Macao's College and Church of St. Joseph: Splendour of the Baroque in China
Macao's College and Church of St. Joseph
Splendour of the Baroque in China
The book has been in preparation for many years and is finally published by the Cultural Affairs Bureau of the Macau S.A.R., in collaboration with the MRI, after detailed research of new sources by the author. Its main topic, the Jesuit College and Church of St. Joseph--today better known as the Seminary of St. Joseph--is arguably the most important 18th century building of the early Society of Jesus in China and certainly the most important in Macau.
The Church of St. Joseph is one of four major churches built by the Jesuits in Qing Dynasty China during what came to be known as the Age of Enlightenment. These structures were designed and built when the Baroque style in art and architecture was in its last phase. Nevertheless, it continued to flourish with particular strength in Spanish and Portuguese Latin America. As the College and Church of St Joseph show, the same is true of Macao.
The book is divided into two main parts. The first offers a historical perspective that looks at the Enlightenment and at the influence on French and other intellectuals, such as Leibniz, by the Jesuits of the China mission. The second and main part deals with the iconography of St. Joseph, as well as the architecture of the building and studies not only its plans but also its interior decoration and religious art. The great relevance of the historical section of the first part is only too evident when the havoc caused by the 1750s Great Lisbon Earthquake is compared to the fierce typhoons, hurricanes and earthquakes that have ripped through Macau, the U.S.A. and Mexico in recent weeks. It was the indirect cause of the expulsion of the Jesuits from Macau and of the bitter philosophical debates among theists, deists and atheists that started soon after the Great Lisbon Earthquake and which have continued with equal intensity up to our own days.
César Guillén-Nuñez, born in Panama City (Republic of Panama), is a historian of art who is presently a researcher at the Macau Ricci Institute. He has an M.Phil. (University College London), an M.A. (Uni. of Penn.) and a B.A. Hons. (Courtauld Institute of Art), all in the History of Art, with a specialization in Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Baroque art and architecture. His researches on the Baroque led him to the Society of Jesus as pioneers in the cultural exchange between China and the West, as well as to theological questions related to the art of the Jesuits in Europe and Asia.
He began his professional career as Assistant Curator of China Trade and Contemporary Art at the Hong Kong Museum of Art, but was later offered a post at the Luis de Camões Museum, Macao (today renamed the Macao Museum of Art) where he was Deputy Curator and, briefly, Acting Curator. He has curated numerous China Trade and Contemporary art exhibitions in Macau, Hong Kong, London and Lisbon for these museums as well as for other cultural organizations. As a result of his more recent academic interests he has presented numerous papers on his specialization in Hong Kong, Macau, the U.S. and Poland, and has written several books and a large number of articles and art reviews. The latter include Macao’s Church of St. Paul, A Glimmer of the Baroque in China, Hong Kong Uni. Press, 2009; “The Portrait of Matteo Ricci: A Mirror of Western Religious and Chinese Literati Portrait Painting”, Journal of Jesuit Studies, Volume 1, Issue 3, Brill Online, 2014, pp. 443-464 and Macao's College and Church of St. Joseph, Splendour of the Baroque in China, Cultural Affairs Bureau (Instituto Cultural) of the Macao S.A.R. Government (forthcoming: December, 2017).