A guide to St Lazarus

By Jonathan Evans
Photography: Amy Wong

Though it’s the smallest of the five parishes in peninsular Macau, at just a quarter of a square mile in area, St Lazarus arguably holds the most complete and alluring collection of buildings and streetscapes within its boundaries – and is all the better for being located somewhat off the beaten track, away from the tourist droves that routinely populate more central hubs such as Senado Square. Known for its cobblestone streets with swirling designs and mosaics, and colonial-style buildings, St Lazarus is a favourite location for artists and designs, with its multitude of gems rewarding repeat exploration. Slap-bang in the middle of the peninsula, the abundance of historically interesting structures here – traditionally one of Macau’s more affluent areas ­– sets it far apart from the busier but more earthy neighbourhoods that surround it.

Photography: St Lazarus

One third of the overall area of St Lazarus is taken up by Guia Hill, the highest point in the city, which together with its fortress, chapel and lighthouse makes up the only component of the Unesco World Heritage-listed Historic Centre of Macau that’s removed from the central Zone 1. The complex has dominated the area since the construction of the fortress and chapel in the early 17th century, which the Portuguese used to gain a vantage point over invaders and to defend against naval attacks. The lighthouse, the first Western-style beacon in East Asia, was added much later in the mid-1860s, and at 108 metres is the tallest such structure in Macau by a wide margin. The summit of the hill, complete with some of the best views in the city, is also accessible by cable car from the gate of Flora Garden.

Photography: Guia Hill

It’s to the west of Guia Hill that some of St Lazarus’ most cherished sites are clustered. There’s no better place to begin your tour of the area than the bustling Tap Seac Square, the largest public space in the whole of Macau, which stands on the site of a former football ground, but was reconfigured into a huge square bedecked with flowerbeds and ornate paving in 2007 by Macanese architects Carlos Marreiros and José Maneiras. The plaza is surrounded by a range of civic buildings including the Cultural Affairs Bureau, two public libraries and the striking Tap Seac Gallery, an unmissable construction with a vivid yellow-and-red façade. Though there’s always some kind of activity happening here, one of the best times to visit is during festivals such as Chinese New Year, when revellers take over the space in colourful style.

Photography: (Top) Tap Seac Gallery, (Bottom) St Lazarus Church

West of the square, and south of the St Michael the Archangel Cemetery, Albergue SCM (Santa Casa da Misericordia) is one of Macau’s most photogenic spots – a beautiful, tranquil courtyard distinguished by two camphor trees and two yellow 19th-century Portuguese buildings around its perimeter. The area once housed the elderly and poor, but is now devoted to artistic performances and exhibitions. Another essential landmark just south of the cemetery is St Lazarus Church, one of the oldest religious buildings in the city, which has stood on the site since the mid-1500s. Though it’s not the most spectacular church in the city, with its somber grey colouring, it holds considerable historical importance as it was once used to house leprosy patients, and was also the first centre in Macau where local Chinese were converted to Catholicism. While you’re in the area, make time for Tai Fung Tong Art House, a short stroll south of the church, a mansion built in 1910 that combines eastern and western architectural styles, and is used to promote traditional Chinese arts.

Photography: (Top) Albergue SCM, (Bottom) Fung Tong Art House

Three blocks south-east of the church, Vasco de Gama Garden is another example of the attractive way the St Lazarus parish combines open public space with municipal buildings. Dedicated to the eponymous Portuguese explorer, a statue of whom has stood in the garden since 1911, the green lung also holds a lake and a fountain, and dates back to the Portuguese colonial era. But the more prominent horticultural spot in the parish is Lou Lim Ieoc Garden, further north beyond Tap Seac, which takes a very different inspiration for its style – it’s modelled on the famous classical garden in Suzhou, eastern China, and features many of the same design characteristics such as bamboo groves, a pond straddled by a zigzagging bridge and a pavilion. The garden is named after the son of a wealthy Chinese industrialist who originally built the sanctuary in 1906.

Photography:Lou Lim Teoc Garden

A short walk east of the garden, Sun Yat Sen Memorial House commemorates the short sojourn of the celebrated Chinese nationalist in Macau, in the home where his relatives also stayed thereafter. Built in 1912, by which time it was occupied by his wife, the revolutionary leader used the three-storey house as a base to explore Lou Lim Ieoc Garden – formerly named the Spring Herb Hall – and to visit nearby southern Chinese destinations including Hong Kong. After Sun Yat Sen died in 1925, the house was rebuilt in 1933, and now acts as a museum showcasing his books, letters and photographs, as well as newspapers documenting his activities.

Photography: Sun Yat Sen Memorial House

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