The whitewashed walls, quaint bell tower, and large wooden door immediately give away the age of Iglesia de San José, built not long after the first Spanish settlement here in the 16th century. Enter to see the main attraction: its impressive main altar, carved from wood and covered in striking gold leaf. The story goes that when an English pirate attacked the city, the Jesuits painted the altar black to hide its value and convince the insurgents to leave it behind. While the pirates sacked the old town, the altar remained, and takes pride of place to this day. Put Iglesia de San José and other Panama City attractions into our Panama City travel route planning site, and watch your holiday take shape.
Tours to Iglesia de San José
Panama City: Two Sides of San Felipe BOOK WITH VIATOR FROM $97
Duration: 4 hours
Iglesia de San José reviews
If you're in the Old City, you should look out for this church. Entry is free (leave a donation on your way out) and you can see the enormous ornate golden altar squeezed into the back of the church..... more »
We enjoyed walking through the church in Old Town. The alter is amazing, covered in gold leaf. The only thing I found odd was that the “prayer candles” were electric! I guess it makes sense when you..... more »
A beautiful experience. Without a tour guide my friends and I stumbled upon the church as we walked through the old town of Casco Viego. We were uncertain that we could go in but when we did, we were not ready for the wealth of history we were about to be exposed to. A nice gentleman approached us offering a free tour. Everything was beautiful but what stood out mostly was the nativity. It was said to have taken four days to be built by one person. It told the entire story of Jesus' birth and was simply gorgeous. Another breathtaking scene was the gold at the altar to the front of the church. The detail was everything! To think it was painted in black as a disguise when Henry Morgan (I think) came during the time of the gold rush back then. It was just amazing!
One of the must-see historic churches. Don't miss the nativity scene (through the Sacristy).
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