The last destination in our city tour is St. Paul’s (Rua de Sao Paolo), the greatest of Macau’s churches and the major landmark of Macau. Built from 1582 to 1602 by the Jesuits, this church was dedicated to St. Paul the Apostle and was the largest Catholic church in Asia at the time. A fire started in the kitchens, during a typhoon, destroyed the body of the church in 1835.
Now in ruins, all that remained was the magnificent, intricately carved stone facade (built from 1620 to 1627 by Japanese Christian exiles and local craftsmen under the direction of Italian Jesuit Fr. Carlo Spinola), the crypts of the Jesuits who established and maintained the cathedral, and the grand, 66-step staircase.
To preserves its aesthetic integrity, the facade is now buttressed with concrete and steel and a steel stairway allows tourists to climb up to the top of the facade from the rear. From this stairs, it is customary to throw coins into the top window of the ruins for luck. Behind the façade are remains of the original pillars and a shrine.
The facade, rising in 4 colonnaded tiers, is crowned by the cross of Jerusalem, below which are 3 tiers with niches containing statues, cast from bronze at a local cannon and bell factory. It is covered with Jesuit statues with Oriental themes (such as a woman stepping on a 7-headed hydra, described by Chinese characters as “Holy Mother tramples the heads of the dragon”), carvings of the Garden of Eden, the Crucifixion, the angel, the devil, a Chinese dragon, a Portuguese sailing ship, a Japanese chrysanthemum, pious warnings inscribed in Chinese, founders of the Jesuit Order, the “Conquest of Death by Jesus” and, at the very top, a dove with wings outstretched.