In an effort to continue my education on photography, last Sunday I made another photographic pilgrimage to another area of Panama City. This time I decided to visit one of the most captivating areas of the city, which is el Casco Viejo (Old Quarter).
In 1671 the Welsh pirate Henry Morgan, with the help of a band of 1,400 men, attacked and looted the old city of Panama Viejo, which was subsequently destroyed by fire. The attack was so fierce, the early settlers of Panama decided to move to a new location which had better health conditions and could be more easily defended.
The new city was rebuilt in 1673 five miles southwest of the original city of Panama Viejo which still exists in ruins. This location is now known as the Casco Viejo (Old Quarter) of the city. El Casco Viejo is also commonly referred to as “Old Shell”, “Casco Antiguo”, “Catedral” or “San Felipe”.
El Casco Viejo mainly consists of:
- Las Bóvedas, literally The Vaults, a waterfront promenade jutting out into the Pacific Ocean. They was used as dungeons by the Spanish Conquistadores.
- The National Institute of Culture building and across from it, the French Embassy.
- The Metropolitan Cathedral on Plaza de la Catedral.
- El Teatro Nacional, a recently renovated performance center, with outstanding natural acoustics. It provides an intimate performance environment and seating for about 800 guests.
- Museo del Canal Interoceánico (Interoceanic Canal Museum), former headquarters of the first French Canal Company, La Societé International du Canal Interoceanique.
- Numerous restaurants located near the French Embassy.
- Palacio de las Garzas (Heron’s Palace), the official name of the presidential palace, named for the numerous herons that inhabit the building.
Currently under a revitalization process, el Casco Viejo is a mix of different archtectural styles, which reflects the cultural diversity of Panama; Caribbean, Republican, Art Deco, French and Spanish Colonial mix in a site of less than 800 buildings. This rich cultural heritage was designated a World Heritage Site by United Nations, UNESCO in 1998.
The only example of true [urban revitalization] in the Panama, [Casco Antiguo] is already the second touristic destination in Panama City, second only to the Panama Canal. Both government and private sectors are actively participating not only in the restoration of the architectural patrimony but also of the human patrimony, investing in cultural industries and local entrepreneurship.
I started my my trip by shooting photographs of the Catedral Metropolitana de Panama (Metropolitan Cathedral of Panama) which has always grabbed my attention.
The Metropolitan Cathedral of Panama, was built in 1673. It was in a critical state of disrepair until June 2004, when a $4 million restoration took place, and it’s now a major attraction in Casco Viejo. The cathedral was first constructed in 1673, soon after Panama City’s refounding. Many of the stones were taken directly from the ruined old city. Even the bells were brought from the old city of Panama Viejo after Henry Morgan’s ferocious attack in 1671.
The towers of the cathedral are inlaid with mother-of-pearl. The vast, imposing arches inside lack the aesthetic skill of the exterior, but the walls are richly decorated with gorgeous paintings.
With its beautifully contrasting gray-and-black facade and white bell towers, this building is an excellent example of Latin American neoclassical architecture.
This is how the cathedral looked on the crisp Sunday morning of February 15, 2009. Here we go.
As you can see, el Casco Viejo is a must stop on your next trip to Panama. It’s a place where the hands of the clock stopped ticking. During the next few days I’ll be posting more pictures of this extraordinary place. Please come and join me in my informative trip to Panama Casco Viejo. Good Day.
Note: Digital edition of photographs made by Michael Moore of Biography of Heart Photography