Senado Square has been the heart of Macau for centuries and it is home to many of the city’s finest Portuguese buildings. Known as Largo de Senado in Portuguese, the square itself is carpeted Portuguese style with a beautiful spray of black and peach colorued tiles, intricately interlocked in a wave pattern.
Completing the Iberian picture are elegant colonial buildings – once statements of Portuguese power painted in peach and yellow pastels and fitted with grand colonnades and traditional wooden shutters. This could be Lisbon or Sintra.
Ignore the ugly chain shops and fast food joints that have muscled their way into the square and instead nose around several of Macau’s most historic buildings. We’ve picked our favourites below.
Possibly Macau’s most impressive building – certainly in colonial terms if not casino. Since being built in 1784 the Leal Senado has remained almost wholly untouched. Meaning Loyal Senate the title is a little grand for what has been home to Macau’s various legislators –given the historic lack of democracy – senate or parliament is too strong. The title loyal is derived from the “City of Our Name of God Macau. There is none more loyal” in recognition of the city’s loyalty to the Portuguese crown while Portugal was occupied during the Iberian wars.
The neo-classical design is grandly polished yet the white walls and green trimmings combined with Doric columns and simple iron railings make it graceful rather than boastful. Inside is more sumptuous including walls adorned with classic Portuguese azulejo tiling. The Leal Senado still functions as the home of the local government but there is a small art gallery on the ground floor that is open to the public and is set amidst the buildings classical architecture.
Santa Casa de Miscericordia
Known as the Holy House of Mercy, the Santa Casa de Miscericordia was a charity set up in Portugal in the early 15th century. One of the first colonial buildings erected in Hong Kong the Holy House of Mercy was built in 1569 and founded by the Bishop of Macau. Over the years it has operated as a hospital, a refuge for prostitutes and an orphanage.
The arcaded façade is grand statement of the Catholic Church’s once dominant power in the old colony complete with neo classical columns and curved archways. The building continues to operate as a social institution supporting some of Macau’s most disadvantaged groups but there you can also see the interior at its small museum. Dedicated to the history of the building and Macau itself exhibits ranges from Portuguese pottery to the skull of the Bishop who founded the institute in Macau.