Religious art from colonial times awaits in an 18th century chapel

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Wooden image of the Virgin Mary with Baby Jesus.

Wooden image of the Virgin Mary with Baby Jesus.

An inviting display of the 16th century Catholic faith including paintings, icons and sculptures will soon be open to the public at the newly-opened Museum of Colonial Religious Art (Museo de Arte Religioso Colonial) in Casco Antiguo. The space, that had been closed for remodelling over the past year, was inaugurated this month by Panama’s First Lady Marta Linares de Martinelli. It is the only museum in the country that houses these types of pieces.

A date by which the museum will be open and entrance prices are yet to be defined. According to sources from the Casco Antiguo Office (OCA), the plan is for it to operate seven days a week with a schedule convenient for locals and tourists alike.

This Casco Antiguo attraction is located next to the ruins of the Santo Domingo Church and the Flat Arch (Arco Chato), on Avenida A y Calle 3 in the picturesque Old Quarter of the city. The space that houses the Religious Art Museum is closely linked to the Dominican order. The Santo Domingo church and convent was built in 1678. It was one of the first buildings built after Panama La Vieja was destroyed and subsequently transferred to the more secure location of San Felipe. Unfortunately both edifices were affected by fires that destroyed a great part of the new city in 1737 and 1756.

The grand temple was replaced by a modest chapel, which it is today the Religious Colonial Art Museum.

After the last fire the monks rebuilt the convent, but not the church because of lack of financing. The grand temple was replaced by a modest chapel, which today is known as the Religious Colonial Art Museum.

The colonial altarpiece is one of the main attractions at the refurbished museum as well as the restored pieces that include a wooden statue of the Virgin Mary with Baby Jesus, a cross made of marble and iron, and an original bell from the La Merced Church.

The newly renovated building has a modern bioclimatic system that allows a constant internal temperature for the conservation of the 80 pieces of the collection and a new lighting system. For more information call 228-2897.


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