A Famosa (“Kota a Famosa” or “The Famous”)
A Famosa was a fortress built in Malacca during the Portuguese occupancy. However, upon Dutch invasion and its subsequent hand over to British, its destruction was set. It was almost demolished when Stamford Raffles, founder of Singapore, intervened when he visited Malacca. Thanks to his passion for history, the Porta de Santiago (small gate) remains– from the used to be four major towers.
The fortress is not only popular among tourists, but especially to students who integrate lessons on field. During our visit to the equally interesting Mini-Malaysia (details on separate entry), we noticed a number of gradeschool students, too.
Plenty of steps away from Porta de Santiago is Saint Paul Hill. It was a little tiring to go up, but it was definitely worth the “climb” and breath gasps once you reached the summit.
On top of Saint Paul Hill, you will be rewarded with a refreshing view of Malacca.
I can just imagine that the coastline with the view of Eye of Malaysia is more striking at sunset and night.
Saint Paul Church
Though this Church was named after the same patron saint for Ruins of Saint Paul in Macau, the embedded stories in the existence of Saint Paul Church were more intertwined.
Saint Paul Church is five to ten-minute walk from the summit of the hill.
During the Portuguese occupancy of Malacca, it served as a chapel which was named as “Nosa Senhora” – Our Lady of the Hill. But when the Dutch took over, it was temporarily used as a praying place while the Christ Church (details on preceding post) was under construction. Upon its completion, the church/chapel was renamed into Saint Paul Hill. It is interesting to note that while it is categorically called as Saint Paul Church, a statue of Saint Francis Xavier can be found infront.
(Saint Francis Xavier statue, with a missing right arm, infront of Saint Paul Church. It was not intentionally constructed that way. The completed statue was planned to be consecrated in the morning. However, a tree fell and broke off the statue’s right arm. )
The statue was built in remembrance of Saint Francis Xavier since Saint Paul Church was turned over to the Society of Jesus. St. Francis Xavier, as the pioneer Catholic Missionary that time. We were not able to visit the church dedicated for him, but here is a random snapshot I took while on the road.
Moreover, when Saint Francis Xavier died of fever, he was temporarily buried at an open grave in Saint Paul Church. The possibilities when you are not in a guided tour are you either appreciate things that you see in one place because you have done your research before traveling or the research/googling comes later and you try to connect the information to the photos you took and/or every element you observed. If you happen to be a clueless visitor, you will not have an instant appreciation that you are actually looking at the used to be grave of Saint Francis when you see this:
(Open grave where Saint Francis Xavier was buried for at least 8 months after he died in China)
Currently, the body of St. Francis Xavier is still on display at the Basilica of Bom Jesus in Goa, India. It is preserved in good condition (i.e. placed in a glass container encased in a silver casket since 1637). It is open to the public once every ten years. The right forearm (used to bless and baptize his converts), allegedly, was detached by Pr. Gen. Caludio Acquaviva. It is being displayed in a silver reliquary at the main Jesuit church in Rome. As a personal note, I think that it is an odd coincidence that his statue infront of Saint Paul Church has a missing arm as captioned in one of the photos above.
Not only that the renaming of the church happened upon the completion of Christ Church during Dutch invasion, it was also turned into a burial ground and graveyard. The intention happened even before the death of Saint Francis Xavier. During our visit, we noticed Dutch words engraved on the monumental tombstones like the following:
The bricks mirror the interesting blend of history and culture of Malacca. Much like in the Philippines, how one establishment was born, transformed by invasion – whether figuratively or physically.
Steps away from the hill are the museums of Governor, Literature, History and more. If you are intending to visit Malacca, which is a must, at least two days should be dedicated to cover the antique shops, savour the peranakan dishes, theme park, night zoo, and a lot more. What a small yet charming state of Malaysia.
Next entry: Taman Rama-Rama, Malacca, Malaysia