Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Little Chapel, Rich History

Morrison Chapel is located next to Casa Garden with the cemetery in the back
Today I went to Macau for the day and at lunch a friend there suggested that I check out what is known on the tourist map as the Protestant Cemetery, but it is also called "the Morrison Chapel".

I got a taxi and said the name of the place wrong in Chinese -- it is nicknamed "white dove nest garden" in Chinese (bak gup chau goong yuen) and the taxi driver chided me for pronouncing it wrong. I said I didn't read much Chinese and then let the matter rest.

Inside are historical photos on the walls
He said tourists hardly ever go there -- and in fact I was his first customer to request to go there. He added tourists don't know about this place and I explained that my friend said I should go there.

We passed St Paul's Ruins and went further up the hill to reach this church that is right next to Casa Garden. He warned it would be difficult to catch a cab back down and as soon as I got out, a couple jumped right in.

The area is called white dove nest because at dusk there would be droves of white doves in the sky in this area.

The chapel is very small and simple but airy and kept well. What's also interesting about it is that as part of the British East India Company or EIC, it was stipulated that the chaplain had to come from England to minister to the employees' spiritual needs, and the person had to be approved by the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Bishop of London.

At the back is a small cemetery of various shapes and sizes
However during World War II, no chaplain was sent out from England and so Deaconess Florence Li Tim-oi from Hong Kong stepped up to the plate to become the first woman priest in the Anglican communion.

The chapel is named after Robert Morrison (1782-1834) who was the first Protestant missionary in China and completed the first translation of the Bible into Chinese. He also wrote the first Chinese to English dictionary.

After his wife died, Morrison was employed by the British East India Company, and he asked the company to acquire land from the government to use as a burial ground because at the time Protestants were not allowed to be buried within Macau's Roman Catholic city walls.

The headstones tell short stories of lives lived
Morrison himself is buried here, though during a quick visit to the cemetery grounds I could not spot him, though I did find a large tribute to British artist George Chinnery who lived in Macau for 20 years and painted landscapes and portraits. The Chinnery Bar in the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong is also named after him.

Then there are a number of headstones marking the deaths of many seamen, particularly from Philadelphia and New York from the 1800s. One wonders how they decided to go to Macau and then died either by sickness or accident...

It's so interesting how such a small chapel has such a rich history!

The large tribute to artist George Chinnery
If you want to go there, either take a taxi or you can take the No. 17 bus that starts from the Macau Cultural Centre and passes by Guia Fortress along the way and the chapel, located right next to Casa Garden is the bus terminus. The bus fare is MOP3.20.


  1. Interesting stuff. I'll be sure to pay a visit next time I'm in Macau!

    1. Hi littlekoo -- Thanks for reading! Hope you do get to venture out there!