Macau Protestant Cemetery

The Old is situated directly to the east of the Praca
Luis de Camoues and can be reached by walking north and downhill from the Ruins
of St. Paul’s Cathedral.


This is a fascinating little cemetery filled with the graves of Protestants
who either died or passed through Macau since 1814. Ecclesiastical law forbade
the burial of Protestants on Catholic soil and the Chinese also rejected the
idea of having Protestants buried on their ground.

So Protestants started burying their dead just outside the city walls. The
Chinese were not impressed, considering the practice a desecration of their
land. The only route left to Protestants was to bury their dead in neutral territory–under
the city walls.

It was not until 1814 that land was sold to the British East Indian Company
who opened the cemetery in 1821 to finally resolved this fraught situation.

It is easy to miss this cemetery just to the right of the Camoes Grotto and
Gardens, but once inside it holds a certain somber, mossy attraction.

The tombstones
are big slabs of resting stone or upright crosses inscribed with anything from
a simple name to detailed inscription, allowing a peek at the former life inside.

The graves here are very detailed and personal, recounting life stories and
achievements. Inmates include many naval officers along with Robert Morrison,
first Protestant missionary to China, and Lord John Spencer Churchill, ancestor
of Sir Winston. Artist George Chinnery, renowned for his pictures of Macau,
holds pride of place.

REVIEW on the
An East India Company Cemetery: Protestant Burials in Macao by Lindsay and May
Ride, edited by Bernard Mellor

Next to the Camoes Garden lie the tombs of some of the notable and the notorious
who played a part in Macau’s long history.

The Protestant
Cemetery shelters Robert Morrison, the first Protestant missionary to China,
as well as opium traders, adventurers and artists.

The cemetery had a fascination for Sir Lindsay Ride, the University of Hong
Kong’s longest-serving Vice-Chancellor, and his wife, Lady May Ride. Lady Ride’s
recent death in England recalled her life-long connections with Hong Kong and

She lived in Hong Kong for 81 of her 83 years. During the Pacific War, her
husband escaped from Japanese-occupied Hong Kong and established the British
Army Aid Group, which gathered intelligence information and assisted escapees.

Several of their operatives were based in Macau, as the Portuguese enclave
– although encircled by the Japanese – was not occupied. One of the BAAG’s key
agents in Macau was the prominent businessman, the late Y.C. Liang. He remained
a close friend of the Rides until his death.

May Ride’s first connection with what was to become a life-long fascination
occurred in 1928. On a family visit to Macau, she came upon the crumbling ruins
of the disused Old Protestant Cemetery.

After the war, most of the Rides’ weekends were spent in the Portuguese territory,
then a sleepy place, and they started to explore the cemetery. They recognised,
as many do not, that the real genesis of Hong Kong as a trading port began in

Intrigued by the stories that its crumbling stones and neglected tombs seemed
to hint at, they began restoring and documenting the old cemetery in their spare

They wore out scrubbing brushes at the rate of one every two days, and spent
their evenings writing up their findings and talking with their great friend
historian Father Teixeira. This weekend hobby became an absorbing pastime that
came to take up most of their leave, and involved them in further research whenever
they were in England or the United States.

This gradually developed into a book, which was almost ready for publication
when Sir Lindsay Ride died in 1977. His ashes were buried in the Old Protestant
Cemetery, the first interment there for more than a century.

The work lay dormant for almost twenty years, and was finally published in
1995 as An East India Company Cemetery – Protestant Burials in Macao.

Their fascination with Macau led to a companion volume to the cemetery book,
also halted by Sir Lindsay’s death. This work details the many old Portuguese
stones, statues and memorials to be found at various places in Macau. Entitled
The Voices of Macao Stones, it is to be published by Hong Kong University Press
this summer. – JASON WORDIE.

TOP – Old

Back to Macau Walking Tours and other tours: