I started my exploration of St Paul's Hill Complex from the car park near the Dataran Pahlawan Megamall, which it appears to be a different entrance point to the one most people use who climb the hill.
Behind the MegaMall is the Independence Memorial. The memorial itself is a grey tiled pyramid about 2mt high with a yellow star and red M and the date 31 August 1957 on it. It stands where the Warrior’s Field was. There’s no nice garden in fact it is tucked behind a western style shopping centre, that has a pool type fencing along the perimeter. It would be easy to overlook this monument and its significance. Along the road is an old building which houses the national archives and Independence Museum.
Across the road is one of the gates/watchtower from the Portuguese Porta de Santiago complex and some remaining footings. The fortress was destroyed because the British feared that it could be used as a stronghold against them. You realise how massive the Fortress was when you see footings in the area past Dutch Square. Above the arch on the remaining gate you can faintly make out 1670. The path that leads through the arch still has the original cobbles and you get an idea of how thick the walls were, maybe 3-4 metres!!! In the courtyard are a number of original cannons, although not on their original carts.
Leaving the gate, climb up some rather steep stairs and reach the top of the hill. Here, there are a number of graves and memorial tablets. The most poignant one is to 6 children aged between 2- 12 months old when they died. I paused a moment, for a photo opportunity overlooking the Independence Museum and Porta de Santiago.
Follow the path around to the front of St Paul’s Church, built by the Portuguese in 1520s. Although without a roof now, from the size of the walls it isn’t hard to imagine that it would have been an imposing building in its heyday. Inside it is empty except for a number of well preserved headstones and the site where St Francis Xavier was interned after the ship that was carrying his corpse was forced to spend some months in Malacca on their voyage from China to Goa in India. St Francis Xavier was one of the 7 priests that co-founded the Jesuit Order.
In the grounds is a lovely statue of St Francis Xavier. Originally it was carved as a whole person but a tree branch fell and broke the right hand off. Coincidentally this is the same hand that he used to bless converts and the one that was removed and is now in a reliquary in a church in Rome. Coincidence????
Near the front entrance is a well preserved belltower. The view from the front of the church over rooftops, the Malacca Straits and the Maritime Museum, the replica of the Flora de la Mar is worth the climb.
Descend down the hill to Dutch Square.
Remember your water, on a hot day its thirsty work climbing to the top of the hill.
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