Casco Antiguo’s “Arco Chato”

p. 4 arco chato recons_fmt p. 4 arco-chato_fmtThe original Arco Chato (the Flat Arch) was erected in Panama City’s Casco Antiguo by Dominican monks in 1678. It is 35 feet in height and 50 feet in length. It remained standing until November 7, 2003, when it collapsed unexpectedly.

The monument, considered a World Heritage Site, has been completely rebuilt. Although the structure was raised using modern technology, its outer layer was constructed with bricks left on the ground after the collapse, thus preserving the look and feel of the original arch.

The ruins of the church where it is located is a complex, large and heavy edifice that survived Panama’s colonial era without completely collapsing despite not being reinforced with iron. Because its existence was predicated on the relative stability of Panama’s terrain, the Flat Arch became famous for having served as an argument in favor for building the canal in Panama instead of in Nicaragua, a land with volcanos and earthquakes deemed too risky for the project.