Churches in Casco Viejo

Discover some of the most important churches in Casco Viejo...

Casco Viejo, Panama City's most important cultural center, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The area has several important churches (iglesias).

Iglesia de la Compañia de Jesús dates back to 1741. Originally built as a school and later used as a university, it was destroyed in a fire in 1781, then severely damaged in an earthquake in 1882. The ruin is currently undergoing renovations.

Iglesia Santo Domingo and the Flat Arch (Arco Chato) dates back to the 17th century. It was also destroyed by fire in 1756 and was never rebuilt. The only surviving part of the original construction, the famous Flat Arch, continued standing until 2003. The space is occasionally used for events and is under renovation.

Iglesia de la Merced was built in 1680. The stones used for its construction were brought one by one from Panama Viejo. The Catedral Metropolitana stands on its namesake square, Plaza Catedral (officially Plaza de la Independencia). It was built in 1796 and underwent a major restoration in 2003. The two white bell towers that frame its stone facade are covered in mother of pearl from the Pearl Islands of Panama (Islas Perlas). The interior features an impressive marble alter.

Iglesia San Felipe Neri was completed in 1688 and is one of the oldest churches in Panama City. Over time it has been a school, a seminary, and a home for the elderly.

Iglesia San José holds one of Panama's most precious treasures: the Golden Altar (Altar de Oro). According to Panamanian legend, word reached the city of an impending pirate attack and a priest attempted to hide the precious altar from looters by painting it black. The pirates came and went, but the paint was never removed. Several generations later, after the danger of pirates had passed, the paint began to fade. When this piece of history was re-discovered, great lengths were taken to restore it to its former glory, and today it stands resplendent at the head of the church.

Iglesia San Francisco de Asís is small but impressive. Situated on Plaza Bolivar, it was damaged by the fires of 1737 and 1756, like other buildings in the area. It was renovated in 1998 and is now one of the most ornate and elaborately decorated churches in Panama.

  • For more information on other cultural monuments in the Casco Viejo area: Click here