The Ruins and Crypts: St. Paul in Macao

Macao was turning into a revelation. And that was even before I saw the ruins!

After a day spent exploring Portuguese architecture, Eiffel tower, and Venetian canals, I was determined to see more things in the historic center of Macau. (Also spelt Macao, and I think I keep alternating between the two!)

In 2005, UNESCO declared the historic centre of Macau as the 31st designated historic site of China. And with good reason too. Because it represented a unique marriage between the Chinese and Portuguese cultures. The historic center of Macau itself refers to nearly 20 sites spread around the center of the Macau peninsula. Notable ones include the St. Lawrence church, St. Dominic’s church and square, the Guia fortress and the Monte Forte (mount fortress). And adjacent to the Monte Forte was the most impressive of them all.

The Ruins of St. Paul. Yeah, that’s where I am headed today.

hotel royal macau breakfast

First stop: Breakfast at the hotel royal Macau, for an awesome view


The good thing was, it was a short walk from my hotel. And I stopped in the middle of that short walk for a breakfast with an awesome view at the Hotel Royal Macau. And then continued walking, past the Capela de S. Miguel and finally the vastly spread Monte Forte. I think, we might have taken a wrong turn somewhere, because I ended up in the Rue de Sao Paolo, before making a turn back to the Ruins of St. Paul. But that turned out to be a beautiful mistake. The Rue de Sao Paolo was a delectable mix of Chinese street vendors, high-end watch shops, and every kind of food delicacy imaginable. And one of those places where there was some shade to give respite from the harsh sun.

And as I exited the Rue de Sao Paolo, I was face-to-face with what I was sure was a set out of the last game of thrones season!

Rue de sao paolo

Those clothes forming a roof at the Rue De Sao Paolo, were a good respite from the harsh Macau sun.

The ruins of St. Paul

Ruins of St. Paul

Finally! The ruins of St. Paul! Wait, was this where they filmed the Great sept of Baelor in Game of thrones?

Spoiler Alert:  Well, this may look like the Sept of Baelor. But actually, the Sept scenes in Game of Thrones were shot at Girona cathedral. I did visit there also recently and will be blogging about it soon. Watch out on my Spain archives or on my facebook!


I am one of the many who have been calling this ‘Ruins of the St. Paul Cathedral’. Well, short story short, this has never been a cathedral. What it is, is a 17th century complex which included the St. Paul’s college and the church of St. Paul. What remains now, is the southern facade of the ruins. And the 68 steps that one needs to climb up to get there.

The Macanese government did a great job of restoring the ruins and converting them into the tourist attraction it currently is. This included better pathways from Monte Fort leading up to the ruins, and a steel stairway at the back of the ruins which allowed you climb up to the rear. There were even a few statues and artifacts in the Senado square which formed the base of the Ruins complex. The most interesting was what appeared to be a really romantic scene, just a few steps away from the entrance of the ruins.

Senado square macau

The crowded Senado square which leads into the Ruins of St. Paul

Portugal china friendship statue at senado square

This is not what you think it is!


This statue was erected a little before the Portuguese left Macau, and depicts an innocent Chinese girl giving a lotus to a young Portuguese man. Lotus is not only a symbol of purity, but it is also the floral emblem of Macau. In fact, the lotus even adorns the flag of Macau.

I couldn’t help but laugh at the symbolism. If this naive girl had known that the Portuguese would not leave for another 400 years, I am sure that the lotus would not be what she had given!

Click to Read more: You now know about the ruins of Macao. But have you read about the Ruins of Talisay in Philippines? Often called the Taj Mahal of Philippines, check out this amazing structure here!

Inside the museum of Sacred Art and Crypt

I was under the impression that the Ruins of St. Paul was a singular, large facade. So, Imagine my surprise when I walked up the 68 steps and found out that there was also a crypt under the ruins.

Entrance to st. paul crypt

Entrance to the crypt of St. Paul


The original crypts belonged to the Jesuits who established the church of St. Paul. During the Macanese excavations done at the ruins from 1990 to 1996, the government decided to convert the crypt into an entire museum. And the museum of sacred Art and Crypt was officially opened in 1996.

Practical information:

Hours of operation: 9 AM to 6 PM everyday. Closure at 2 PM on Tuesday.

Admission costs: Free

To be frank, the museum wasn’t much. But then, this was a free thing to do and I had nothing to complain. In the center of the crypt is a granite rock which is believed to the be the tomb of the Founder of St. Paul’s college, Father Alexander Valignano. And adjacent to the crypt is the museum itself, housing the relics of Japanese martyrs, historical items, and some paintings. One of the paintings of Archangel Michael is highlighted as the only painting that survived a fire in 1835. All other artifacts are collected from different churches spread out across Macau.


All in all, the exterior of the Ruins were much more impressive than I had imagined. But the interior was much less impressive than I had imagined. Well, I guess you win some and lose some.


tomb at st. paul ruins crypt

The tomb at the crypt of the ruins of st. paul


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About Abhi Surendran

Abhi quit his corporate job, and decided to immerse himself in travels, photography, occasional periods of bankruptcy, and copious amounts of insanity. He is currently working on a book of his experiences, and a dream road trip through South Asia. Both in a haphazard fashion. He blogs at Iamnothome and you can also catch him at times on Facebook and twitter.

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