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A representative of Nativa Tours will pick you up at your hotel to start a very interesting tour: getting to know the religious art that we have in our churches since the colonization period.
In the Old Town of Panama (Casco Antiguo) there were many congregations that built churches and convents. First of all, the old Panama City was in what is now Panama la Vieja, but after the looting by pirates and burning with an attempt to save the city from looting (1671), a New City was erected in what is today the Old Town (Casco Antiguo). Some of the churches and convents were moved to the new city, others were built later.
Santa Ana Church
The Church is in the Plaza de Santa Ana, historically the center of the suburb of the city. It was built in 1678 and consecrated in 1764, with the name of the Hermitage of Santa Ana in the new city.
In 1980 it was declared a National Historic Monument.
Church of Our Lady of Mercy (Nuestra Señora de la Merced)
This Colonial Church was the only one that did not burn down during the pirates’ looting, this is because it was the headquarters of the pirate Henry Morgan and he protected it from the flames of the city of Panama La Vieja. When a new city was built in 1680, the temple was carried stone by stone and maintains the same structure as its predecessor. It is a National Historic Monumentk since 1956.
The church also has a museum with religious documents and objects.
Church of San José
Colonial Church, founded in 1612 (Old Panama), was totally burned in the attack by pirates and built between 1671 and 1675 in the New City. She belonged to the order of the Augustinian Recollect Religious.
What stands out most of the temple is its main altar or as it is commonly called the Golden Altar, which is a wooden ornament with gold (baroque altar carved in mahogany), there is talk of a legend of the period of the attack on Old Panama by Henry Morgan. According to one of the legends, a friar covered the altar with paint to mislead the pirate Morgan, when he arrived, he thought the place was poor and even the friar asked him for alms, to which the pirate did not refuse.
Church and Convent of Company of Jesus
The Company of Jesus was run by the order of the Jesuits, this beautiful complex is made up of the church and the convent, its architectural composition highlights numerous niches in the shape of a snail, which in turn represents the marine wealth of Panama. The first University of the Republic of Panama “La Real y Pontificia Universidad de San Javier” worked here, it was founded in 1749 thanks to the help received from the Bishop of Panama Francisco Javier de la Luna Victoria y Castro, the site worked until year 1767, when the order was expelled from all Spanish lands.
Cathedral Basilica Santa María la Antigua (Metropolitan Cathedral)
The Cathedral Basilica Santa María la Antigua de Panamá is a Catholic temple located in the Old Town. It was consecrated in 1796, although construction work began in 1688, 108 years earlier. The cathedral is the episcopal seat of the Archdiocese of Panama.
In 1941 it was declared a National Historic Monument.
Fun facts: it contains the cross of Pope Leo XIII (promises 100 days of indulgence to those who pray an Our Father and kiss it), the 7 steps recall the capital sins and the entrance to the temple recalls repentance, its towers became the highest in Latin America.
Church and Convent of Santo Domingo
The Santo Domingo Convent was one of the first to be built in the new city of Panama, in 1678. It was devastated by two fires in the 17th century, which brought down the tower and its interiors. Walls and arches were kept standing, with special mention of the lowered arch, known as “chato”, built to support the wooden choir. This arch served to demonstrate the seismic stability of Panama during the canal negotiations. The current arch is a reconstruction of the original, which collapsed in 2003.
The current site of the Museum of Colonial Religious Art was formerly a chapel, which was built after the fire that destroyed the original temple and convent.
San Francisco de Asis Church
Built in the 17th century, almost destroyed by the fires of 1737 and 1756, its current structure dates from 1918, like many churches in the Old Town, it had a monastery.
At first it was made of stone, then with time and remodeling it became what it is today, however, it maintains the original foundations, some elements and walls.
Occupied by: the Franciscans and the Jesuits
It was used as: hospital of the Amphitryonic Congress, general headquarters, Augustinian school and the Bolívar Institute. The first Constituent Assembly was also held there.
San Felipe de Neri Oratory
Its construction dates from 1688. It is saved from the fire of 1737 and provides teaching services but has considerable damage in the fire of 1756. After being restored, it became the Tabernacle of the Cathedral. It was burned 3 times: 1756, the end of the 18th century and 1854. In 1960 a construction was made that gave the shape to what is today, a school concealing its facade. It is a National Historic Monument since 1980.
It can be seen, its pulpit that is from the colonial era, you can still see what were its floors and paintings on the wall, the bell tower is made of mother of pearl, the design on the ceiling has been restored. It has a permanent nativity.
It was occupied by: Sisters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul, The Chaplains and Catholic Action, The Missionary Catechists of the Miracles Medal, Missionaries of Mother Laura and Congregation of the Oratory Fathers.
It was used as: College Seminary of the Cathedral, hospital for priests, boarding school for orphans, San Felipe youth center, university residence and home for the elderly.
Important: the dress code must be respected to enter the Churches.
It is recommended to bring
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