Flag Malacca

Ruins of St. Paul's Church

Originally, it was a chapel, known to the early Portuguese in Malacca as the Chapel of the Mother of God (Madre de Deus) or Our Lady of the Hill (Nossa Senhora do Oiteiro). It was built by Duarte Coelho, in 1521, as a result of a miraculous escape from an attack on his ship by a fleet in the South China Sea. Duarte Coelho and his crew were saved miraculously by a storm, which suddenly arose during the height of the attack. As a token of his gratitude, he erected, on the top of this hill, a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Grace, according to the Portuguese chronicler, Joao de Barros of the 16th century.

In the year 1548, the chapel was given by the archbishop of Goa, Don Albuquerque to the Society of Jesus. St. Francis Xavier received the title deeds on behalf of the Society. The chapel was highly venerated by the Portuguese, as it was here, that St. Francis Xavier preached and said Mass on Sundays. He used to pass long nights in prayer here. Often his friends and admirers used to peep through the crevices of the doors to find out what the saint was doing. At times, he was found wrapped in ecstasy with his whole body raised above the ground.4 The same thing happened when he distributed Holy Communion. He used to administer the Sacrament on his knees, as the communion rail was low and the kneeling position seemed easier. It was in this chapel that he wrote at least five letters in the dim light of a candle.

Several extraordinary deeds were worked in the chapel or in connection with the chapel, such as the cure of Joao Fernandez, a young lad of between 15 to 18 years, son of a Portuguese father and a Javanese mother. But the most spectacular event, with abundant historical evidence, was the announcement of a victory of a naval battle, which was taking place at the time the saint was preaching. He suddenly stopped preaching and remained in ecstasy for a few minutes. He asked the people to pray for the successful outcome of the battle and then he announced the victory. It is said that he was seen at the time and place of the battle encouraging the soldiers. The battle took place at the estuary of the river Perlis in the north of Malaya.

The remains of the saint's body rested in this chapel from the 22nd of March, 1553 to the 11th of December of the same year. By 1556, the chapel needed repairs and it was at this time, that the question arose, whether to pull it down completely and build a new church, or to extend it. It was highly venerated by the Portuguese. In fact, it was the second christian place of worship ever built in Malacca. It was hard to accept the fact to pull it down. So, it was decided to retain part of the walls and the facade of the church, the windows and walls up to the side doors inclusive. The old chancel and vestry were pulled down and the Church extended towards the east. The wal Is of the nave were extended and three windows were opened, in the style similar to the arch of the sanctuary. The sanctuary walls are thicker than those of the nave. The walls of the chancel were extended to the south forming two apartments The ground floor, served as vestry, with two doors, one communicating with the chancel, and the other with the hill to the west. On the ground floor, there is a window opening to the east, viewing the other side of the hill. One notes that the parapet is thinner than the wall, The style of the windows built can be seen, even today, in old Portuguese homes. The first floor served as a residence, with three large windows to each side of the three walls. Today, these windows are walled up. By 1567, the church had not been completed, for a letter written during that date says: 'The church is not yet finished'. It gives its dimensions as 110 palmos long, 46 broad and 39.5 high. One palmo equals to 0.22 metres.

A small burial vault was opened in 1592, in the middle of the sanctuary, most likely to mark the burial place of St. Francis Xavier. In the body of the church a big square was opened, divided into small compartments. Here persons of distinction were buried, some of whom were the Mordomo (Major-domo) Goncalves (1568); Don Miguel de Castro, captain of Malacca and son of the Viceroy, Don J0a0 de Castro (1577); Pedro Martines S.J., second bishop of Japan (1598); Antonio Pinto Fonseca, Captain Geral do Mar e Terra nas Partes do Sul, (1635) (Captain-General of the Sea and Land in parts of the South.), also Brother Theodore Mantel, a Belgian Jesuit, who was poisoned in Japan and brought to Malacca where he lingered for some time before he died in 1593.

In 1590, a tower was built above the chancel and its annex. It served as belfry and lookout. The tower and the church was lime-washed always in white, as it also served as a land-mark for ships passing through the Straits of Malacca.

In 1641, the Dutch took Malacca from the Portuguese and used the church for their reformed religion. It was abandoned by the Dutch as a place of worship, after the building of the present Christ Church, at the foot of the hill, by the side of the Malacca Post Office. The new reformed church seems to have been built in 1741, to commemorate the centenary of the occupation of Malacca by the Dutch. Today, the building is used as an Anglican Church. From about 1741 the old church of St. Paul became part of the fortress. The tower was demolished, and in the annex, 'a wide pillar was erected to strengthen the building. The ground floor in the annex and also in the chancel was raised, in the former, partly to cover the arch supporting the pillar, and partly to place a canon facing the sea. The chancel was also raised in order to place another cannon which would face the fort of St John. Some of the windows and doors were closed and the nave of the church became a graveyard with monuments tombstones scattered here and there.

The church at the beginning of the British occupation of Malacca was used as a powder magazine, and ever since then has stood there in ruins.

In 1924, the earth, brought by the Dutch for the chancel and the adjoining annex, was removed, and the vault in the chancel was partly uncovered. In the annex, at the base of the thick pillar, an arch was found supporting it.

In 1930, the President of the newly formed Malacca Historical Society, Maj9r C. E. Bone, supervised the excavations of the church and the tomb slabs were fixed to the walls.

The Dutch had built a tower which today is a lighthouse, but, in 1934, J.S.U. Arthur, Resident Council of Malacca, removed the wall joining the church to the tower. He also opened some of the windows and doors, which had been walled by the Dutch.

This part of the story of this ancient monument, which, along with its history tells you the story of its usefulness. To the Portuguese it was a place of worship; to the Dutch a church, a burial ground and a fortress, and to the British, a powder magazine. Now, it is a place of worship and a great tourist attraction, because, there rested, for eight and a half months, the remains of a most extraordinary man of God:- St. Francis Xavier.


Malacca (Malay: Melaka, dubbed as The Historical State or Negeri Bersejarah amongst locals) is the third smallest Malaysian state, after Perlis and Penang. It is located in the southern region of the Malay Peninsula, on the Straits of Malacca. It borders Negeri Sembilan to the north and the state of Johor to the south. The state's capital is Malacca Town. This historical city centre has been listed as a prominent World Heritage Site of UNESCO since 7 July 2008.

Although Malacca was once one of the oldest Malay sultanates, the state has no Sultan today. Instead, the head of state is the Yang di-Pertua Negeri or Governor.

The state of Malacca covers an area of 1,650-sq. km. or 0.5 percent of the whole area of Malaysia. The state is divided into 3 districts, that is Central Melaka (Melaka Tengah) (314 km²), Alor Gajah (660 km²), and Jasin (676 km²). Malacca is located on the southwestern coast of Malay Peninsula opposite Sumatra, with the state of Negeri Sembilan to the north and Johor to the east. Malacca is also situated roughly two-thirds of the way down the West coast, 148 km south of Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia and 245 km north of Singapore and commanding a central position on the Straits of Malacca. The state capital Malacca Town is strategically located between the two national capitals (of Malaysia and Singapore respectively) and is linked with excellent roads and highways. Malacca is yet to have its own train station, though the terminal at Tampin, Negeri Sembilan is easily accessible. It has a domestic airport terminal located in Batu Berendam.

The offshore Pulau Besar, Pulau Upeh and Tanjung Tuan are also parts of Malacca.


Malacca has a population of 759,000 as of 2007, being composed of:

* Malays: 57%;
* Chinese: 32%, including the Peranakan community;
* Indians, including the Chitty people: a sizeable minority;
* Kristang, people with partial Portuguese ancestry: a small community.
* Dutch Eurasians, Eurasians with Dutch ancestry: a minority within the Malacca Eurasian community.

The major towns of Malacca are Malacca Town, Alor Gajah, Masjid Tanah, Jasin, Merlimau, Batu Berendam and Ayer Keroh.


Sultanate of Malacca
The precise origins of Malacca are disputed. It appears that Malacca was founded by Parameswara, a Srivijayan prince of Palembang who fled Sumatra following a Majapahit attack in 1377. He found his way to Malacca c. 1400 where he found a good port accessible in all seasons and on the strategically located narrowest point of the Malacca Straits.

According to a popular legend, Parameswara was resting under a gray tree near a river while hunting, when one of his dogs cornered a mouse deer. In self-defence, the mouse deer pushed the dog into the river. Impressed by the courage of the deer, and taking it as a propitious omen of the weak overcoming the powerful, Parameswara decided on the spot to found an empire on the very place that he was sitting. He named it 'Melaka' after the tree under which he had taken shelter. Another version of the story says that Parameswara chose the name 'Malacca' from the Tamil word 'mallakka' which means upside down or on ones back. Old illustrations of the scene where the mousedeer kicks the dog shows the dog falling on its back into the river, hence the inspiration. Parameswara converted to Islam in 1414 and changed his name to 'Raja Iskandar Shah'. In collaboration with allies from the sea-people (orang laut) the wandering proto-Malay privateers of the Straits, he established Malacca as major international port by compelling passing ships to call there, and establishing fair and reliable facilities for warehousing and trade. Mass settlement of Chinese, mostly from the imperial and merchant fleet occurred during the reign of Parameswara, occurred in the vicinity of the Bukit China ('Chinese Hill') area, which had among the best Feng Shui (geomancy) in Malacca then. Sultan Iskandar Shah died in 1424, and was succeeded by his son, Sri Maharaja also called Sultan Muhammad Shah.

The prosperity of Malacca attracted the invasion of the Siamese. Attempts in 1446 and 1456, however, were warded off by Tun Perak, the then Bendahara (a position similar to Prime Minister). The development of relations between Malacca and China was at that time a strategic decision to ward off further Siamese attacks.

Because of its strategic location, Malacca was an important stopping point for Zheng He's spectacular fleet. To enhance relations, Hang Li Po, allegedly a princess of the Ming Emperor of China, arrived in Malacca, accompanied by 500 attendants, to marry Sultan Manshur Shah who reigned from 1456 until 1477. Her attendants married the locals and settled mostly in Bukit China (Bukit Cina).(See Zheng He in Malacca).

A cultural result of the vibrant trade was the expansion of the Peranakan people, who spread to other major settlements in the region.

During its prime Malacca was a powerful Sultanate which extended its rule over the southern Malay Peninsula and much of Sumatra. Its rise helped to hold off the Thai's southwards encroachment and arguably hasten the decline of the rival Majapahit Empire of Java which was in decline as Malacca was rising. Malacca was also central in the spread of Islam in the Malay Archipelago.
Malacca Harbor in 1831.

European colonization
In April 1511, Afonso de Albuquerque set sail from Goa to Malacca with a force of some 1200 men and seventeen or eighteen ships. It became a strategic base for Portuguese expansion in the East Indies. Sultan Mahmud Shah, the last Sultan of Malacca took refuge in the hinterland, and made intermittent raids both by land and sea, causing considerable hardship for the Portuguese. In the meantime the Portuguese built the fort named A Famosa to defend Malacca (its gate is all that remains of the ruins at present). 'In order to appease the King of Ayudhya' (Siam, of which Malacca was a part) 'the Portuguese sent up an ambassador, Duarte Fernandes, who was well received by Ramathibodi.' in 1511.Finally in 1526, a large force of Portuguese ships, under the command of Pedro Mascarenhas, was sent to destroy Bintan, where Sultan Mahmud was based. Sultan Mahmud fled with his family across the Straits to Kampar in Sumatra, where he died two years later.
Maritime Museum, Malacca

It soon became clear that Portuguese control of Malacca did not mean they now controlled Asian trade that centred around it. Their Malaccan rule was severely hampered by administrative and economic difficulties. Rather than achieving their ambition of dominating Asian trade, the Portuguese had fundamentally disrupted the organisation of the network. The centralised port of exchange of Asian wealth exchange had now gone, as was a Malay state to police the Straits of Malacca that made it safe for commercial traffic. Trade was now scattered over a number of ports amongst bitter warfare in the Straits.

The Jesuit missionary Francis Xavier spent several months in Malacca in 1545, 1546 and 1549. In 1641 the Dutch defeated the Portuguese to capture Malacca with the help of the Sultan of Johore. The Dutch ruled Malacca from 1641 to 1795 but they were not interested in developing it as a trading centre, placing greater importance to Batavia (Jakarta) in Indonesia as their administrative centre. However they still built their landmark better known as the Stadthuys or Red Building.

Malacca was ceded to the British in the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824 in exchange for Bencoolen on Sumatra. From 1826 to 1946 Malacca was governed, first by the British East India Company and then as a Crown Colony. It formed part of the Straits Settlements, together with Singapore and Penang. After the dissolution of this crown colony, Malacca and Penang became part of the Malayan Union, which later became Malaysia.

State government
Malacca is administered by its State Assembly and Executive Committee (EXCO). The State Assembly represents the highest authority in the state and decides on policy matters. The EXCO is responsible to the State Assembly and comprises members who are appointed every five years by the political party in power. It is headed by the Governor (Yang Di-Pertua Negeri) who is appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia.

The Chief Minister's Department is the administrative pillar of the State Government, and is responsible for the overall administration of the State, as well as its political interest. The administrative complex houses the Chief Minister's office, as well as the office of the State Secretariat. For administrative purposes, Malacca is divided into three districts under separate jurisdiction:

* Malacca Central District & Land Office
* Alor Gajah District & Land Office
* Jasin District & Land Office

These offices render various services and facilities to the people in their daily lives.

The tourism and manufacturing sectors are the two most important sectors in the state economy. Malacca has adopted as its slogan, 'Visiting Malacca Means Visiting Malaysia' ('Melawat Melaka Bererti Melawati Malaysia'). It is rich in cultural heritage and bears several places of historical interest.

Malacca holds up several modern shopping complexes to attract more visitors to the state. Examples include Mahkota Parade Shopping Centre at Plaza Mahkota (City Centre), Dataran Pahlawan Melaka Megamall (which is situated on the historical field of Padang Pahlawan, where Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al Haj announced the independence day of the Federation Of Malaya), Melaka Mall Shopping Complex (formerly known as Kotamas Shopping Complexe) and Plaza Melaka Raya at the Taman Melaka Raya.

Malacca also has its very own hypermarket and departmental store. A few examples include Parkson Departmental Store (Mahkota Parade and Melaka Mall), Jusco Supermarket and Departmental Store (Ayer Keroh and coming soon near Melaka Sentral), Tesco Hypermarket and Giant Hypermarket at Bachang Utama; also a Supermarket at (Mahkota Parade).

Apart from tourism, Malacca is also a manufacturing centre for products ranging from food and consumer products, through high-tech weaponry and automotive components to electronic and computer parts. There are at least 23 industrial estates that houses some 500 factories from the United States, Germany, Japan, Taiwan, and Singapore.

Malacca has given birth to numerous successful Malaysians who have achieved immense success in Malaysia and abroad.

The state is much sought after for medical education with the establishment of the Melaka Manipal Medical College in Bukit Baru. It has produced many doctors who are serving the country or working abroad since its inception in 1997.

The state also has a twin campus of Multimedia University which is located in Bukit Beruang. The campus currently attracts many foreign students, especially from the Middle East and Africa, through its computer and engineering programmes. The university also features degree programmes in fields like robotics, bio-instrumentation and law. Most of the student population of Multimedia University is drawn from its foundation programmes, also known as the Alpha Programmes.

Malacca also has several public universities and colleges such as Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) in Lendu, Universiti Teknikal Malaysia Melaka, UTeM (previously known as Kolej Universiti Teknikal Kebangsaan Malaysia, KUTKM) located in Ayer Keroh, Kolej Yayasan Melaka (KYM), Bukit Baru and Kolej Teknologi Islam Antarabangsa Melaka (KTIAM).

Malacca has its own boarding school called Sekolah Menengah Sains Muzaffar Syah Melaka. The intake of students to this school is based on the Ministry of Education of Malaysia. Usually students with great achievement will be chosen to enter this school. Students normally come from this state, Negeri Sembilan, Johor or from the Klang Valley.

Health care

Hospitals in Malacca state are listed below:

* Government hospitals
o Melaka General Hospital
o Jasin District Hospital

Currently, both these government hospitals serve as teaching hospitals for Melaka Manipal Medical College.

* Private Hospitals
o Putra Hospital (formerly known as Southern Hospital, owned by the state government)
o Pantai Ayer Keroh
o Mahkota Hospital (opposite Mahkota Parade)

The historic centre of Malacca was inscribed on the World Heritage List on 7 July 2008 together with George Town, the capital of Penang.

The Malays who are the original settlers of Malacca since 1400, form the largest community. The Malaccan Malays are rich in culture from their daily life to the building arts. The famous Malacca Steps or Tangga Melaka are common in front of many Malay houses in Malacca.

Two of the most important museums in Malacca are the Baba Nyonya Heritage Museum and the Melaka Sultanate Palace Museum.

Malacca is well-known for its food. Most notable of all is the traditional Malay dishes like ikan asam pedas, sambal belacan and cencaluk.

Belacan, a Malay variety of shrimp paste, is prepared from fresh tiny shrimp of a species known as geragau in Malay. These are mashed into a paste and Dried in little mashed lumps, then pounded again and formed into large balls, dried again for a week or so, wrapped in plastic and stored for future use. It is in this form that most of these blachan balls are sold .Belacan is used as an ingredient in many dishes, or eaten on its own with rice. A common preparation is sambal belacan, made by mixing belacan with chilli peppers, minced garlic, shallot paste and sugar and then fried. The aroma from the frying mixture can be unpalatable to Westerners who have not become accustomed to it, but is an absolute delight to the Asian connoisseur. Melaka is also famous for satay celup. Raw fish and meat are skewered onto sticks which is then cooked in a peanut sauce. The satay celup is often self service where you pay for individual sticks.

There is also Nyonya-Baba cuisine which is a mixture of Chinese (mostly southern Hokkien or Fujian influence), Portuguese, Dutch, Indian, British and Malay cooking with most dishes being spicy in nature. Interesting dishes of the Peranakan include Itek Tim (a soup containing duck and salted vegetables), Ayam Pong Teh (chicken casserole with salted brown-bean sauce which is usually served with potatoes) as well as the famous Nyonya Laksa. Chicken Rice Ball is another dish popular with domestic Chinese tourists.

Malacca's ethnic Portuguese population are the descendants of Portuguese colonists from the 16th and 17th centuries. Even to this day, many of the ancient traditions passed down since the Portuguese occupation are still practised, i.e. 'Intrudu' from portuguese word 'Entrudo' (a water festival that marks the beginning of Lent, the Catholic fasting period), 'branyu' (traditional dance), 'Santa Cruz' (a yearly Festival of street celebrations).

The Portuguese colonists contributed dishes like Devil's Curry and Portuguese egg tarts to the town's already rich cuisine. Ikan Bakar (roasted fish) restaurants in Umbai, Serkam and Alai are also popular.

Pulau Sebang at Alor Gajah district, a town 30 km north of Malacca town, is the nearest train station that serves Malacca. There were railway tracks from Pulau Sebang to Malacca before World War II but were dismantled by the Japanese during the war for the construction of the infamous Burmese Death Railway. It was never rebuilt after the war though traces of the line remain.

Malacca has a bus station, Melaka Central which has air-conditioned waiting areas and separate areas for buses plying the town routes and for buses plying the intertown routes with regular bus services to Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Johor Bahru, and other places in Malaysia. Batu Berendam Airport in Batu Berendam mainly serves chartered flights from around the region. It also serves as a flight school for Malaysia Flying Academy. It is now refurbished into a brand new international Airport for the state of Melaka.

The Ayer Keroh exit at the North-South highway is the main entry to Malacca. There are two additional exits along the North-South highway, namely the Simpang Ampat and Jasin exits

Popular historical attractions
* Fort A Famosa: Constructed by the Portuguese in 1511, it suffered severe structural damage during the Dutch invasion. The plan by the British to destroy it was aborted as a result of the intervention of Sir Stamford Raffles in 1808.
* St. John's Fort: Reconstructed by the Dutch in the third quarter of the 18th century, the cannons in this fort point inwards towards the mainland because at that time, the threat to Malacca was mainly from inland rather than the sea.
* St. Peter's Church: Constructed in 1710 under the Dutch administration, the church is the oldest Catholic church in Malaysia. Its facade and decorative embellishment is a mix of both eastern and western architecture. Its bell was delivered from Goa in 1608.
* St. Paul's Church: Constructed by the Portuguese captain, Duarte Coelho, this church was named 'Our Lady of The Hill', but was later turned into a burial ground by the Dutch for their noble dead, and renamed 'St. Paul's Church'. Currently the church is part of the Malaccan Museums Complex. The body of St. Francis Xavier was interred here temporarily before it was taken to Goa, India.
* Christ Church: Constructed in 1753, the structure reflects original Dutch architecture. The building houses hand-crafted church benches, jointless ceiling skylights, a copper replica of the Bible, a headstone written in the Armenian language, and a replica of 'The Last Supper'.
* Francis Xavier Church: This Gothic church was built by a French priest, Rev. Fabre, in 1849, to commemorate St. Francis Xavier who is also known as the 'Apostle of the East'. St. Francis Xavier is credited for his Catholic missionary work in Southeast Asia during the 16th century.
* Stadthuys: Constructed in 1650 as the residence of the Dutch Governor and his deputy, the structure reflects Dutch architecture. It is today the 'Museum of History and Ethnography'. The museum exhibits traditional wedding clothes and artifacts of Melaka, dating back to its days of glory.
* Jonker Street (Jalan Hang Jebat): This street is famous for its antique goods. It is also famous for its carnival-like atmosphere during weekend nights.
* Portuguese Square Perhaps the right phrase to infer strong affinity to Portugal would be 'Mini Lisbon'. Located within the Portuguese Settlement, the square is the culmination of Portuguese culture in its full splendour and colours.
* Cheng Hoon Teng: Oldest Chinese temple in Malaysia.

In order to attract more tourists to Malacca, the State government has built a number of museums to house its rich cultural heritage.

Key people from Malacca
The following is a list of historically significant as well as well-known contemporary personages who are either born in Malacca, or otherwise, significantly linked to the history of Malacca:

* Tun Ghafar Baba, Malaysia Deputy Prime Minister (1986-1993), UMNO Vice-President (1962-1987), Malacca Chief Minister (1959-1963)
* Ibu Zain, was a pioneer for Malay women (Srikandi) in education, nationalist and politics in Malaysia.
* Shirley Geok-lin Lim, award winning novelist, writer and Professor of English, University of California at Santa Barbara
* Maria Jane Dyer a.k.a. Maria Jane Taylor, born in Malacca in 1837, pioneer missionary to China, daughter of Samuel Dyer and Maria (Tarn) Dyer, she became the wife of James Hudson Taylor, founder of the China Inland Mission.


asisbiz website qrcode x100

If you love photography as much as we do please help!
A small donation can go a long way allowing us to make this site even better !!
If you have any additional historical information about any of the photo's featured on our website please email me so we can add more information.
This webpage was updated September 06, 2014

 Editor for Asisbiz: Matthew Laird Acred
Please help us to improve these articles with any additional information or photo's, if you should encounter any broken links or display errors :-(