Monday, February 02, 2015

Up on the Hill

On our way up the stairs to the natural vantage point of Melaka known as St. Paul's Hill, I admired the banyan tree. A white statue of St. Francis Xavier greeted us.  Our guide of South Indian descent proudly explained how this Jesuit priest visited Melaka several times and used Melaka as a base for his missionary visits to Japan and China. In 1553, his incorrupt body was temporarily buried here (later that year he was buried in Goa, India). St. Francis Xavier's open grave (covered with a grate) is still present within the church. The statue was erected in 1952 to commemorate the missionary's 400th anniversary of his travels to Melaka.

St. Paul's Church was originally built by the Portuguese in 1521 and was consecrated to the Virgin Mary. The Dutch then used the enlarged church as its main church for 112 years until the iconic Christ Church was completed in 1753. At that time, it was modified and became part of the fortification. Further deterioration occurred when the British took over in 1824, using the structure for powder magazine. 

During excavations by the Melaka Historical society in 1930, Portuguese gravestones from the hill were affixed to the interior walls of the roof-less structure. 

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