Macau….”What do you comprehend by the word history?” That was the first question my teacher asked all students, in my 8th grade. “Is it fact, fiction truth or lies, or all distorted here and there into one, big, jumble puzzle for us to decipher? Be it what it may; you better stick to what is written in your books and get your grades.” he added. But he gave flight to my imagination and I learned that history was interesting One of the most visited symbols of Macau, the Las Vegas of the east, is the ruins of the church of St. Paul. Tourists consider a trip to Macau incomplete unless photographed posing before the only remaining facade of the destruction. My journey to the site was the same reason as the many hundred tourists who ambled through the small, medieval streets around Senado square.
I overheard one mention that the destruction was caused by an accidental fire that from a nearby Jesuit college, converted into a Portuguese army barracks and my visit got more interesting. My rusty mind tried to recollect the history behind the facade of the burnt church.
The church was built by Portuguese, their Jesuit priests and the Christians of Macau who were of many races. All of them had lent their hands in raising this majestic structure to be the finest church in Asia in 1602.
The church according to records was totally destroyed by the fire from the army barracks in 1835. Reaching the ruins I looked up at the facade and was awe struck at the construction. I was given to understand that after the fire the church fell into disrepair, was vandalized and was not reconstructed due to non patronage. It was then that the stones and remnants of the church were used for the construction of local houses.
I could not imagine such a colossal disaster as the only, historical, accidental incident. The church was quite far away from the still standing buildings of the barracks. Pictures of the ruins, some hand drawn, suggested a bridge connecting the barracks and the church. The pictures do not match each other. The facade never looked burnt down. It seemed the fire never got to the church from the front or from the barracks shown in the drawings.
That is part of the joy of travel, to reflect on chronology and to investigate. Ruins have a story to tell, for one to understand. St Paul’s in Macau, is such a place. It will be more interesting, meaningful and memorable when you one day look back at the beautiful pictures with your children or grandchildren or friends to know more of the history.