top of page

Who are the 25/F Pastelaria’s famous Portuguese?

By Anthony Correa

Who are the Pastelaria’s famous Portuguese?

Members will notice that there are three pioneering Portuguese featured the clubhouse’s lift lobby of the 25/F. Why are they so important to the Macanese?

Vasco da Gama, Portuguese Explorer who opened the India sea route, 1460-1524

Vasco da Gama became a household name during the Age of Discovery as the first European to discover the sea route to India when he arrived in Calicut, Kerala on 20 May 1498.

His first journey to India was with four ships, two large carracks the São Gabriel and the São Rafael (captained by his brother Paulo da Gama), a smaller caravel São Miguel (nicknamed Berrio) and a storage ship, took nearly 10 months to reach India. (prints of these ships can be viewed by members on the 26th Floor)

Their voyage was a treacherous one, traversing down the West Coast of Africa, via Tenerife, Cape Verde, then around the Cape of Good Hope (discovered by Bartolomeu Diaz in 1487), then through hostile Arab controlled East Coast of Africa, via Mozambique and Kenya, before catching the trade winds to cross the Indian Ocean.

He stayed for just over 3 months in India, departing Calicut on 29 August 1498 and taking a year to return to Lisbon, primarily due to a poor understanding of the monsoon winds of the Indian Ocean. His brother Paulo and half his crew died on the return voyage and those Portuguese that survived suffered greatly from scurvy.

He returned to Lisbon a hero and even though only two of his four ships returned, the spices they carried demonstrated the great commercial profits available in this newly discovered sea route.

He returned to India twice more. His second voyage in 1502 was an unsuccessful mission to secure the Arab trade routes in India and sign a treaty with the Zamorin of Calicult, to secure a Portuguese trade monopoly in India. His third trip was in 1524 when he was appointed the second Viceroy of India (after Francisco de Almeida). He died of malaria shortly after arriving back in Cochin, India, on Christmas Eve 1524.

In the following 40 years from their India fortresses around Cochin, Goa, & Diu, the Portuguese explorers that followed Vasco de Gama, moved steadily southwards to Ceylon,

eastwards to Burma, Siam and Malacca and then northwards to Indochina, the China coast, Korea and Japan.

The name Vasco da Gama is synonymous with the Age of Discovery and in many ways he is the father of the Portuguese empire in Asia.

Jorge Álvares, First European to travel to China by sea, Unknown – 1521

Jorge Álvares was one of the many explorers who followed Vasco de Gama to India in the early 16th Century.

He first travelled from India via the Burmese coast to Malacca in 1513. It is believed he then travelled with two other Portuguese in a fleet of five Chinese junks from Malacca via Indochina to Canton. There he agreed to pay rent to the Ming dynasty in exchange for rights to establish a trading settlement for foreigners in the Pearl River.

In May 1513, with permission from Canton, Jorge Álvares established a settlement in what is described in Portuguese as the “island” of Tamão or in Chinese 屯, what is literally translated as “Tuen Mun”, in modern day Hong Kong. The Portuguese raised a stone padrão or monument that was used by its explorers in the 16th Century to record landfalls, thereby claiming Tamão as a possession for the King of Portugal.

Given the Portuguese description of their settlement as an island there is some confusion on whether 16th Century Tamão actually might have been Lantau Island or Lintin Island opposite Castle Peak, Hong Kong not modern day Tuen Mun.

In 1517, another Portuguese explorer Fernão Pires de Andrade was allowed to travel to Peking and was positively received by the Ming Court. However, Portuguese-China relations soured in 1519, when Fernão Pires de Andrade’s brother Simão de Andrade fortified the Tamão settlement and committed a number of atrocities in the Pearl River delta. After the Zhengde Emperor passed away in April 1521, the new Ming emperor took a dim view of the Portuguese activities on the China coast and ordered the Ming dynasty navy to immediately expel them.

The Portuguese were unable re-establish a foothold on the China coast until 1557 when the Ming court agreed to the establishment of a permanent trade base in Macau.

Jorge Álvares died in the Tamão settlement he founded in 1521, what is now modern day Hong Kong. He is credited as the first European to reach the China coast by sea.

St Francis Xavier, Pioneering Jesuit Missionary, 1506-1552

The history of the Portuguese in the Far East cannot be separated from the missionary activities of the Catholic Church and the Jesuits.

In 1534, St Francis Xavier took an oath of poverty and chastity, commencing his studies for the priesthood. He was ordained in 1537. He joined Ignatius Loyola as a Jesuit in 1540 one year after the formation of the Society of Jesus, then travelled to Lisbon where he was summoned by the King and Queen of Portugal. He decided there to devote his life to missionary work in the Portuguese empire in Far East.

In April 1541 he departed Lisbon with the new Portuguese

Viceroy Martim Afonso de Sousa. Francis was tasked by the King to spread Christian values in Portuguese India, arriving in Goa in May 1542. There he founded the Jesuit headquarters in Goa at St Paul College’s, a seminary for priests. In the following 3 years he established 40 churches on the southern coast of India converting thousands of Christians.

He moved to Malacca in 1545 then departed for the Malaku Islands in Indonesia in 1546, visiting the spice islands of Ambon, Ternate, Baranura and Morotai over a 15 month period of travel before returning to Malacca in April 1547.

Upon his return to Malacca he met a Japanese man and converted him to become the first Japanese Christian. After returning to Goa to attend to his duties as superior at the seminary, he decided to travel to Japan with his convert and two other Jesuits in 1549. The Portuguese had only arrived in the southern islands of Japan in 1543 and Francis Xavier had a difficult time preaching without knowledge of the local language and culture. However, persevered and spend the next two years preaching there as the first Jesuit missionary in Japan.

He returned to Goa briefly in January 1552, then decided to go to China in April 1552. He arrived at Shangchuan Island, Taishan, Gunagdong Province (上川岛) or São João (St John) island in Portuguese in August 1552. He waited there for three months for a boat to take him to the mainland so he could commence his China missionary work, before dying of fever on 3 December 1552. His remains were first buried on Shangchuan Island then transferred to Goa where they remain to this day.

A church in his honor remains at the place of his first burial on Shangchuan Island. It was first built in 1869 and restored in 2006 with the assistance of the alumni from the Jesuit Wah Yan College in Hong Kong. It remains a popular local tourist attraction.

A relic of his arm bone is kept at St Joseph’s church, São Lourenço, Macau some 150km to the East of Shangchuan.

St Francis Xavier’s great legacy was as the pioneer of Christianity in the Portuguese Far East, who converted thousands and paved the way for generations of Jesuits and other missionaries that came after him.


bottom of page