The first thing visitors notice is the beautifully decorated tombstones that combine both European and Chinese motifs at the Cemetery of St. Michael. This alone gives such a discrete example of Macau’s cultural diversity. The entire cemetery is surrounded by some of the finest stone carvings of angels and flowers with majority of the headstones featuring photographic portraits of the deceased. Every big and small tombstone is embellished in its own unique way.
The cemetery is located along a small and quiet street between Ruins of St. Paul and Guia Hill. It’s apparently the largest Catholic cemetery in Macau. Some argue that the cemetery was constructed fairly recently considering that Macau’s Catholicism dates back several centuries ago. Even so, the surrounding graveyard makes up for its lack of heritage with some of the most impressive graves. Today, the cemetery already seems to be running out of space for further plots as a mixture of both departed Portuguese and Chinese names fill up the cemetery.
With pastel green and white walls and finely decorated stained glass windows, a small chapel adorns St. Michael’s cemetery. Built in 1875, the chapel can be found right smack in the center of the cemetery. Some say that the church is reminiscent of the Rosary Church found in Tsim Sha Tsui in Hong Kong. Its well-maintained stained glass windows filter in the bright daylight of Macau that also adds color to the dark and cool interiors of the chapel.
St. Michael is one of the principal angels. His name was the war cry of the good angels when they fought in heaven against enemies. The name St. Michael was mentioned four times in the Catholic Bible. According to Scriptural passages, St. Michael has four duties. One is to fight against Satan. Two is to rescue the souls of the faithful from the power of the enemy especially during the hour of death. Three is to be the champion of God’s people such as the Jews in the Old law and the Christians in the New Testament. This means that St. Michael was also patron of the Church and of the order of knights during the Middle Ages. Finally, his duty was to call away and bring men’s souls from earth to judgment.
After visiting St. Michael’s cemetery, visitors can walk about two minutes down the Estrada do Cemiterio to a huge cobblestone-paved square where spectacular 1920s neo-classical buildings and structures can be found. One of the beautifully restored buildings is the Tap Seac Gallery which displays various art exhibitions as it vows to promote local artists. The gallery which also showcases art from aboard is open daily from 10 in the morning until 7 at night. No entrance fee is required.
Although Hong Kong has its own version of St. Michael’s Catholic Cemetery located in Happy Valley, the cemetery of St. Michael along with its adorned chapel cannot be belittled due its massive size and beautifully sculptured tombstones. It’s indeed a great place for Macau people to visit their departed loved ones.