The Guia Fortress, also known as the Fortaleza da Guia, is a trapezoid-shaped complex with a military fortress, a chapel and a lighthouse. All historical landmarks were known to be constructed sometime between 1622 and 1638. The reason for its construction was to defend the city against attacks from the sea most especially the Netherlands as it wanted to take over Macau from Portugal. The fortress’ stable position that overlooks the entire city gave it its chief value as an observation post, which made any attempt or attack rather unsuccessful.
The fortress was built on the Guia Hill, which is the highest point of Macau and was named after its same location. It originally contained barracks, the commander’s house and ammunition and other equipment stores. The lighthouse was the first lighthouse built inspired by western-style architecture along the China Coast and East Asia, which also stands as the fort’s most prominent feature. The city of Macau takes its prime coordinates from the precise location of the lighthouse. The lighthouse stands at 91 meters tall and has a light visible for about 20 miles in distance with clear weather conditions. The light transmitter can be reached through a spiral flight of stairs inside the lighthouse. At its top is a circular observation deck where the same lantern that they used is installed. Although access is usually not allowed up the tower, the Macau Port Authority occasionally opens it to the public during special events or celebrations. From this viewpoint, the entire Macau peninsula and the Historic Centre of Macau can be seen.
Inside the fortress is also the Guia Chapel, which was built in 1622 by Clarist nuns. The nuns already resided at the site even before the establishment of the Convent of St. Clare. Just a few years ago, frescoes were found inside the chapel during maintenance and conservation work. The same elaborate frescoes and intricate walls that depict both western and Chinese themes can be seen at the Guia Chapel along with a figure of the Virgin Mary. Religious and mythological motifs of the chapel then provide a great example of Macau’s multicultural dimension.
Today, a nearby post to the Guia Fort can be seen that signals warnings to the Macau people of an impending typhoon. In earlier times, the bell-tower of the chapel was used to announce such storm warnings.
Visitors can reach the Guia Hill by taking a cab or a short cable car ride from the entrance of the Flora Garden. At the end of the cable car ride stands the Guia Fort while four underground tunnels serve as air raid shutters extending in all directions. The longest tunnel is measured at 456 meters while the shortest is at 47 meters. The Guia Fort is only open to the public on designated days so make sure to ask around beforehand when planning to visit the fortress.
The Guia Fortress, along with the Guia Chapel and Guia Lighthouse is one of the sites included in the list of the Historic Centers of Macau. All three landmarks are symbols of Macau’s maritime, missionary and military past, which makes Guia an exceptional site to look forward to when in Macau.