The Basilica Santa Maria de la Antigua (Saint Mary of the Ancient) is located in old Panama City. This Catholic church was consecrated in 1796 although the initial construction work on the church began in 1688.
When the Spaniards first arrived to Panama in 1510 they wanted to dedicate a town to Santa Maria de la Antigua. In 1513 the Antigua was raised to the rank of diocese and church was issued the rank of a Cathedral. The first Bishop was Friar Juan de Quevedo.
In 1671 the pirate Henry Morgan (Capt. Morgan) set fire to the town so the decision was made to move the town and create a wall for safety. The church you see today was begun in 1688 and took 108 years to finish.
The exterior of the Basilica is made of stone and brick and features two towers. Each of the towers holds a bell. The main entry was carved in the Jesuit (or Renaissance) style and has three entry doors.
The doors are fairly immense. I could not locate information on their exact height but this image will help you gauge by viewing the figure on the left.
The layout of the church is a typical cruciform style (shape of the cross). The interior wooden ceiling is supported by 67 columns. The majority of the walls are painted white save for the altar which is a lovely blue to represent the Virgin Mary. Overall, compared to other Cathedrals, the decoration is fairly simple, but lovely.
The inscription above the altar reads “El Portae Inferinon Praevalebunt”. I can work out The Gate Prevails…but Inferinon escapes me. Inferior? Those who have studied Latin please feel free to translate.
The altar itself is made of marble and dates to around the 19th century. It is believed to possibly be the work of French masters who at the time were working on the initial (and later failed) construction of the Interoceanic Canal.
This past year Pope Francis initiated a restoration of the church by providing 11 million dollars. Given the age and the history of the church as well as that it is the main cathedral for the nation of Panama I am glad to see work commencing on this historical treasure. It is due to be finished by 2017.
Perhaps they will replace the current cement floor with the original tiled floor.
There are a total of ten stained glass windows.
Their artistry was so beautiful.
While I am not Catholic I appreciate that the lives of the Saints serve as inspirational role models on how to live our own lives.
I was not familiar with Saint Carmen and upon further research found that this is another name for Mary, the Blessed Mother. Carmen is a derivation of Carmel which in Hebrew means Garden. The Order of Carmelites takes its name from Mount Carmel, which was the first place dedicated to the Blessed Virgin and where a chapel was erected in her honor.
I could not capture all ten windows as I am always very careful to not disturb those who are in prayer while visiting places of worship.
But such wonderful light was emitting through these works of art.
I tried furiously to capture the light. Given that I had left my big Canon camera at home and was photographing with a simple Canon point and shoot camera it was difficult to do.
But then it hit me as I stood within the rainbow colored glow that the light shouldn’t be captured but rather shared.
This lovely church is located in the Plaza de la Independencia in old town Panama City. I will be back tomorrow with more images of Old Town Panama.
“The ways of right-living people glow with light; the longer they live, the brighter they shine.” Proverbs 4:18