’s measures 23 metres across and 25.5 metres high and is divided into five levels. Following the classical concept of divine ascension, the orders on the façade on each horizontal level evolve from Ionic, Corinthian and Composite, from the base upward. The upper levels gradually narrow into a triangular pediment at the top, which symbolizes the ultimate state of divine ascension - the Holy Spirit. The façade is mannerist in style carrying some distinctively oriental decorative motifs. The sculptured motifs of the façade include biblical images, mythological representations, Chinese characters, chrysanthemums, a Portuguese ship, several nautical motifs, Chinese lions, bronze statues with images of the founding Jesuit saints of the Company of Jesus and other elements that integrate influences from Europe, China and other parts of Asia, in an overall composition that reflects a fusion of world, regional and local influences. Nowadays, the façade of the Ruins of St. Paul’s functions symbolically as an altar to the city. The baroque/mannerist design of this granite façade is unique in China (as noted in UNESCO’s Atlas mundial de la arquitectura barroca). The Ruins of St. Paul’s are one of the finest examples of Macao’s outstanding universal value.

Close by, the archaeological remains of the old College of St. Paul stand witness to what was the first western-style university in the Far East, with an elaborate academic programme that included Theology, Mathematics, Geography, Chinese, Portuguese, Latin, Astronomy and various other disciplines, preparing a significant number of missionaries to pursue Roman Catholic work in China, Japan and throughout the region. The missionary route followed by the Jesuits from Macao all over the region was crucial in facilitating the dissemination of Catholicism in China, Japan and other countries, also enabling a broader interchange in other scientific, artistic and cultural fields.


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South elevation

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East Elevation