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.

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

The Golden Altar (Altar de Oro). License this photo

Some of the side niches. License this photo

Looking toward the Altar de Oro (Golden Altar). License this photo

One of the side niches, this one depicting Madonna and Child. License this photo

Another depiction of Madonna and Child, this one in one of the stained glass windows on the side of the church. License this photo

One of the side niches with a depiction of the crucifixion of Christ. License this photo

A wide-angle view of the Golden Altar (Altar de Oro). License this photo

The base of the turret on the bell tower. License this photo

On top of the steeple. License this photo

The Golden Altar (Altar de Oro). License this photo

A closer view of the Golden Altar. License this photo

Side by side with one of the many unrestored buildings in the area. License this photo

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License Photos of Iglesia San Jose in Casco Viejo

If you’d like to download any of my photos from Iglesia San Jose in Casco Viejo, you can license them directly from Alamy here. It includes most of the photos displayed on this page along with many more, and there are licenses for various types of uses, including personal use as well as editorial publication.


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