Historic Las Bovedas
Photos and narration by George Chevalier

After the destruction of Old Panama the colonists moved to a point of land below Ancon Hill at the edge of the bay and in 1674 they founded the present Panama City. Learning from Old Panama's defensive shortcomings they walled in the new city completely.

The wall ranged from 20 to 40 ft.high and at least 10 ft.wide with watch towers every 200 to 300 ft. In addition a moat was dug on the land side and three massive gates were provided.

After construction back in Spain the Kings ministers, after auditing the books, were staggered by the costs and asked if the construction had been made of silver or gold. The King upon being told gazed out a window and remarked that anything that expensive should be visible from here.

The fortress of the Vaults of Chiriqui has the look of the bow of a ship advancing through the sea. The sea walls joined the land portions at what today is the end of 10th street.and the old public market at the end of the Bajada de Jaen. The city and it's houses and public buildings lay within this perimeter. One gained access to the growing suburbs through the Puerta de Tierra which was located in front of where the the National Lottery Building has stood in modern times.

The promenade of the Arches of Chiriqui as it was called during the Colombian Era was named for the Castle of Chiriqui which was part of the vaults and stood where the building of the French Embassy stood in modern times. It had served as an armory and observatory during Colonial Days.

The promenade and vaults being exposed to the ocean breezes played an important role in the social life of a walled city who's people did not have access to public parks or could not go beyond the walls of the city. This has been continued down through the years by many generations and has been popular in modern times by skaters and the evening strolling of lovers on cool dry season nights.

The dungeons in the walls below the promenade have seen their share of prisoners over the years and stories tell us of some who drowned as the tide waters came in as they were chained to the walls. The buildings within the compound were also used as barracks for soldiers and later for minor offence prisoners of both sexes.

Within these walls memorable incidents occurred during the War of the Thousand Days and the November 1903 Independence. Curious crowds gathered on the promenade in the dawn of January 29,1902 to witness the naval battle which resulted in the sinking of the Steamship Lautaro and the death of the Governor of Panama, General Carlos Alban. Against these walls the guerrilla fighter Victoriano Lorenzo was shot in execution. In 1903 Col. Huerta seized Generals Tovar and Amaya and held them prisoner here to insure the success of the revolution.

Years passed and in the 1920's the Old Plaza de Armas,then called Plaza de Chiriqui,was renamed Plaza de Francia and a monument was raised to honor the French men of the Panama Canal. When the final old buildings of the Fortress were demolished a building was constructed for the National Assembly.

And so on some cool dry season night as you savor the breeze and sights along the promenade of Las Bovedas don't be surprised if you see a flitting shadow from out of the past.

Click the thumbnail for a larger image

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These photos are the property of Mr. George Chevalier. Any reproduction of these photos without Mr. Chevalier's permission is not authorized. These photos were provided by Mr. Chevalier for the entertainment of those visiting this site. Photos have been reformatted for the best possible viewing. Some of these photos are very old and in poor condition. If you have any questions for Mr. Chevalier, contact the site Web Publisher.