There are several interesting churches in Casco Viejo. Some of them are still in service while others are completely ruined.
The ruined Iglesia de Santo Domingo, built in 1678, is one of the most important buildings in Panamanian history. A small arch just inside the entrance called Arco Chato is the reason Panama was chosen over Nicaragua as the site of the interoceanic canal. The arch was used as proof that the area was not susceptible to earthquakes because it had survived for two centuries. Iglesia de Santo Domingo is now the home of the Museo de Arte Religioso Colonial, which features religious artifacts dating back to the 16th century.
Iglesia de San Francisco (built in 1756 and renovated in 1918) sits on Plaza Bolívar.
The country’s metropolitan cathedral is located on Plaza Mayor. It was built between 1688 and 1796.
The ruined Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús is just to the south of Plaza Mayor. This Jesuit church was built in the late 17th century and was home of the first university in the isthmus of Panama. The Jesuits were later expelled by King Carlos III of Spain in 1767 and the church fell into disuse.
Iglesia de La Merced, built in 1680, is the only surviving church that features its original façade. It’s on the western end of Casco Viejo.