Monte Fort

Monte Fort

Macao, Macau, China

Military Architecture

Macau’s most important fortification was always the Monte Fort, also called the Grande Forte or Saint Paul’s, which stands at an altitude of 55 metres on a hill overlooking the city. The Jesuits began the first construction on the site. Nowadays the onetime enclosure of the College of the Society of Jesus is confused with what would become the fort proper. The name of the first plan’s author is also controversial: there are strong signs indicating that it was a certain Inácio Moreira, though others say that the original plans were by Father Jerónimo Rho and Francisco Lopes Carrasco, who would be an expert in the art of fortification with prior experience in Portugal’s North African strongholds.
According to documentation referring to Captain Francisco de Mascarenhas, in 1625 the fort had three finished bastions and work was under way on a fourth, which was ready in 1626. One of the curtains also built that year; there was also a powder magazine and ten cannon installed on the platforms. The bastions were built on the initiative and under the administration of the Society of Jesus and cost the royal treasury 40,000 xerafins.
The fort occupies an area of about 2,000 square metres, forming an irregular quadrilateral with four polygonal pointed bastions in the corners, all different according to the terrain, and with 18 heavy artillery pieces available. The side walls narrowed in width until they measured just over three metres; the height was around ten metres. The inner courtyard had four rows of houses, some for commanders and the others for soldiers, as well as a weapons store, powder magazines and munitions placed in the thick walls and cisterns.
With respect to the 18th century and after many decades without information about relevant modifications or construction work, we know that in 1744 a covered way was completed. In 1871 and 1873 some improvements were carried out and the artillery barracks finished; it opened on 1 July of that year. General repairs were also done throughout the interior. The support walls were also strengthened to prevent collapses and the occasion was used to improve the external accesses.
We call attention to the emblematic motif embellishing the main gate, a shield of Portugal held up by two angels who also bear an armillary sphere and a cross of the Order of Christ, innovations of King Filipe III. Over the composition is a bas-relief half-body of the apostle Saint Paul.

Pedro Dias