Snapshots

Historic Portuguese Church

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By Theingi , PHOTOS BY Phyo Thiha

The ruins of a historical building, located just across the Bago River, used to be only popular with drug addicts and young couples. That was until 2013 when the Department of Archeology and National Museums took control of the building.The Department cleared out the grounds and began a maintenance programme for the building. Over the course of the following years many positive changes have come about the area especially in the appearance of the building.The Portuguese Church is situated in the compound of an oil refinery. Even though it is known as a Portuguese church because a Roman Catholic Portuguese community lived there for some years, it was in fact Italians who built the church.

Fr Paolo Maria Nerini and Barnabite Missionary Angelo Carpelo built the Italian-style church in the 1500s. It measures 80 feet in length long, 30 feet wide and the walls 40 feet high. It is said to be the home of Christianity in Myanmar.The site has gained the interest of visitors from Yangon is now also establishing itself as a new place of interest for tourists visiting Yangon. Spanish and Portuguese visitors frequently visit the site. Historical research activities have been carried out at the site.

  “It’s been three years since we took control of the church. But we could only start doing preservations this year including excavations. We did it, like what was done in Bagan. We will do more this summer,’ said U Yin Htwe, the official who is responsible for preserving the church as assigned by the Department of Archeology and National Museum. In 2008 Cyclone Nargis caused much damage to the structure. Preservation and repairs will be carried out after holding discussions inviting the inter-faith leaders so that Christians may return to holding religious services at the church. There are many positive changes around the church, though it is still not perfect. The back and side yards of the church need to be cleaned like the front yard. Despite this, it is a great place to visit especially for those with a head for history. The official at the grounds can explain the history of the church. To get there by public transport, a city bus which stops at Thanlyin Bridge is a good option. After walking ten minutes down the street away from the bridge, the church ruins will be visible on your right. Hiring a taxi for the trip there and to wait around and take you back again is another convenient option for visiting the site.

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