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September 10, 2008

The skull in the Holy House of Mercy

One of the landmarks in Macau's Senado Square is the Holy House of Mercy. (Not to be confused with one of our favourite bands, The Sisters Of Mercy)


We've never paid it much attention, and even when I spotted that there was a museum around the back, we had no burning desire to see it. Until, of course, I found out that the skull of the founding Bishop was on display there! Well, you know us, whether it is an ossuary in the Czech Republic, a severed hand in Budapest or mummified monks in Rome, we can never resist the public display of holy bones and body parts.

You enter the Holy House of Mercy around the side through the Travessa Da Miseriacórdia, and pay at the top of a set of stairs. The first room includes a display of old religious paraphernalia, but it is the main room which features the skull. The room is set out like a board-room, with the main table roped off, and underneath a portrait of the original owner sits the skull of Bishop Belchior Carneiro.


He was the first Bishop of Macau and in 1569 he founded the Holy House of Mercy to take in waifs, strays and fallen women.


I took a couple of pictures of the skull, and the museum guard came rushing in. I thought he was going to tell me off for using the camera, but instead he threw wide open the doors to the balcony and said in very broken English "Pictures! Pictures!" and practically pushed me outside.

The balcony itself was beautifully decorated and laid out, but the main thing was that it commanded an excellent view down upon Senado Square, and was probably the best location on Macau to get photos of this central space.



At the foot of the stairs there was a statue of the Bishop. Whether it was actually modeled on the skull or not wasn't mentioned...


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