December 15, 2004
Just like its ecclesiastical neighbor, the fort was constructed by the Jesuits between 1617 and 1626. It served as part of the College of the Mother of God, considered the first Western university established in Asia. For a time the residence of the governor of Macau was located here. As with seemingly every major monument in Macau, the Monte Fort also suffered through the disastrous fire of 1835 that wiped out most of its buildings. Between 1965 and 1996 the fortress was utilized as an observatory.
Since this was the main military facility of Macau, the arsenal, barracks, and storehouses were solidly constructed with the ambitious goal of being able to withstand a siege for up to two years. The northwest and southwest walls, which face towards China, do not have any battlements. Historians theorize that the fortress was intended to thwart off only attacks from the sea. The fort faced merely one invasion over the years, by the Dutch in 1622. The cannons, currently all romantically positioned as if to face off the invaders of today, were fired only during this unsuccessful Dutch charge. It is always amusing to see cannons aiming at modern landmarks like the Macau Tower or the casinos.
There is allegedly an escalator to the top of the fort just east of the St. Paul Ruins, but instead I climbed up a moderately steep path to get there. The reward is splendid panoramic views of Macau and neighboring China. Walk around and enjoy its atmospheric aspects from various angles. There is a safety line demarcating the outer walls, so if you step over this or sit perilously close to it, a security officer will blow a shrill cautionary whistle in your direction. It is quite pleasant up here, so falling over the edge will certainly be a detriment to your enjoyment of this urban park.
The Museum of Macau is a large horizontal building that sits atop the plateau. Opened in 1998, its three levels of displays depict the early days of Macau, religious traditions, and popular local arts. Notable exhibits include a colonial Portuguese house and a summarization of the fisherman lifestyle. Contemporary trends are also covered in this museum. Locals may find this to be more of a destination than foreign visitors, but if you have the time and a few patacas this interactive institution may be worth a visit. If nothing else, a rest by the reflecting pool is a cool idea. The Museum of Macau is closed on Mondays.
From journal Bill in China - MACAU