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Tuesday, June 18 2019 @ 09:47 PM UTC

The Golden Altar of the Church of San Jose

Travel & Tourism One of the things you might want to see when you visit Panama is the famous golden altar of the Church of San Jose in Casco Viejo. The Inglesia de San Jose (the Church of San Jose) is a small almost nondescript building on a narrow street in the San Felipe district of Panama City. Inside is the famous Golden Altar, which is made of carved wood and is covered in gold flake. Commonly known in Spanish as the "Altar de Oro" (Golden Altar), it was originally in a church in "Old Panama." When English pirate Henry Morgan attacked the city the jesuits painted the altar black to hide the gold. The pirates left it alone, thinking it was worthless. After Morgan sacked and burned "Old Panama" the Jesuit monks of the Order of St. Agustine moved the altar to the new church and its present location.
This map of Casco Viejo will get you oriented, and help you find the church. If you're not going with a guide or a tour, the church can be easy to miss.

Here's a photo-map of the relative location, distance, and direction from the easiest landmark to find in Casco Viejo, the Metropolitan Cathedral.

Here's a picture of the front door, so you'll know when you're there...

This plaque from the Rotary Club says "Panamanian - Believing in You. Take care of this monument, it's part of your history. "The Church of San Jose" Initially constructed between 1671 and 1677, was remodeled in the 19th Centrury, is custodian of the Golden Altar, built in the 18th Century. Rotary Club, Panama"

One more landmark so you know you've got the right place. This is the bell tower from the Church of San Jose in Casco Viejo, home of the famous golden altar.

And here's what you came to see. This church gets quite a bit of tourist traffic, and they are kind of accustomed to it. But you should tread lightly and show proper respect if there is a mass being celebrated when you happen to drop in. It's fine to take pictures of the altar, but not during a church service. I've seen some blundering tourists pull some bonehead moves in this place. As long as you understand that this is a functioning church and more than just a tourist attraction and show a little respect, then you'll have no problems at all. And, you'll find that people are very proud of the church and like to show it off.

A detail shot of the Golden Altar of the Church of San Jose in Casco Viejo, Panama City. The altar is actually made out of hand-carved wood, and then covered in gold flake.

The church is filled with beautiful side altars, also hand-carved wood and enhanced with gold flake.

The church also has some very nice stained glass windows, this one dedicated to Saint Rita of Cascia, the Patron Saint of Lost Causes (no kidding).

And this one to Saint Augustine of Hippo...

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