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Macau History Articles


Casa de Macau Committee wish to acknowledge John (Bosco) Correa with gratitude for the provision of the following piece.

'Dia de Sao Joao - 24 June 1622'

To break the Portuguese influence in their lucrative trade with China and Japan through Macau the Dutch decided to attack and occupy the Portuguese Colony in 1622. They sent a large invasion fleet of thirteen warships with 1,300 men under the command of Admiral Cornelius Reijersen. Facing this mighty assault force was some hundred Portuguese regular soldiers and a similar amount of Macaenses volunteers, in total no more than 300 men led by Captain-Major Lopo Sarmento de Carvalho.

The Dutch made their landing at dawn on June 24th the Feast Day of Saint John the Baptist (Sao Joao) at Calcilhas beach. Opposing a landing force of 800 Dutch troops there was a group of Portuguese musketeers commanded by Antonio Rodriguez Cavalinho.

In the ensuing skirmish a Portuguese musket shot hit Admiral Reijersen in the stomach compelling him to retire to his flagship. His command was taken over by Captain Hans Ruffijn. Although taking casualties the Dutch pressed on with their attack forcing Cavalinho and his musketeers to fall back to a position within artillery range of the city.

The invaders then came under fire from a heavy cannon manned by the Jesuit soldier-priests on the half-finished fortress of Sao Paulo de Monte. A well placed shot by Jesuit Padre Giacomo Rho blew up a wagonload of gunpowder in the midst of the Dutch formation with devastating results. Other guns from Monte opened fire causing further casualties amongst the Dutch and demoralising the invaders.

Commander Sarmento de Carvalho seizing the opportunity gave the order for a counter attack and shouting the Portuguese battle-cry “Sao Tiago” (Saint James) led his eager men who hurled themselves at the Dutch.They were soon joined by Macaenses citizens, their African slaves and armed Jesuits and Friars.

The Dutch on seeing their commander Captain Ruffijn killed by a musket ball and terrified by the furious onslaught of the defenders turned and bolted. The Dutch sailors manning the longboats took fright and put to sea leaving the troops either to the cold steel of the Portuguese and their African slaves or to a watery grave.

It was a total victory for the Portuguese and this was attributed to the intervention of “Sao Joao” who’s Feast Day it was. “Dia de Sao Joao” the 24th of June has since been celebrated in Macau with a special Mass at Se Cathedral.

In the past we celebrated this feast day by partaking of our Macenese desserts and sweets and all varieties of tropical fruits. This was one night in the year according to folklore that we need not be concerned about getting a bad case of stomach upset – as the legend goes that St. Joao was looking after us, as he did on that fateful day back in 1622.