Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Virgin of Guadalupe - Mexico City

Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin was one of the first native baptisms by the Twelve Apostles of Mexico, the Franciscan missionaries who arrived in Mexico in 1524, shortly after the victory by Cortes over the Aztecs at Tenochtitlan. 
This mural of the Twelve Apostles of Mexico is found in the Monastery at Huejotzingo
Juan Diego regularly walked from his home to the Franciscan Mission in Tlatelcolco, and back again, passing by a hill at Tepeyec. On December 9, 1531, early on a Saturday morning on the way to the Mission, the 57 year old Juan Diego encountered the Virgin Mary at the base of Tepeyec Hill. She told Juan Diego to visit the Bishop, Fray Juan Zumarraga, and instruct him to build a chapel in her honor at that spot. Juan Diego did so and the bishop ignored him. On the way back home that day Juan Diego encountered the Virgin Mary again and she asked him to go back to the bishop and try again.
A painting of Juan Diego and the Virgin Mary in the Church of San Gabriel in Cholula. 
Sunday morning he reported to Fray Zumarraga again and the bishop asked Juan Diego for a sign to prove that his vision was from heaven. Juan Diego returned to Tepeyec Hill and found the Virgin and requested the sign. She told him to come back the next day. 

The next morning Juan Diego's uncle Juan Bernardino was sick and Juan Diego stayed with him. He got worse and on Tuesday morning Juan Diego headed to the Mission to find a priest to hear his uncle's death-bed confession. Embarrassed that he'd not visited the Virgin the day before, and not wanting to be delayed, he found another route around Tepeyec Hill, but despite his diversion the Virgin encountered him again. After Juan Diego explained his situation, the Virgin chided him for not having come to her for help. She then spoke the words that are emblazoned over the entrance to the basilica, "Am I not here, I who am your mother?" She told Juan Diego that his uncle had recovered and to climb Tepeyec Hill and collect flowers which grew there. With his mantle as a sack, the ends still tied around his neck, he collected flowers. The Virgin re-arranged the flowers when he returned and told him to take them to the bishop. 
This bronze plaque of Juan Diego gathering the flowers is right below the hanging cloak of Juan Diego showing the Virgin of Guadalupe in the New Basilica. 
When Juan Diego saw the bishop he opened his mantle and the flowers dropped to the floor. Fray Zumarraga saw that they had left an imprint of the Virgin on the inside of his mantle and the bishop dropped to the floor to venerate it. 
The bishop examines Juan Diego's mantle. Painting in the Church of San Gabriel in Cholula. 
This mural on the outside of the Old Basilica, above the entrance, appears to show Juan Diego holding his cloak and the bishop on his knees venerating it. 

This photo is of the actual cloak of Juan Diego hanging in the New Basilica.
The next day Juan Diego found Juan Bernardino fully recovered and he told Juan Diego that the Virgin had visited him, at his bedside, and had asked him to contact Fray Zumarraga and let him know of his cure and his vision. She also told Juan Bernardino to tell Fray Zumarraga she wanted to be known under the title "Guadalupe." 

To skeptics, who note that the Spanish destroyed the shrines of the natives and built their own shrines in their place, Tepeyac Hill was just another example of that. It was the site of a temple to the mother goddess Tonantzin. The Spanish destroyed it and built a chapel there in honor of the Virgin Mary and came up with the story of Juan Diego. Whatever the case, the Indians joined the Catholic Church by the thousands and many addressed the Virgin as "Tonantzin."
This painting, which I like, is in the Old Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It shows the Franciscans baptizing Indians out of water held in an Aztec container with the volcano Popo smoking in the background and God and the Virgin watching from above in the smoke. 
The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe is built near Tepeyac Hill where Juan Diego encountered the Virgin. It is a Roman Catholic Church and a National Shrine of Mexico. There are actually two basilicas. What is known as the Old Basilica was begun about 1695 and completed in 1709. It was given basilica status in 1904. 
Old Basilica on the left, which is sinking to the left, and the Capuchin Nun's Temple on the right, which is sinking to the right. They have had to put cement under the foundations to prop them up and keep them from collapsing. 
Entrance to the Old Basilica.
Looking at the altar in the Old Basilica from near the entrance.
A service going on near the main altar.
A painting in the Old Basilica. I love how Mexican art portrays the Father, Son and Holy Ghost as three separate entities. 
A painting of Juan Diego in the Old Basilica.
It has statues of Juan Diego and Fray Juan de Zummaraga, the bishop. Juan Diego's cloak hung there from 1709 to 1974. The land is part of the old lake bed of Tenochtitlan and is very unstable. As the Old Basilica began to sink, a New Basilica was begun, with land stabilized to compensate for the poor soil. 
The aerial photo shows the New Basilica (blue roof), Old Basilica (to the right with the gold dome) and the Hill of Tepeyac, behind and to the right of it.
A ground level view of the New Basilica and Old Basilica. 
In 1921 a bomb planted by a terrorist near the altar containing the cloak blew up and greatly damaged the interior, but the cloak was not damaged.  The New Basilica has an iron crucifix that was bent in the explosion and calls it "the attempt on Christ." 
The bent crucifix on display in the New Basilica. 
Top end of the bent crucifix.
The New Basilica is next door to the Old Basilica and was built between 1974 and 1976. 
The words of the Virgin to Juan Diego are on the front: "Am I not here, I who am your mother? "
It has a circular floor plan that allows Juan Diego's cloak, the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, to be seen from all angles. It can hold 10,000 people. 
Juan Diego's cloak, the Virgin of Guadalupe, is framed in gold to the bottom right of the central altarpiece. 
A view from a different angle. 
A hallway behind and beneath the pulpit leads to four flat elevator walkways, two going in each direction, that allow you to view the Virgin of Guadalupe from below. It is an ingenious idea to prevent a few people from standing in one place and monopolizing the area. 
This view, which catches just the top portion of the Virgin, looks up into the open top of New Basilica which is shaped like a tent. 
The Virgin of Guadalupe, framed in gold. We saw her image everywhere and have seen it elsewhere, all over the world. 
The New Basilica's seven front doors are an illusion to the seven gates of Celestial Jerusalem. The doors, which swing wide open, are also a nod to the original capilla abierto, or open chapels, which were built by the early Franciscans in their efforts to convert the natives, and are one of the most unique Mexican construction contributions. 
The open doors to the New Basilica.
An inside view looking out the doors. 
The bell and clock tower in the square near the basilicas is fun. Our guide told us that it was patterned after carvings at Teotihuacan. 
The clock and bell tower.
A carving at Teotihuacan that has similarities and perhaps was the model, or one of the models for the bell and clock tower. 
There was much more to see at this amazing place and we could have spent a half day here or more. But we had other places to go and had to break ourselves away. For those who are interested in religion, or religious culture, this is a fascinating and highly recommended place to visit. 


Sunday, April 29, 2018

Comalcalco - Tabasco State, Mexico

The archaeological site of Comalcalco is the westernmost Maya city, 32 miles northwest of Villahermosa in Tabasco State, relatively close to the Gulf of Mexico. 
This map, from the Archaeological Museum in Mexico City, shows Comalcalco to the upper left. Palenque, which we also visited, is southeast of Comalcalco. 
It is the only major Maya city to have buildings constructed of fired clay bricks instead of limestone, due to the lack of limestone in the area. The bricks are irregular and made by cutting varying lengths of clay, as opposed to out of molds. The mortar that held the bricks together was made of calcinated seashells, including oysters. 
This iguana is resting on a series of bricks and mortar. 
This lizard carved into a clay brick seems fitting. It was in the on-site museum. 
Comalcalco flourished from around 550 CE to 1000 CE when it was abandoned. It was likely involved in the production of cacao and was a trading link between the Gulf Coast and the Yucatan Peninsula. 

Temple 1 is a pyramid structure, the first structure to meet our eye and the most dominating structure at the site. It is on the west end of a plaza that stretches out to the east and reminds me of Teotihuacan. The east side of the pyramid has stairs that go 66 feet up, passing through 10 tiers, to the top. 
This re-creation shows Temple 1 at the west end of the plaza. 
This re-creation is a view from the top of Temple 1 looking east. The Acropolis is to the back right.  Temples II and IIa are to the left, Temples III, IIIa and IIIb are to the right, and Temples VIII, VII and VI are behind them, higher up. 
Temple I to the lest and Temple III to the right as we first walked up. 
Stretching out east of Temple 1 is a plaza with structures on both the north and south side. Temple II is the closest structure to Temple 1 on the north side. We got to it by a fairly steep climb up the side of a hill. 
The top of Temple II.
Temple 1 from Temple II.
On the other side of the plaza, the south side, is Temple III, then Temples IIIa and IIIb stretching to the east. 
Temple III.
South of the plaza, and up on an artificial hill, is what is called the Great Acropolis which has a palace and some temples. Stretching out to the west is a spur of the Acropolis which has Temples VI, VII and VIII, from east to west. Temple VI is also known as the Temple of the Mask, because a mask of the sun god Kinich Ahau is found in stucco between staircases. 
Looking up at Temples VI, VII and VIII. Judy is going up a walkway to the left. 
This photo, from the Acropolis, shows Temples VI, VII and VIII in the foreground, Temple 1 to the back left, and Temple II to the right of it. 
The mask of the sun god in Temple VI. 
The Acropolis is a jumble of buildings which includes a palace and Temple V, and off to the west what I believe is Temple IX on top of the Tomb of the Nine Lords of the Night. 
The Palace to the left and Temple V is center. 
I believe this is the remains of Temple IX. 
From the back of the Palace. Temple I is visible at the back and right of center. 
A view back to the southwest. 
My favorite part of the site was the abundance of iguanas. I could have spent the entire time looking for them. 

The heat, in the high 90s, and humidity, over 90%, were stifling. I was sweating through my clothes. This was my least favorite part of the site. 

Maya religion is fairly complex and not something we got much into. There is some animal sacrifice, and even a little human sacrifice. If we get into Maya country again I would like to learn more about the religion. 
This clay figure of a head looks like some of the representations of heads we saw in Palenque. It appears that Palenque may have conquered Comalcalco at some point leading to similarities in architecture. 

Friday, April 27, 2018

Palenque - Chiapas State, Mexico

Palenque is a Mayan city located at the base of a mountain range in the State of Chiapas, Mexico. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and considered by many to have the most beautiful of Mayan buildings. It was occupied from 200 to 900 CE. Many of the rulers of Palenque are known, beginning in 431. The most famous was Kinich Janaab Pacal, also known as Pakal the Great, who ruled from 615 to 683. He created a dynasty which, over three generations (four rulers), increased in prosperity. Pakal's son, Chan Bahlum, ruled from 684 to 702, then another son, K'an Joy Chitam II, ruled from 702 to 720, and a grandson, Akul Mo' Naab, ruled from 721 to 736. Monumental building ceased about 800 CE, after hostilities with other cities.  
View of the Palace Complex (right) and Temple of Inscription (left) from the Temple of the Cross. 
Beautiful flowers.
There are springs in the nearby mountainside which are channeled by canals and aqueducts which gave it its ancient name, "The Place of the Great Waters." 

The Temple of the Skull, also known as the Temple of the Dead Moon and Temple XII, is one of the first buildings we saw. It is named after a decoration on one of the pillars. It shares a long rectangular platform with the Temple of the Red Queen, also known as Temple XIII, which gets its name from a woman found in a sarcophagus covered with bright red cinnabar powder.  A theory is that she was the wife of Pakal as her burial chamber was near Pakal's and she had a burial mask and other items similar to those found in the sarcophagus of Pakal. Both were built in the 8th century on layers of other buildings built 100 years earlier. 
Temple of the Skull. 
Temple of the Skull behind these beautiful flowers.
Temple of the Skull.
Temple of the Queen with the awning over it in the center. Above it is the Temple of Inscription and the Palace Complex is to the left. 
Palace Complex from the Temple of the Red Queen.
The Palace is the central complex in Palenque. It is a complex of connected and adjacent buildings and courtyards. It was the center of the city. It was a royal residence and court and had accommodations for others, including military personnel.  It was begun by Pakal and enlarged and remodeled in 654, 661 and 668 CE. It includes a four story Observation Tower, built about 721, and baths and saunas which were supplied fresh water by the aqueduct water system. 
Palace Complex
Palace Complex
Palace Complex. 
Palace Complex
Palace Complex
Inscription from Palace Complex.
Inscription.
Palace Complex from another side.
Palace Complex from base of Temple of the Cross.
The Temple of Inscriptions, a summit building set on a pyramid, began as early as 675 CE as the funerary monument of Pakal. It was completed about 682. It has a glyphic text which records 180 years of history. A tomb was found deep in the pyramid with five or six skeletons from sacrificial victims on the outside, and inside, was the sarcophagus of Pakal. King Pakal was covered in jade and cinnabar and has a life-like jade mosaic death mask that is considered one of the greatest discoveries of Mesoamerican archaeology. It is now in the Archaeological Museum in Mexico City. 
Temple of Inscriptions to the left, as seen from the Palace Complex.
A partial view of the Temple of Inscriptions from the Palace Complex. 
Temple of Inscriptions with Temple of the Red Queen and Temple of the Skull to its right. 
Temple of Inscriptions. 
The Temple of the Cross Complex has three main structures built of limestone. 16th century accounts indicate that the buildings were covered in stucco and decorated with blue and red paint. The main and most impressive structure, the Temple of the Cross, is a step-pyramid built by Chan-Bahlum who reigned between 684 and 702 CE. It is believed that all three of these three main structures were built around 690 CE to celebrate the transition from King Pakal to Chan-Bahlum. It has panels that record Chan-Bahlum's ancestral history,  the divine origin of his lineage and his accession to the throne. It is associated with the God GI, one among a triad of gods (the other gods were GII and GIII). GI had a shell earflare, a square-eye and a fish fin on his cheek. 
Temple of the Cross (upper left) as seen from the Palace Complex. The Temple of the Foliated Cross is partially hidden in the middle. 
Another view of the Temple of the Cross (middle) from the Palace Complex. The Temple of the Sun is partially visible to the right. 
Judy at the top of the Temple of the Cross with her arms outstretched. 
The Temple of the Foliated Cross sits alone on a nearby hill, probably a stepped pyramid, but not uncovered like the Temple of the Cross. It originally looked like the Temple of the Sun with three entrance doorways and four stuccoed piers. It is associated with the God GII. 
Temple of the Foliated Cross. 
Temple of the Foliated Cross to the right and Temple of the Cross is upper left. 
The Temple of the Sun is on a much smaller stepped-pyramid and is associated with the God GIII. 
Temple of the Sun (on the left) as viewed from the top of the Temple of the Cross. Temple IV is to the right. 
Temple of the Sun (to the left) and Temple IV (to the right). 
Temple IV was built around 702 CE after the death of Chan-Bahlum, by his brother Chitam. 
Temple IV in the foreground and Temple of the Sun in the background. 
Same view as above, but from the back side.
Mural from Temple IV.
The Temple of the Count was named after Jean-Frederic Waldeck who lived inside the temple for two years in the 18th century. It was built between 640 and 650 and is the oldest excavated building at Palenque. Three tombs with human bodies and sacrificial offering were found underneath the portico's floor. 
Temple of the Count.
Part of what I believe is called the North Complex, near the Temple of the Count. 
When we visited the temperature was about 98 degrees and the humidity was over 90%. Without continually hacking back the jungle, it just overgrows the buildings. This is much later than Teotihuacan and has obviously borrowed from it (note the steps up the pyramids). We visited with our friends Kasey and Julia who are currently living in Villahermosa, about two hours away by car.