The influence of the Catholic Church in Panama dates back to the first European invaders, accompanied by Franciscan missionaries in the early 16th century. In 1513, they established the Diocese of Santa María de La Antigua del Darién, the first established on the mainland of the New World. In 1520, the diocese moved from its location in present-day Colombia to Panama City.
The website for archdiocese of the province of Panama lists some 100 Catholic parishes in the province of Panama alone, with many more found throughout the rest of the country.
Many of Panama’s grandest churches are located in the colonial center of Panama City—Casco Viejo—as it was the center of commerce and religion for the early European invaders. Beyond the old city walls are more marvels, too—some older by more than a century, others built as recent as mid-20th century.
For those who aren’t as religiously inclined or don’t profess the same oaths of faith, these churches are still a magnificent sight to behold. It doesn’t take a leap of faith to witness the architectural magnificence of many of them, especially those from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, with their stained-glass scenes, towering steeples, and centuries-old stonework. And while some aren’t miraculous aesthetically, the historical stories and significance are captivating nonetheless…