The Ruins of St. Paul’s (also known as Sam Ba Sing Tzik) stands adjacent to the famous Mount Fortress and Macau Museum. The front façade and the grand stone staircase are the only remains of the great church.
First constructed in 1580, St. Paul’s Church caught fires in 1595 and 1601. However, reconstruction started in 1602 soon after the church was burnt down. Completed in 1637, the church became the biggest Catholic Church in East Asia at that time. Unfortunately, a violent typhoon hit Macau in 1835 and the church caught fire for the third time leaving its glory a history. According to historical materials, St Paul’s Church, built with white stones, had a grand vaulted roof and three magnificently decorated halls.
Built with granite, Sam Ba Sing Tzik has a baroque facade rich in ornamentation but with classic oriental characteristics. From the bottom up, the structure has five tiers. The first tier is comprised of ten Ionic columns with three entrances. The entrance in the middle has ‘MATER DEI’ carved into it. The two entrances on each side are decorated with bas-reliefs in the pattern of ‘HIS’. The second tier features ten Corinthian columns with three windows. A Catholic saint is enshrined in each of four tabernacles between columns. The two tiers as a whole is said to represent the Society of Jesus and the activities of missionaries.
The remaining three tiers are the most decorated. The statue of Madonna stands in the middle of the third tier, while the statue of Jesus stands on the fourth. The walls are covered with bas-reliefs in various patterns like devils, angels, symbols of crucifixion, a Portuguese sailing ship, etc. The triangular combination of the upper three tiers reflects the Holy Trinity (the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit) as well as the Blessed Virgin Mary. A cross stands at the coping of the wall.
It is worth mentioning that the stone lions at the sides of the third and fourth tiers are distinctively Chinese. There are also bas-reliefs in designs of chrysanthemum and cherry, as well as Chinese inscriptions. The surviving façade has long been acknowledged as a perfect fusion of western and eastern cultures.
The Ruins of St. Paul’s has been restored during 1990 and 1995. The Museum of Sacred Art and Crypt was also built at that time. It has exhibitions of religions artworks including paintings, sculptures and statues.
Macau’s most famous landmark, the Ruins of St. Paul’s was officially listed in 2005 as part of the UNESCO World Heritage site, the Historic Centre of Macau. Restored into a museum, the façade is buttressed from behind, allowing tourists to climb up to the windows to get a closer look at the stone carvings and to enjoy a panoramic view of the city below.
The Museum of Sacred Art and Crypt was built at the bottom of the ruins and houses many religious artifacts including Sino-Portuguese crucifixes, as well as a 17thcentury painting of St. Michael Archangel – the only surviving work from the original college.