Casco Viejo, The Golden Altar and Beyond…

I’ve been to Casco Viejo in PTY and a few times a couple of those trips have been driving tours with mi amiga Panameña.  I always find it interesting to go with her because a) she learned about the history in school and b) she actually grew up there and went to school there.

When Prima Mejor and I arrived back in PTY on a Friday afternoon mi amiga was there to greet us and insisted that we try to squeeze in a trip to Casco and perhaps manage to get over to Amador Causeway. So, a half hour after our arrival we were on the road again to Casco Viejo.

PTY was founded in 1519 as a Spanish settlement. The city was the central repository for treasure arriving from Spanish colonies (mostly gold) that was then moved across the isthmus and shipped to Spain. The colony was sought-after by pirates and privateers and in 1671 the pirate Henry Morgan looted and burned the city, now Panama Viejo. (I’ve posted about a few times about Panama Viejo, you can find the posts by clicking on these links: This Used To Go Somewhere, Fortifications, Old World Texture)

Casco Viejo is where the New Panama was moved to when Panama Viejo was destroyed.  It has Spanish style buildings and plazas and many of the old buildings are undergoing multi-million dollar restorations but many of the buildings remain untouched and people still live in them.  It was raining but one of the places that mi amiga insisted that PM get out to take a look at was La Iglesia de San Jose.

La Iglesia de San Jose is where one finds El Altar de Oro (Golden Altar) one of the most precious historical treasures of the Panamanian people.  This altar is made of carved wood covered in gold flake. When Henry Morgan looted Panama City, according to stories, a priest disguised the golden altar by painting it black, so it was saved from the pirates.  Afterwards the Order of St. Agustine monks moved the altar to the new church and its present site.  The church was reconstructed in its current place between 1671 and 1677 and like many old buildings has undergone renovations and restorations since that time.

It was raining the day we went into the church and we were pleasantly surprised that the doors were wide open.  As we entered we saw the magnificent Golden Altar at the front of the church, but there are also a number of side altars around the church that are lovely as well as stained glass windows.  Mi Prima Mejor purchased a rosary for her mother from the attendant at the back of the church where they had a number of religious articles for sale.

After visiting the church we drove around a few minutes and then decided to stop for supper at Tantalo.
There are several good places to eat in Casco anad all different styles of food.  Tantolo specializes in small plates to share.  It was a good time to stop for something to eat as it had begun to rain harder.  After filling our bellies with delicious food and beverage we decided to go to the Amador Causeway.  First we had to drive down Cinta Costera.Cinta Costera This is what it looks like from Ancon Hill:Cinta Costera Cinta Costera’s four lanes connect PTY’s Corredor Sur with the Bridge of the Americas and the Pan American Highway. 7.6 kilometers of land reclamation was completed in three stages and a marine viaduct was constructed to protect Casco Viejo after UNESCO rejected the idea of a highway being built so close to the old city.There is also a pedestrian walkway Paseo Cinta Costera and a bike path Ciclovia Cinta Costera. Had the evening been nicer or the evening earlier it would have been nice to get out of the traffic we were stuck in and enjoy a stroll along the paseo.

After finally arriving at the Amador Causeway through traffic going to the Bridge of Americas on a Friday evening we found construction barricades and fencing along much of the road.  Disappointed at the lack of people on the Causeway and the lack of view from the Causeway we drove to Flamenco Island, the last island in the causeway chain and had a quick beverage.  Whereupon we departed back to PTY and Resturante Beruit.Beruit After a healthy yogurt beverage it was time for us to call it a night. And time for PM to return home the next morning.


About indacampo

You'll find me at blogging about Panama...and other things.
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4 Responses to Casco Viejo, The Golden Altar and Beyond…

  1. Interesting post with the history, thank you!

  2. We spent several days in Casco Viejo and loved the history and charm of the old city. Enjoyed reading more of the history as well as seeing your great photos. Great memories. Anita

    • indacampo says:

      Thanks, my friend is very good at remembering everything that she learned in school and it helps that there is something personal to put everything into context. I would have loved to have taken more time to walk around but it was raining pretty hard. 🙂

  3. Pingback: Rub, Rub | In Da Campo

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