Iglesia San Jose

Iglesia San Jose, in Casco Viejo and dating to 1673, is most famous for its massive Golden Altar (Altar de Oro) that survived pirate raids in 1671.
Iglesia San Jose Casco Viejo Panama City Panama
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The massive Golden Altar (or Altar de Oro) of Iglesia San Jose is remarkable in its own right. The towering structure isn’t actually solid gold–it’s carved mahogany that has been covered in gold leaf (and paint). But it looks every bit as opulent as you’d think.

But perhaps the most remarkable thing about it is the story about why it’s still around to see. It survived the pirate Henry Morgan’s sacking of Panama Viejo in 1671. Legend has it that a priest disguised it by painting it black and then convinced Morgan that it had already been stolen. When the coast was clear, and after Panama Viejo was abandoned in the wake of Morgan’s raid, the altar was later moved to its present location in Iglesia San Jose, one of Casco Viejo’s many churches. Today, Iglesia San Jose (Church of San Joseph) is surrounded, like most of Casco Viejo, by a mix of crumbling ruins and beautifully renovated buildings.

Iglesia San Jose dates to 1673 and features a series of heavy, ornate altar pieces lining its walls and alcoves. But despite the draw of the Golden Altar, the church hasn’t been restored to the extent of some of the others, something you’ll quickly notice when you feel the oppressive heat and humidity inside.

Photos of Iglesia San Jose

Golden Altar (Altar de Oro) at Iglesia San Jose Casco Viejo Panama City Panama
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Bell Tower of Iglesia San Jose Casco Viejo Panama City Panama
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Iglesia San Jose Casco Viejo Panama City Panama
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Golden Altar (Altar de Oro) at Iglesia San Jose Casco Viejo Panama City Panama
The Golden Altar (Altar de Oro). Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Iglesia San Jose Casco Viejo Panama City Panama
Some of the side niches. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Golden Altar (Altar de Oro) at Iglesia San Jose Casco Viejo Panama City Panama
Looking toward the Altar de Oro (Golden Altar). Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Iglesia San Jose Casco Viejo Panama City Panama
One of the side niches, this one depicting Madonna and Child. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Iglesia San Jose Casco Viejo Panama City Panama
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Iglesia San Jose Casco Viejo Panama City Panama
Another depiction of Madonna and Child, this one in one of the stained glass windows on the side of the church. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Iglesia San Jose Casco Viejo Panama City Panama
One of the side niches with a depiction of the crucifixion of Christ. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Golden Altar (Altar de Oro) at Iglesia San Jose Casco Viejo Panama City Panama
A wide-angle view of the Golden Altar (Altar de Oro). Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Bell Tower of Iglesia San Jose Casco Viejo Panama City Panama
The base of the turret on the bell tower. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Iglesia San Jose Casco Viejo Panama City Panama
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
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On top of the steeple. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Iglesia San Jose Casco Viejo Panama City Panama
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Iglesia San Jose Casco Viejo Panama City Panama
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Golden Altar (Altar de Oro) at Iglesia San Jose Casco Viejo Panama City Panama
The Golden Altar (Altar de Oro). Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Bell Tower of Iglesia San Jose Casco Viejo Panama City Panama
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Golden Altar (Altar de Oro) at Iglesia San Jose Casco Viejo Panama City Panama
A closer view of the Golden Altar. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Bell Tower of Iglesia San Jose Casco Viejo Panama City Panama
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Bell Tower of Iglesia San Jose Casco Viejo Panama City Panama
Side by side with one of the many unrestored buildings in the area. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com

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Travel Advice for Panama

You can find the latest U.S. Department of State travel advisories and information for Panama (such as entry visa requirements and vaccination requirements) here.

The British and Australian governments offer their own country-specific travel information. You can find the British Government's travel advice for Panama here and the Australian Government's here.

Health & Vaccinations

The CDC makes country-specific recommendations for vaccinations and health for travelers. You can find their latest information for Panama here.

Guidebooks for Panama

If you're looking for a guidebook to make the most of your visit, these are some of the most popular ones currently for Panama. Some are available in both paper and e-book formats.

Lonely Planet Panama 8 (Country Guide)
128 Reviews
Lonely Planet Panama 8 (Country Guide)
  • Fallon, Steve (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
Fodor's In Focus Panama (Travel Guide (2))
69 Reviews
Fodor's In Focus Panama (Travel Guide (2))
  • Fodor's Travel Guides (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
The Rough Guide to Panama (Travel Guide) (Rough Guides)
  • Guides, Rough (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
Insight Guides Panama (Travel Guide with Free eBook)
13 Reviews
Insight Guides Panama (Travel Guide with Free eBook)
  • Guides, Insight (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

Travel Insurance For Your Trip to Panama

I never travel without travel insurance, and I've run into several situations where I've had to make claims. I consider it essential.

But shopping for travel insurance can be a pain and confusing. Thankfully, there are some travel insurance comparison sites that show you a wide range of plans, make it easy to compare coverage, and can save you money at the same time. And the coverage can be much better tailored to your specific needs than the checkbox offering at travel booking sites or through your credit card.

These are some good places to shop for travel insurance for your next trip to Panama :

Hopefully, you won't need it, but if something goes wrong, you'll sure be glad you have it!

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