Macau (South)+ Back

When the Portuguese founded Macau around 1557, some of the first buildings that went up were churches.  There was hardly a street that didn’t have one, and some of them have even survived to the present day. 

Macau's churches are largely European baroque in style, but tropical and Oriental features also exist, most notably the Chinese style tiled roofs and Eastern themes on some of the facades.

There are currently 19 churches in the city, with 9 of them receiving special UNESCO World Heritage distinction.  (See them here: World Heritage.) 

The rest are listed below and in the following two pages: Macau Northern Churches and Taipa and Coloane Churches.

Chapel of Saint James

(Pousada de Sao Tiago)

This small chapel was built inside Barra Fort in 1740.  St James was the military protector of Macau, and he would often go on long patrols around the city, sometimes getting his boots dirty.  Soldiers were then assigned the task of washing the boots on the statue daily.  One time, after a lazy soldier forgot to do it, he received a blow to the head from the statue’s sword.


exterior of St James Chapel in Macau St James Chapel with wooden doors open statue of St James inside the St James Chapel in Macau 


St James Chapel is located in the Pousada de Santiago, one of Macau's most well appointed hotels.  For details of my stay there, please follow the link to Trip Report II.




St. Lazarus Church

(St. Lazarus District)


exterior of St Lazarus Church in Macau interior of St Lazarus Church in Macau facing the altar 

This site was the original home of the Hermitage of Our Lady of Hope, which was established to help and serve lepers in 1570.  In 1885 the Hermitage was rebuilt into the Church you see today.


majestic main altar at St Lazarus Church in Macau Joseph holds baby Jesus at St Lazarus Church in Macau Virgin Mary holds baby Jesus inside St Lazarus Church in Macau the interior of St Lazarus Church in Macau facing the doors


Opening Hours: 8:30 am to 12:00 pm & 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm 

Penha Church

(Penha Hill)


I’ve always conceived of Penha Church as the guardian of Macau, as its sits on stately Barra Hill, overlooking the Praia Grande.  It was built off the donation made by the crew of the S. Barhollemeu, a trading vessel that narrowly avoided Dutch capture in 1620.  While en route to Japan, they found themselves in hostile waters, outnumbered 4 to 1 by enemy ships intent on seizing it and all of the silk in her hold.  At this moment of truth, the 17 crew members decided they needed divine intervention from Our Lady of Penha de France, and if she were to save them, they would donate 1% of the earnings from the trading mission and build a Church in her name once they returned to Macau. 


exterior of Penha Church grand staircase outside of Penha Church


(I always find that hilarious.  Facing sure ruin if not certain death, they found it in their hearts to cut Our Lady of Penha in for 1 percent.  One freaking percent!!  Always the businessmen, always the bottom line!!)  Anyway, the good Lady liked the deal a lot better that I do, and she helped them evade the Dutch envoy and make it to safe waters.  Penha Church was completed in 1622, and it became the custom of Portuguese sailors to visit it before and after dangerous journeys. 


main wooden altar at Penha Church in Macau priest praying in the pews in Penha Church


The current construction of the Church dates back to 1935.  Every year on May 17, the Our Lady of Fatima Procession concludes at Cathedral.

Opening Hours: 10:00 am to 5:00 pm  

Church Locations



For more churches, please follow the link!  Northern Macau Churches