Visit a cemetery on your vacation? While that thought may not be the first on your mind, making time to visit the Old Protestant Cemetery in Macau should be considered on your itinerary. The Old Protestant Cemetery was established by the British East India Company in 1821 because there was a lack of burial sites for Protestants in the Catholic Portuguese colony.
Originally Macau authorities did not allow the burial of Protestants within its city walls; yet the Chinese were equally as intolerant of the burial of foreigners in its soil. This left the Protestant community of British, American and Northern European traders with the only option – and a high risk one at that - of a secret nighttime burial in the land between the city walls and the barrier gate.
The matter was finally resolved in 1821 after the death of Robert Morrison's wife, Mary, when the local committee of the East India Company voted to purchase a plot of land and resolve its legal status with the Portuguese such that the burial of Protestants would be permitted there. Later the East India Company allowed burial of all foreigners, and several graves were moved from other locations outside the city walls into the cemetery, explaining why some graves are dated before its founding in 1821.
The cemetery was closed in 1858, after which the cemetery began to be referred to as the “Old” Protestant Cemetery. Adjoining the cemetery is the Morrison Chapel, named in honor of Robert Morrison.
It is the last resting place of:
- The artist George Chinnery
- Missionaries Robert Morrison
- Rev. Samuel Dyer
- Royal Navy Captain Henry John Spencer-Churchill (son of George Spencer-Churchill and great-great-grand-uncle of Winston Churchill)
- US Naval Lieutenant Joseph Harod Adams (grandson of the second president of the United States, John Adams, and nephew of the sixth, John Quincy Adams)
- The Old Protestant Cemetery in Macau is part of the “Historic Centre of Macau”, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.