Location of the Aztecs

Ancient History Encyclopedia
December 6, 2020 – 04:51 pm
Citation
Sacred Precinct, Tenochtitlan (Steve Cadman)

The Sacred Precinct

The sacred precinct at the heart of Tenochtitlan contained, according to one eye-witness, 78 separate structures. Amongst the most important were the Temple Mayor of Tlaloc and Huitzilopochtli, which was flanked by the Eagle’s House (named after its stone decoration) on one side and the pyramid of Tezcatlipoca on the other. In front of the Temple Mayor stood the gladiator stone (where sacrificial victims were bound and attacked by ‘knights’), a stone tzompantli (skull rack) and an I-shaped ball court. In the south west corner stood the Sun Temple of Tonatiuh and a temple to Quetzalcoatl.

There was also a temple to the earth goddess Tonantzin and the Coateocalli building which housed, and in a sense spiritually captured, the statues of gods and various other artworks captured from conquered enemies. Finally, on the Tlaloc side of the Temple Mayor excavations have revealed a man-made mountain made of offerings and deposits which was designed to imitate Tlaloc’s sacred mountain.

TenochtitlanThe Temple Mayor

The Great Temple or Temple Mayor (called Hueteocalli by the Aztecs) takes centre stage in the sacred precinct. On top of the 60 m high pyramid platform, reached by two flights of steps, were two twin temples. The north side shrine was dedicated to Tlaloc, the god of rain and the other, on the south side, was dedicated to Huitzilopochtli, the god of war. The temple to Tlaloc marked the summer solstice (symbolic of the wet season) whilst Huitzilopochtli’s marked the winter solstice (symbolic of the dry season and a time for warfare). The monumental steps leading to Tlaloc’s temple were painted blue and white, the former colour representing water, the element so strongly associated with the god. In contrast, the steps leading to Huitzilopochtli’s temple were painted bright red to symbolise blood and war.

Sacrifices, including human ones, were carried out at both temples to feed and honour the gods. A typical sacrifice involved the victim having their heart ripped out, being skinned, decapitated and then dismembered. Following all that the corpse was flung down the steps of the pyramid to land at the base where a massive round stone depicted Coyolxauhqui, the goddess who was similarly treated by Huitzilopochtli in mythology.

Destruction

When the Spanish arrived at Tenochtitlan, their leader Cortés had only 500 men and fewer than 20 horses at his disposal. However, by recruiting allies such as the Tlaxcalans, he was able to lay siege to the city which would eventually fall on the 13th of August 1521 CE. The great monuments were sacked and looted, works of art and precious objects were melted down and the Aztec civilization collapsed. What was left of the city was made into the capital of New Spain, as the Spanish called their new colony.

Source: www.ancient.eu
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