By Luciana Leitão

Picture the Saint Paul Ruins without people. Without a single person. Better than that: pass by at nigh time, and look at it almost empty, illuminated by the big and bright moon. They are simply powerful.

These are the ruins of a 17th-century complex in Santo António. It includes what was originally St. Paul’s College and the Church of St. Paul, a 17th-century Portuguese church dedicated to Saint Paul the Apostle. Today, the ruins are one of Macau’s best known landmarks. In 2005, they were officially listed as part of the Historic Centre of Macau, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Saint Paul Ruins are probably the most visited monument of the city and because of that, sometimes the beauty is underrated. I remember arriving in Macau and being toured during nigh time around that part of the city and being impressed by its beauty.

Ten years have gone by since then, and many thousands of tourists have destroyed the idyllic image I had of the most iconic monument of the city. Yet, there are times, there are angles, in which I do recall that initial feeling. Usually at night time and from certain angles. For instance, in the street where Cinematheque Passion is located, you can have a glimpse of the Ruins and it’s superb. You see no one, the illumination is discrete, as it should be, and if you add the moon to the lighting, it is mesmerising.

A couple of years ago, a local director participated in the Macao Indies festival with an original short-feature film shot in the territory. I remember a lot of people criticised one particular moment in the film, in which the main character is showing the favourite spot of the city to the loved one: Saint Paul Ruins.

People complained of lack of imagination. I remember thinking: wasn’t there anything else to show? Yet, now, with distance, and, when I pass by the Ruins, looking at it from different angles and with different lighting, I can understand the option.

Saint Paul Ruins is indeed one of the most beautiful images of the city.