Church of San Jose in Casco Viejo

church of san jose golden altarThe Church of San Jose in Casco Viejo, or La Inglesia de San Jose, is one of the most prominent points of interest in the old city. It is home to the famous Golden Altar. The outside of the building will almost make you think that you are in the wrong place, as its exterior is not nearly as ornate as its Golden Altar inside.

The Golden Altar is actually made of carved wood that was overlaid with gold flake. The Altar de Oro was originally inside a church in Panama La Vieja. Legend has it that when the English pirate Henry Morgan attacked the city, the Jesuit priests in the Order of St. Augustine painted the Golden Altar black to hide the gold from the pirates. Morgan sacked and burned Panama La Vieja and the Order of St. Augustine moved the altar to the new church in Casco Viejo, its present day location. Inside the bell tower is where you’ll find the altar. Also, side altars, also made of hand carved wood and covered with gold flake, are located all about in the church.

Stained glass covers the windows and one in particular, Saint Rita of Cascia, who is the Patron Saint of Lost Causes, is often a glass that is photographed. Tourists are allowed to visit the church and snap photos of the altar, but please be respectful and wear appropriate clothing. If Mass is being celebrated during your visit, please refrain from disrupting mass. You may take photos, but not during the church service.

A short walk from Casco Viejo's Church of San Jose is Magnolia Inn, a well-appointed, luxury boutique hotel and hostel in Panama City, Panama. In addition to being one of the best reviewed hotels and hostels in Casco Viejo by Trip Advisor, Booking.com and Hostel Word, Magnolia Inn is conveniently located near a variety of attractions. In Panama City, these include:

In Casco Viejo, these include: