Ruins of St Paul College
Ruins of St Paul: Mater Dei Church
The Ruins of St Paul are the remains of the MATER DEI or Mother of God Church built in the early 16th-century in Macau. With its dramatic 66 stone steps rising up to the baroque facade, the ruins of St Paul is definitely
Macau’s most famous icon. The ruins are located in the St. Anthony Parish Area.
Built from 1582 to 1602 by the Jesuit Order, St Paul College was
the largest Christian church in Asia at the time, and the royalty of Europe
vied with each other to bestow upon the church the best gift.
The first Jesuits arrived in Macau around 1563. As educators, they started
a school which was soon upgraded to an University in 1594. This was the first
western university in South East Asia.
Students studied Latin, Greek, local languages, music, painting, humanities rhetoric
philosophy and theology.
Great scholars like Matteus Ricci and Ruggieri were early protagonists of St
Architecture: The Church of Mater Dei (Mother of God) was erected in 1602.
This replaced previous wooden churches destroyed by fire.
The new church had wooden columns in the central nave and a Chinese style tile
The sidewalls of St Paul were made of Chunambo or Taipa, a muddy earth mixture of
straw, lime from oyster shells, and wood.
The architect was the Genovese Carlo Spinola.
The Ruins of St. Paul’s (Portuguese: Ruínas de São Paulo, Chinese: 大三巴牌坊; pinyin: Dàsānbā Páifāng) refers to the ruins of a 16th century complex in Macau including of what was originally St. Paul’s College and the Cathedral of St. Paul also known as “Mater Dei”, a 17th century Portuguese cathedral dedicated to Saint Paul the Apostle.
Today, the ruins are one of Macau’s most famous landmarks. In 2005, they were officially enlisted as part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Historic Centre of Macau.
St Paul’s oriental decorations were done by Chinese and Japanese craftsman.
Ruins of St Paul are also linked directly to the adjacent Monte Fort through
staircases and tunnels.
In 1762 the Jesuits were expelled from Macau and the monastery was sequestered
by the military.
Apparently in 1835, a careless soldier caused In a fire in the kitchen which
eventually destroyed the whole complex of St Paul College.
66 stone steps going up to the Ruins of St Paul
Flag holder in front of the Ruins of St Paul.
The Ruins of St Paul now consists of the southern stone facade – intricately carved by
Japanese monks – and the crypts of the Jesuits monks of the Church.
Excavation between 1990 to 1995 uncovered the foundations of the building.
Findings also include numerous religious artifacts as well as relics of Japanese
Christian martyrs and some monastic clergy.
Relics of Father Alessandro Valignano, the founder of the Jesuit college in
Macau were also discovered.
The facade of the Church of Mater Dei (Mother of God) is a simplified and short
catechism about the role of Christ church in the salvation of men.
The initials JHS stands for Jesus Christ Savior of Mankind.
From the Top:
The pediment of shows the Triumphant Church which is Heaven. It also shows
The Holy Spirit, the Gift of Grace.
The 4th Row tells the story of Christ Saviour of the World.
The 3th Row shows the Assumption of Mary, the new Eve, Theotocus and Mediatrix.
The 2nd row tells the story of the Militant Church on Earth and the Glory of
Saints of the Jesuits.
Finally the lowest floor tells about this building which is a gate to the house
and the citadel of God.
St Paul College was destroyed by a fire 1835.
Resisting calls for the dangerously leaning structure to be demolished, from 1990 to 1995 the ruins were excavated under the auspices of the Instituto Cultural de Macau to study its historic past.
The crypt and the foundations were uncovered, revealing the architectural plan of the building. Numerous religious artifacts were also found together with the relics of the Japanese Christian martyrs and the monastic clergy, including the founder of the Jesuit college in Macau, Father Alessandro Valignano.
The ruins were restored by the Macanese government into a museum, and the facade is now buttressed with concrete and steel in a way which preserves the aesthetic integrity of the facade.
A steel stairway allows tourists to climb up to the top of the facade from the rear. It is customary to throw coins into the top window of the ruins from the stairs, for luck.
St Paul Ruins viewed from the Na Tcha Temple