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When speaking of St. Miguel’s Cemetery, not a lot of people might know about such place. However, after recalling the name “The old cemetery”, majority locals would then know about the spot right away. The name “St Michael” came from one of the archangels named Michael (Portuguese translation: St Miguel Arcanjo). According to the Catholic bible that recorded, Archangel Michael were in charge to fight against the devil, and saves the souls of the dead; The deceased family members also hoped the angel can escort the ancestors without interrupting the devil, successfully escorted them to heavens. Thus, lots of other catholic cemeteries also owned same angelic saint name callings.

History of Arcanjo Cemetery

Due to the limited space in ​​Macau, and yet, till the nineteenth century, Macau did not have a unified centralised management of cemeteries. No matter if that classified as Chinese or Western cemeteries, they were all scattered and placed at the same spot; They also built cemeteries at closeby Montanha Russa and and Mongha. Though they already built several old-style cemeteries back in those years already; The assigned space has quickly reached its saturation point; Plus there were no specific regulations about the depth requirement on burial of the remains; thus the hygiene condition was severely poor.

Thus, the Macau-Portuguese government built the old western cemetery and the Saint Michael’s chapel, with burials and ashes scattered and laid on the side. As the population of Macau continued to grow and expand, the old western cemetery space already reached an extreme saturation point. Therefore in the 1950s, the Macau-Portuguese government thus built the Mongha cemetery; which now called “New Western Cemetery” from Macau.; and where now, the current “New” and “Old” Western cemeteries co-exists.

Historical value of carvings and tombstones

The cemetery were divided into nineteen sections; where the pathway all started from the entrance, guiding through each isle set on the side, intersects in the middle. Having all graveyards that buried close to the entrance, majority werer buried from the 18th centuries; Though most tombstones all scattered and face towards other scattering directions; Majority somehow, still viewed in a visualised order. Most of the tombstones and sculptures themed with special crosses and angels setups; which too, lots of memorial and famous celebrities were put rest in peace in this cemetery, which include; The Fernandes family, The Portuguese poet Camilo Pessanha’s family, Qing Dynasty doctor Lu Helong and his wife stayed permanent there.

Accountable from the perspectives of cultural and appreciation viewpoints; There are large number of tombstones and monuments from the 19-20th centuries, that all worth a visit; particularly its various forms and historical mark-proofs; which include and represent faith, hope, love and angelic forms, along with other decorations; as well as other tombs that combined with Chinese and Western style designs.

Though this cemetery accountable as an Catholic sacred blessing place; a large number of citizens tended to go worship each year, particularly on two core Chinese festivals; The Ching Ming and Chongyang Festival. There’s also a memorable festive holiday happening in November; where Macau government organised a mass in St Miguel chapel every year; intended to commemorate various public officials who died in Macau. Even till now, other various religious funeral ceremonies and commemorative activities have previously held in this cemetery too. That’s not purely focusing for the sake of utilising this main venue for religious and cultural exchanges; but it is also a place where the Chinese and Western customs are witnessed.

Arcanjo Cemetery Architectural design

There’s large number of rare distinct plantations grew along the pathway; where it also guide all the way to an absolute unique, magnificent views on the hillside; The chapel uses the Gothic architectural design concepts; though is relatively small in size, it precisely matches the overall architectural design, along with the cemetery structures.

The cemetery corresponded to rows of Portuguese-style buildings around the neighboring Avenida do Conselheiro Ferreira and Tap Sek Square; becoming a more corresponding, witnessing the overall historical landscapes located at the outer area in central Macau. That not only attract tourists, but local citizens can also spend some time visiting this place too; which from cultural, historal, and local community knowledge improvement wise, topping up some value-adding experience.

Angela Fung