A Visit to the Bell Tower of Panama Viejo’s Cathedral


If you have been following my posts, you already know that Panama Viejo or Panama La Vieja was the first European city on the Pacific Coast of both Americas.  It was founded in 1519 by Pedro Arias de Ávila and inhabited until 1671 when the English buccaneer Henry Morgan attacked and destroyed the city.  In 1671, twelve hundred men led by the English pirate Henry Morgan ransacked and subsequently destroyed the city.

The devastation of Panama Viejo in 1671 was overseen by the Right Honourable Lord Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica, a Welshman named Henry Morgan.  A lot of the damage to the old buildings at Panama Viejo was done after Morgan’s attack, by people scavenging the ruins to get building materials.

Today there is an interesting museum at the Visitor Center of The Monumental Historic Complex of Panama Viejo and the ruins of various churches and monasteries are open to visitors. Some are in a very poor condition, others have been carefully restored. The highlight is the tower of the ancient cathedral offering not only views over Panama Viejo but also over modern Panama City.

The city’s cathedral, “Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción”, built between 1610 and 1626, and the neighboring Bishop’s House (Casa Alarcón) are the two best-preserved structures, both near the ruin’s main entrance.

The four-story bell tower of the cathedral has been recently fully restored to its original splendor.  The site is hauntingly beautiful, partly shaded by giant trees—including some ancient and beautiful Panama trees.

Today, I invite you to visit with me this venerable structure which is the most emblematic and loved of all the buildings of Panama.  The Tower of Panama Viejo is very much like the Statue of Liberty to the United States, the Eiffel Tower to France or the Sydney Opera House to Australia.

Let’s begin the tour of the cathedral.  Here we go.

View of the Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción located at the main entrance of the ruins of Panama Viejo.
View of the "Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción" located at the main entrance of the ruins of Panama Viejo.
An spectacular view of the bell tower of the cathedral.  The structure is four levels high which you can reach by climbing a stairway recently built inside the tower.
An spectacular view of the bell tower of the cathedral. The structure is four levels high which you can reach by climbing a stairway recently built inside the tower.
A side entrance to the bell tower of the cathedral.
A side entrance to the bell tower of the cathedral.
View of the arched windows of the tower.  You can see on the background the marine section of the fastlane that connects Panama City with Tocumen International Airport.
View of the arched windows of the tower. You can see on the background the marine section of the fastlane that connects Panama City with the Tocumen International Airport.
A panoramic view of Panama City from the fourth level of the tower.
A panoramic view of Panama City from the fourth level of the tower.
View of scattered ruins taken from the fourth level of the tower.
View of scattered ruins taken from the fourth level of the tower.
View of the large main area of the cathedral where the Catholic congregation of the city attended church services.
View of the large main area of the cathedral where the Catholic congregation of the city attended church services.

The ruins of Panama Viejo are located on the outskirts of Panama City, about four miles East of the downtown area.  Panama Viejo is open Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.  Your $1.50 admission feee includes a visit to the ruins.  There is free parking in front of the building that houses Panama Viejo Museum and crafts market.

The tour is over.  I hope you have enjoyed the trip and are not too tired of climbing the stairways of the cathedral’s bell tower. Good Day.

5 thoughts on “A Visit to the Bell Tower of Panama Viejo’s Cathedral”

  1. Hi, I have a quick question, do you have any contact information for the museum or the people in charge of this area? I am actually from panama I would like to get married in panama viejo but I can’t seem to find any information as to who to contact. thank you and hope to hear from you soon!

    1. Hi Melina:

      Panama Viejo is managed by a private patronage. They can be contacted at : patronato@panamaviejo.org.

      You can also call them at the following telephone numbers: (+507) 226-8915 ; 226-9364 ; 226-1757 Fax: (+507)226-7809. Their postal address is: Apartado Postal: 0823-05096, Panamá.

      For further information please access this Web site: http://www.panamaviejo.org/Contactenos/default.asp

      Congratulations on your planned marriage.

      Omar.-

  2. I have some old pictures of the Cathedral taken in about 1946 by my Uncle. I can send copies if anyone wants.
    Scott

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