By Jasmine Chen, PhD student, Department of English │ 第80期 八月號 澳大人
The Three Oldest Churches in Macao
Macao is famous for its gambling industry. Tourists are usually impressed by the grand billboards and the never-ending shuttle buses of the casinos. But few know the city’s significant role in the history of Catholicism in China. In the 16th century, Portuguese, accompanied by Catholic missionaries, sailed to the South China Sea. After decades of effort, the Portuguese eventually managed to take Macao as their base for overseas trade as well as missionary work in the Fast East. Diverse orders of Catholic Church, including the Jesuits, Dominicans, Franciscans and Augustinians, came to Macao for the purpose of evangelizing Asian countries, including China. They built churches, monasteries, and residences in Macao. In this piece, I will share with you a few facts about the three oldest churches in Macao.
St Anthony’s Church 聖安多尼堂
The St Anthony’s Church was built from 1558 to 1560 by the Jesuits. This Baroque architectural structure used to be a small and shabby building made of wood and bamboo. After being burnt down and rebuilt several times, the reconstruction in 1930 finally determined its outlook and scale that remains to this day. Previously, the Portuguese held their wedding ceremonies there, so it has also been given a beautiful name: Hua Wang Tang (花王堂 Church of Flowers).
St Lawrence’s Church 聖老楞佐堂
The St Lawrence’s Church was built by the Jesuits in the mid-16th century. Its present Neo-classical-style appearance took shape in the reconstruction in 1846. Because of the impact of monsoon, the Portuguese who sailed to Southeast Asia would usually return in April and May following the southerly wind. Each year, during April and May, families of the sailors would go to this church, praying for the southerly wind and the safety of their relatives. Therefore, the St Lawrence’s Church has been given the Chinese name, Feng Shun Tong (風順堂 Church of Smooth Winds).
St Lazarus’s Church 望德聖母堂
The St Lazarus’s Church was first built around 1568 and 1570 under the leadership of D Belchior Carneiro. When Bishop Carneiro came to Macao in 1568, he designed and built one leprosary beside which the St Lazarus’s Church was first built. Therefore, it is also called Feng Tang Miao (瘋堂廟 Church of Leprosy). It used to be the Duomo of the Bishop of Ro man Catholic Diocese of Macao. What is noteworthy is that St Lazarus’s is the first church dedicated to the Chinese population.