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San Jose Church

Everyone loves a good pirate story, and Panama, a country that has received more than its share of pirate attacks, has plenty of them. Perhaps the most endearing tale to survive to this day is about a church built in the original Panama City in the late 1600s. The intricate altar inside, made of mahogany and covered in gold, had both Colonial and indigenous art influences and was appropriately called the Golden Altar. According to the legend, English pirate Henry Morgan arrived in Panama in 1671 and then sacked and burned Panama City. He soon turned his attention to the church, which was under construction. Knowing what was to come, a priest darkened the precious golden altar to make people think it was just wood—the pirates believed the ruse and the altar was saved.

The altar was later taken from the destroyed city to the San José Church in the new city, which was protected by fortified walls, and has since been restored to its golden beauty, easy for all to visit.

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