The Loyal Senate
Macao, Macau, China
Equipment and Infrastructures
Of all the civil buildings in the city of Macau, where there has obviously been an opportunity for a western landmark, the oldest one that has been preserved is undoubtedly the Loyal Senate. The original building was constructed in 1583 and a representation of it can be seen in the Ou Mun Kei Leok, a work dated around 1751. The illustration shows a single-storey building of clearly Chinese appearance, with a porch and standing in a walled enclosure. We are not sure of the trustworthiness of the drawing, as the author, being used to his own architecture, may have adapted forms that were strange to him and given a Chinese appearance to a building with features that were effectively western or, at least, more western.
The growth of Macau and the institution itself, which gained influence and new respect, obliged it to construct a new building in 1784, the project of which was given to Friar Patrício de São José. We know that it was a two-storey building with granite foundations. As is obvious and can be seen today, the building was profoundly altered later. There was initially a chapel in the interior with an altar dedicated to Our Lady of Conception, where the pennant that was raised when João VI was acclaimed king was hung.
The Senate’s attorney requested authorisation from the mandarin Nian-San to reconstruct part of the building in 1816 as it was rather dilapidated, especially the ceilings of some rooms. The renewal work was given to the Macau stonemason Zum-Aham.
New work was done following the destruction caused by the typhoon of 1874, lasting for two years. It was at this time that the facade received the appearance it has today, in a sombre neoclassical style. The facade was once more restored and made more solid in 1939 according to a project by the engineer Valente de Carvalho, who made every effort to change what existed as little as possible. Outstanding in the interior is the beautiful staircase that leads to the interior garden, the noble salon and the library, whose designer intended to evoke the Joanine library at Portugal’s Coimbra University.