Built by the Jesuits to repel an attack from the sea, the Monte Fort (Fortaleza de Monte) is the oldest military fortification in the peninsula of Macau. With construction beginning in 1617 the Monte Fort was also seen as a measure of defense for the minority Christians to defend themselves from ethnic Chinese who comprised the religious majority.
With walls over 330 feet (100.6 meters) long and walls nearly 30 feet (9.1 meters) high the Monte Fort was solidly built and capable of storing enough munitions to withstand a two-year siege. Though cannons were readied and defense preparations made, the only military action the Monte Fort ever saw was during an unsuccessful raid by the Dutch in 1622. Looking to gain an advantage in the lucrative East Asian trading route, the Dutch laid a surprise siege on the Portuguese at Macau. Heavily outnumbered and inevitably doomed, a Jesuit, Portuguese priest hunkered inside Monte Fort fired a lone cannon shot which miraculously struck a Dutch gunpowder storage. Devastated by the ensuing explosion the Dutch fell into retreat and ultimately failed in their effort to take Macau. Officially regarded as the only time the cannons were fired in defense, the same cannons today (though now defunct) now point at the towering Casino Lisboa and the ultra-modern skyline of Macau.
Classified as part of the UNESCO Historical Centre of Macau, visitors to Monte Fort are welcome to peruse the grounds of the old fort and walk through the subterranean tunnels. A strategic compound on the hill with a sweeping view of the city, Monte Fort once briefly served as the residence for the Governor of Macau before the construction of a meteorological observatory in 1965. Finally, in 1998, the observatory closed in favor of the Museum of Macau, a place which continues to educate visitors on the unique heritage of Monte Fort and the overall history of Macau.