4. San Francisco Church and Convent

4. Panamá Viejo Cathedral

Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco

The Franciscan order was the first to arrive in the Americas and its presence is documented in Panama since the 1520s. The community of friars, that lived in the extreme poverty that characterizes their order and fulfilled charitable functions, welcomed members from other orders or any traveller on his way to Peru.  The order had to live in a provisional building until 1573, when it began to occupy a privileged piece of land that faced Carrera Road and probably had ocean views.  Between 1589 and 1601, and thanks to contributions from their neighbors, a dormitory with large dimensions was built to house approximately 60 friars.  From that date the convent space doubled its area and at one point occupied two blocks, growing from the South – in other words from Carrera Road – towards the North.

In 1603, after many years of trying, construction began.  The convent was one of the largest in Panama City, as it occupied two blocks and approximately 5,000 m2, of which there are currently only 3,000 m2 left.  It included the following structures, probably built in this order: the dormitory; the church; and a cloister with a patio, surrounded by a wall without windows.  The church had a chapel dedicated to Saint Anthony with an engraving of Saint Francis, an altarpiece of Saint Cosme and Saint Damian, and an altar dedicated to Saint Eloy. It had the following confraternities: Our Lady of Conception, the Veracruz of San Diego, Our Lady of Remedios and Saint John of Buenaventura.