Inside St Joseph’s Church

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A stained glass window to the right of the church’s main entranceway depicting the baptism of Jesus by Apostle John, with an angel overlooking the sight.

After my previous discovery of St Joseph’s Church, I yearned to be able to have a glimpse of the inside. At the same time, there was something impressively ornate about the building that almost deterred me from going in – a sense, I’d say, that I might be intruding on something sacred. But on a rainy Thursday I found myself standing outside a side door left ajar that led into the main sanctuary. I carefully shook my umbrella dry on the steps outside (I was too afraid of accidentally dirtying the floor), and walked in.

Immediately, I found myself swallowed by a vast quiet. The rain that had gotten onto my bag and clothes suddenly seemed immaterial, and I was seized by a burst of awe. Stretching before me were rows of pews of deep, dark polished wood that culminated in a massive alcove at the front of the hall, from which gazed the likenesses of various saints from within altars or the fronts of stained-glass windows. There were no services or Mass at the time I arrived, but instead quiet human activity bubbled from a group of church members putting up wreaths next to the windows. A solitary man knelt before a small golden side altar, silently crossing himself. Gingerly, I walked down the length of hall, fearful to touch anything or to go too near the icons of the Virgin Mary nearer the front. Though dark rain clouds were gathering outside the church, the area felt suffused with a regal levity. Perhaps it was the tall domed ceiling, or the flowing intricate architecture adorning the windows, or the images of saints that appeared to peer down on worshippers from their perches in nooks set within the pillars. In spite of myself, I felt a massive sense of reverence.

Later that day I was warned by a gruff caretaker not to ‘take too many photos’, and my own timidity has also made me refrain from taking as many as I’d normally have liked. Part of me was bursting with questions – about the architecture, the history of the church, and the people that still fill its halls now and then. But the dignity of the building arrested me; a dignity untarnished by its location just a stone’s throw away from a cluster of bustling shopping malls. For now, I will be content to sit and look around me, breathing in the dust of history and enjoying its quiet nobility.

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A section from a marble plaque containing the names of successive Bishops of Macau. The church had been established by the Portugese Mission two centuries ago, and continues to maintain its historic ties with the local Portugese Eurasian community.

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The right wall of the inner sancutary. Hanging over the embroidered red wall hangings are framed engravings of various scenes from the New Testament.

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A close-up of one of the engravings, depicting the moment when Jesus was forced to carry his own cross to the execution grounds.

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The stained-glass designs overlooking the entranceway from which I came.

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A close-up of the floor tiles.

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Another marble plaque, in Portugese, commemorating the priests behind the church’s early construction.

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A close-up of the top of a wall pillar.

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The front of the sanctuary.

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