Reconnect with history at the Metropolitan Cathedral

The Metropolitan Cathedral is the most representative building of the city's Old Town, and the base for the Archdiocese of Panama. It took 108 years to construct this Catholic church, built in stages from 1688 and 1796. The front part was built between 1688 and 1741, and then from 1741 to 1762 the church structure was raised. Later the 36 meter high towers were built, between 1762 and 1796, when it was consecrated.

After the English pirate Henry Morgan burned and destroyed the first foundation of Panama in 1671, the city was moved in 1673 to where Old Town is now, requiring the construction of a new church. The current Cathedral is an heir to what was erected by Pope Adrian VI in what was the home of Chief Cémaco. The Chief confronted the Spanish conquerors, who offered to establish a town in 1510 dedicated to Santa María de la Antigua en Darién. In the year 1513 a Papal Bull was issued to raise La Antigua to the rank of Diocese and the church to a Cathedral, with Fray Juan de Quevedo as its first bishop. In 1519, by order of Pedro Arias de Ávila, Santa María de la Antigua en Darién is abandoned and moved to the newly founded Panama on the shores of the South Sea. The Cathedral in the new town inherited the transfered insignia, bulls and relics, which were initially made of wood.

Its facade is made of cut stone, and the walls are also stone. It has two side towers inlaid with mother of pearl that shine with sunlight, giving it a special glow. The façade is carved in a Renaissance style with classical decorative elements and statues of the twelve apostles. The three naves are accessed directly from the three front doors, after having climbed the seven steps that represent the seven deadly sins you must leave behind upon entering the Cathedral.The main altar was made in the late 19th century, possibly by French masters who also worked in the construction of the Interoceanic Canal. It houses the relics brought from Sevilla de San Aurelio and San Getulio, first to Darien, then Old Panama and finally on to its current site. The bells date from the 18th century, gifts from former Panamanian bishops, which had been transferred to South America when the originals no longer functioned after partially melting in the 1737 fire.

The Metropolitan Cathedral is the only colonial building with a dome. It has a Crypt of the Bishops and ten large windows adorned with stained glass from the twentieth century, influenced by decorative art. The Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro donated the bronze lamps in a traditional design. Oil portraits of Bishops who have presided in the church decorate the walls along the side naves.

It is the church where the Presidents of the Republic hold all formal acts, and also where lie the mortal remains of the illustrious Panamanian General Tomás Herrera, former Head of State of the Commonwealth of the Isthmus, now Panama, during 1840 and 1841.

It is certainly a place to rencounter history, where you may come into contact with the cultural roots and the colonial past of this city. Discover for yourself and come to the west side of the Main Plaza in the Old Town of Panama City.