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Sunday, January 10, 2016

Basilica Santa Maria la Antigua in Panama

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.

Panama Cathedral Metropolitana.jpg

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. 

IMG_0977 It is amazing that their construction is fairly simple based on the treasures they hold inside.


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.

Basilica Metropolitana de Santa Maria la Antigua - Review of Cathedral at Old Panama, Panama City, Panama - TripAdvisor:

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.

Basilica Metropolitana de Santa Maria la Antigua.:

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


marty (A Stroll Thru Life) said...

Absolutely stunning.

Unknown said...

"El Portae Inferinon Praevalebunt” The words are squished together over the door. It should be read: "el portae inferi non praevalebunt. This is a quote from Mt 16:18 "the gates of hell (inferi) shall not prevail".
Lovely post and lovely pictures!

Eilis said...

Thanks for sharing! The stain glass windows and the dome ceiling are amazing. I'm adding Panama City to my list of places I want to visit.

Mary Grace McNamara said...

As always Laura, a lovely post to look at and to read! I see that someone else has already shared the translation. I love the simple style of old churches like this, but the statues and windows still provide so much fuel for good meditation! Thanks for sharing!

MGM said...

Beautiful cathedral and great information. That's wonderful that they will be restoring it. You captured the stain glass windows beautifully.
I'm glad someone came up with the translation!

Jeannie Marie said...

So beautiful! I love the photographs of the stained glass windows.

Lisa said...

Magnificent! I can't even imagine the work and craftsmanship required to build something so beautiful. What a national treasure. I'm glad the pope is investing in its renovation.

Julie Reinwald said...

I love your amazing travel photos! Churches and cathedrals are always so intricate and interesting.

GSGreatEscaper said...

Actually, it's "ET portae inferi non prevalebunt" and I believe a better translation might be "even the gates of hell will not prevail (against it.) It's the end of the "Tu est Petrus" (you are Peter/the rock and on this rock I will build my church and the powers of death shall not prevail...) verse. Of course, the original was written in Greek.

Hail Girls' Latin School, Fair Alma Mater....