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Title: A note on the position and extent of the great temple enclosure of Tenochtitlan,: and the position, structure and orientation of the Teocolli of Huitzilopochtli.
Author: Maudslay, Alfred P.
Language: English
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                                 A NOTE
                       ON THE POSITION AND EXTENT
                                 OF THE
                                 OF THE
                      TEOCOLLI OF HUITZILOPOCHTLI.


                          ALFRED P. MAUDSLAY.


                                 A NOTE
                       ON THE POSITION AND EXTENT
                                 OF THE
                                 OF THE
                      TEOCALLI OF HUITZILOPOCHTLI.
                          ALFRED P. MAUDSLAY.

Extracts from the works of the earliest authorities referring to the
Great Temple Enclosure of Tenochtitlan and its surroundings are printed
at the end of this note, and the following particulars concerning the
authors will enable the reader to form some judgment of the comparative
value of their evidence.

THE ANONYMOUS CONQUEROR.—The identity of this writer is unknown. That he
was a companion of Cortés during the Conquest is undoubted. His account
is confined to the dress, arms, customs, buildings, &c. of the Mexicans.
The original document has never been found, and what we now possess was
recovered from an Italian translation.

MOTOLINIA.—Fray Toribio de Benavento, a Franciscan monk, known best by
his assumed name of Motolinia, left Spain in January 1524 and arrived in
the City of Mexico in the month of June of the same year. From that date
until his death in August 1569 he lived an active missionary life among
the Indians in many parts of Mexico and Guatemala.

He was in fullest sympathy with the Indians, and used his utmost efforts
to defend them from the oppression of their conquerors.

Motolinia appears in the books of the Cabildo in June 1525 as “Fray
Toribio, guardian del Monesterio de Sor. San Francisco”; so he probably
resided in the City at that date, and must have been familiar with what
remained of the ancient City.

SAHAGUN, Fr. Bernadino de, was born at Sahagun in Northern Spain about
the last year of the 15th Century. He was educated at the University of
Salamanca, and became a monk of the Order of Saint Francis, and went to
Mexico in 1529. He remained in that country, until his death in 1590, as
a missionary and teacher.

No one devoted so much time and study to the language and culture of the
Mexicans as did Padre Sahagun throughout his long life. His writings,
both in Spanish, Nahua, and Latin, were numerous and of the greatest
value. Some of them have been published and are well known, but it is
with the keenest interest and with the anticipation of enlightenment on
many obscure questions that all engaged in the study of ancient America
look forward to the publication of a complete edition of his great work,
‘Historia de las Cosas de Nueva España,’ with facsimiles of all the
original coloured illustrations under the able editorship of Don
Francisco del Paso y Troncoso. Señor Troncoso’s qualifications for the
task are too well known to all Americanists to need any comment, but all
those interested in the subject will join in hearty congratulations to
the most distinguished of Nahua scholars and rejoice to hear that his
long and laborious task is almost completed and that a great part of the
work has already gone to press.

TORQUEMADA, Fr. Juan de.—Little is known about the life of Torquemada
beyond the bare facts that he came to Mexico as a child, became a
Franciscan monk in 1583 when he was eighteen or twenty years old, and
that he died in the year 1624. He probably finished the ‘Monarquia
Indiana’ in 1612, and it was published in Seville in 1615. Torquemada
knew Padre Sahagun personally and had access to his manuscripts.

DURAN, Fr. Diego.—Very little is known about Padre Duran. He was
probably a half-caste, born in Mexico about 1538. He became a monk of
the Order of St. Dominic about 1578 and died in 1588.

His work entitled ‘Historia de las Indias de Nueva Espana y Islas de
Tierra Firme’ exists in MS. in the National Library in Madrid. The MS.
is illustrated by a number of illuminated drawings which Don José
Ramíres, who published the text in Mexico in 1867, reproduced as a
separate atlas without colour. Señor Ramíres expresses the opinion that
the work “is a history essentially Mexican, with a Spanish physiognomy.
Padre Duran took as the foundation and plan of his work an ancient
historical summary which had evidently been originally written by a
Mexican Indian.”

TEZOZOMOC, Don Hernando Alvaro.—Hardly anything is known about
Tezozomoc. He is believed to have been of Royal Mexican descent, and he
wrote the ‘Cronica Mexicana’ at the end of the 16th Century, probably
about 1598.

IXTLILXOCHITL.—A fragment of a Codex, known as the ‘Codice Goupil,’ is
published in the ‘Catalogo Boban,’ ii. 35, containing a picture of the
great Teocalli with a description written in Spanish. The handwriting is
said by Leon y Gama to be that of Ixtlilxochitl.

Don Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl was born in 1568 and was descended
from the royal families of Texcoco and Tenochtitlan. He was educated in
the College of Sta. Cruz and was the author of the history of the
Chichamecs. He died in 1648 or 1649.

The ‘Codice Goupil’ was probably a translation into Spanish of an
earlier Aztec text.

The picture of the great Teocalli is given on Plate D.

                  *       *       *       *       *

The positions of the Palace of Montezuma, the Palace of Tlillancalqui,
the Cuicacalli or Dance House, and the old Palace of Montezuma have been
defined by various writers and are now generally accepted.

The principal difficulty arises in defining the area of the Temple
Enclosure and the position and orientation of the Teocalli of

                         THE TEMPLE ENCLOSURE.

The Temple Enclosure was surrounded by a high masonry wall (Anon.,
Torq., Moto.) known as the Coatenamitl or Serpent Wall, which some say
was embattled (Torq. quoting Sahagun, Moto.). There were four principal
openings (Anon., Torq., Moto., Duran) facing the principal streets or
causeways (Torq., Moto., Duran). (Tezozomoc alone says there were only
three openings—east, west and south—and three only are shown on
Sahagun’s plan.) “It was about 200 _brazas_ square” (Sahagun), _i. e._
about 1013 English feet square. However, Sahagun’s plan (Plate C) shows
an oblong.

As the four openings faced the principal streets or causeways, the
prolongation of the line of the causeways of Tacuba and Iztapalapa must
have intersected within the Temple Enclosure. This intersection
coincides with junction of the modern streets of Escalerillas, Relox,
Sta. Teresa, and Seminario (see Plate A).

We have now to consider the boundaries of the Temple Enclosure, and this
can best be done by establishing the positions of the Temple of
Tezcatlipoca and the Palace of Axayacatl.

=The Temple of Tezcatlipoca.= (Tracing A_{2}.)

(DURAN, ch. lxxxiii.)

“This Temple was built on the site (afterwards) occupied by the
Archbishop’s Palace, and if anyone who enters it will take careful
notice he will see that it is all built on a terrace without any lower
windows, but the ground floor (primer suelo) all solid.”

This building is also mentioned in the 2nd Dialogue of Cervantes
Salazar[1], where, in reply to a question, Zuazo says:—“It is the
Archbishop’s Palace, and you must admire that first story (primer piso)
adorned with iron railings which, standing at such a height above the
ground, rests until reaching the windows on a firm and solid
foundation.” To this Alfaro replies:—“It could not be demolished by

The Arzobispado, which still occupies the same site in the street of
that name, must therefore have been originally built on the solid
foundation formed by the base of the Teocalli of Tezcatlipoca.

=The Palace of Axayacatl.= (Tracing A_{2}.)

  (‘Descripción de las dos Piedras, etc.,’ 1790, by Don ANTONIO DE LEON
      Y GAMA. Bustamante, Edition ii. p. 35.)

“In these houses of the family property of the family called Mota[2], in
the street of the Indio Triste.... These houses were built in the 16th
century on a part of the site occupied by the great Palace of the King
Axayacatl, where the Spaniards were lodged when first they entered
Mexico, which was contiguous (estaba inmediato) with the wall that
enclosed the great Temple.”

Don Carlos M. de Bustamante adds in a footnote to this
passage:—“Fronting these same buildings, behind the convent of Santa
Teresa la Antigua, an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was worshipped,
which was placed in that position to perpetuate the memory that here
mass was first celebrated in Mexico, in the block (cuadra) where stood
the gate of the quarters of the Spaniards.... This fact was often
related to me by my deceased friend, Don Francisco Sedano, one of the
best antiquarians Mexico has known.”

  (GARCÍA ICAZBALCETA, note to 2nd Dialogue of Cervantes Salazar, p.

“The Palace of Axayacatl, which served as a lodging or quarters for the
Spaniards, stood in the Calle de Sta. Teresa and the 2a Calle del Indio

So far as I can ascertain, no eye-witness or early historian describes
the position of the Palace of Axayacatl, but tradition and a consensus
of later writers place it outside the Temple Enclosure to the north of
the Calle de Sta. Teresa and to the west of the 2a Calle del Indio
Triste. No northern boundary is given.

Taking the point A in the line of the Calle de Tacuba as the
hypothetical site of the middle of the entrance in the Eastern wall of
the Temple Enclosure and drawing a line A-B to the Eastern end of the C.
de Arzobispado, we get a distance of about 450 feet; extend this line in
a northerly direction for 450 feet to the point C, and the line B-C may
be taken as the Eastern limit of the Temple Enclosure.

The Northern and Southern entrance to the Enclosure must have been at D
and E, that is in the line of the Calle de Iztapalapa.

Extending the line B-E twice its own length in a westerly direction
brings us to the South end of the Empedradillo at the point F.

Completing the Enclosure we find the Western entrance at G in the line
of the Calle de Tacuba and the north-west corner at H.

This delimitation of the Temple Enclosure gives a parallelogram
measuring roughly 900′ × 1050′, not at all too large to hold the
buildings it is said to have contained, and not far from Sahagun’s
_doscientos brazas en cuadro_ (1012′ × 1012′).

It divides the Enclosure longitudinally into two equal halves, which is
on the side of probability.

It leaves two-thirds of the Enclosure to the West and one-third to the
East of the line of the Calle de Iztapalapa[3].

It includes the site of the Temple of Tezcatlipoca.

It agrees with the generally accepted position of the Palace of
Axayacatl and of the Aviary.

It includes the site of the Teocalli, the base of which was discovered
at No. 8, 1^{ra} Calle de Relox y Cordobanes.

It will now be seen how closely this agrees with the description given
by Don Lucas Alaman, one of the best modern authorities on the
topography of the City.

  (Disertaciones, by Don LUCAS ALAMAN, 1844. Octava Disertacion, vol.
      ii. p. 246.)

“We must now fix the site occupied by the famous Temple of
Huichilopochtli[4]. As I have stated above, on the Southern side it
formed the continuation of the line from the side walk (acera) of the
Arzobispado towards the Alcaiceria touching the front of the present
Cathedral. On the West it ran fronting the old Palace of Montezuma, with
the street now called the Calle del Empedradillo (and formerly called
the Plazuela del Marques del Valle) between them, but on the East and
North it extended far beyond the square formed by the Cathedral and
Seminario, and in the first of these directions reached the Calle
Cerrada de Sta. Teresa, and followed the direction of this last until it
met that of the Ensenanza now the Calle Cordobanes and the Montealegre.”


The general description of the ancient City by eye-witnesses does not
enable us to locate the position of the great Teocalli with exactness,
but further information can be gained by examining the allotment of
Solares or City lots to the Conquerors who took up their residence in
Mexico and to religious establishments; these allotments can in some
instances be traced through the recorded Acts of the Municipality.

  (7th Disertacion, p. 140. Don LUCAS ALAMAN.) (Tracing A_{1}.)

“From the indisputable testimony of the Acts of the Municipality and
much other corroborative evidence one can see that the site of the
original foundation (the Monastery) of San Francisco was in the Calle de
Sta. Teresa on the side walk which faces South.

“At the meeting of the Municipality of 2nd May, 1525, there was granted
to Alonzo de Ávila a portion of the Solar between his house and _the
Monastery of San Francisco in this City_. This house of Alonzo de Ávila
stood in the Calle de Relox at the corner of the Calle de Sta. Teresa
(where now stands the druggist’s shop of Cervantes and Co.), and this is
certain as it is the same house which was ordered to be demolished and
[the site] sown with salt, as a mark of infamy, when the sons of Alonzo
de Ávila were condemned to death for complicity in the conspiracy
attributed to D. Martin Cortés. By the decree of the 1st June, 1574,
addressed to the Viceroy, Don Martin Enríquez, he was permitted to found
schools on this same site, with a command that the pillar and
inscription relating to the Ávilas which was within the same plot,
should be placed outside ‘in a place where it could be more open and
exposed.’ As the schools were not built on this site, the University
sold it on a quit rent (which it still enjoys) to the Convent of Sta.
Isabel, to which the two houses Nos. 1 and 2 of the 1st Calle de Relox
belong, which are the said druggist’s shop and the house adjoining it,
which occupy the site where the house of Alonzo de Ávila stood.

“In addition to this, by the titles of a house in the Calle de
Montealegre belonging to the convent of San Jeronimo which the Padre
Pichardo examined, it is certain that Bernadino de Albornoz, doubtless
the son of the Accountant Rodrigo de Albornoz, was the owner of the
houses which followed the house of Alonzo de Ávila in the Calle de Sta.
Teresa; and by the act of the Cabildo of the 31st Jan., 1529, it results
that this house of Albornoz was built on the land where stood the old
San Francisco, which the Municipality considered itself authorised to
dispose of as waste land.”

  (DURAN, vol. ii. ch. lxxx.)

“The Idol Huitzilopochtli which we are describing ... had its site in
the houses of Alonzo de Ávila, which is now a rubbish heap.”

  (ALAMAN, Octava Disertacion, p. 246.)

“One can cite what is recorded in the books of the Acts of the
Municipality in the Session of 22nd February, 1527, on which day, on the
petition of Gil González de Benavides, the said Señores (the Licenciate
Marcos de Aguilar, who at that time ruled it, and the members who were
present at the meeting) granted him one solar [city lot] situated in
this city bordering on the solar and houses of his brother Alonzo de
Ávila, which is (en la tercia parte donde estaba el Huichilobos) in the
third portion where Huichilobos[5] stood. It was shown in the 7th
Dissertation that these houses of Alonzo de Ávila were the two first in
the Ira Calle de Relox, turning the corner of the Calle de Sta. Teresa,
and consequently that the solar that was given to Gil González de
Benavides was the next one in the Calle de Relox, for the next house in
the Calle de Sta. Teresa was that of the Accountant Albornoz. This
opinion agrees with that of Padre Pichardo, who made such a lengthy
study of the subject, and who was able to examine the ancient titles of
many properties.”

  In a note to the 2nd Dialogue of Cervantes Salazar, Don J. GARCIA
      ICAZBALCETA discusses the position of the original Cathedral and
      quotes a decree of the Cabildo, dated 8th Feb., 1527, allotting
      certain sites as follows:—

“The said Señores [here follow the names of those present] declare that
inasmuch as in time past when the Factor and Veedor were called
Governors of New Spain they allotted certain Solares within this City,
_which Solares are facing Huichilobos_ (son frontero del Huichilobos),
which Solares (because the Lord Governor on his arrival together with
the Municipality reclaimed them, and allotted them to no one for
distribution) are vacant and are [suitable] for building and enclosure;
and inasmuch as the aforesaid is prejudicial to the ennoblement of this
city, and because their occupation would add to its dignity, they make a
grant of the said space of Solares, allotting in the first place ten
Solares for the church and churchyard, and for outbuildings in the
following manner:—Firstly they say that they constitute as a plaza (in
addition to the plaza in front of the new houses of the Lord Governor),
the site and space which is unoccupied in front of the corridors of the
other houses of the Governor where they are used to tilt with reeds, to
remain the same size that it is at present.

“At the petition of Cristóbal Flores, Alcalde, the said Señores grant to
him in this situation the Solar which is at the corner, fronting the
houses of Hernando Alonzo Herrero and the high roads, which (Solar) they
state it is their pleasure to grant to him.

“To Alonzo de Villanueva another Solar contiguous to that of the said
Cristóbal Flores, in front of the Solar of the Padre Luis Méndez, the
high road between them, etc.”

(Here follow the other grants.)

                  *       *       *       *       *

“Then the said Señores ... assign as a street for the exit and service
of the said Solares ... a space of 14 feet, which street must pass
between the Solar of Alonzo de Villanueva and that of Luis de la Torre
and pass through to the site of the Church, on one side being the Solar
of Juan de la Torre, and on the other the Solar of Gonzalo de Alvarado.”

In the same note Icazbalceta discusses the measurements of the Solares,
which appear to have varied between 141 × 141 Spanish feet (= 130 ¾′ ×
130¾′ English) and 150 × 150 Spanish feet (= 139′ × 139′ English), which
latter measurement was established by an Act of the Cabildo in Feb.
1537. He also printed with the note a plan of what he considered to be
the position of the Solares dealt with in this Act of Cabildo. This plan
is incorporated in Tracing A_{1}.

Plate C is a copy of a plan of the Temple Enclosure found with a Sahagun
MS., preserved in the Library of the Royal Palace at Madrid and
published by Dr. E. Seler in his pamphlet entitled ‘Die Ausgrabungen am
Orte des Haupttempels in Mexico’ (1904).

We know from Cortés’s own account, confirmed by Gomara, that the Great
Teocalli was so close to the quarters of the Spaniards that the Mexicans
were able to discharge missiles from the Teocalli into the Spanish
quarters, and according to Sahagun’s account the Mexicans hauled two
stout beams to the top of the Teocalli in order to hurl them against the
Palace of Axayacatl so as to force an entrance. It was on this account
Cortés made such a determined attack on the Teocalli and cleared it of
the enemy.

We also know from the Acts of the Cabildo that the group of Solares
beginning with that of Cristóbal Flores (Nos. 1–9) are described as
“frontero del Huichilobos,” _i. e._ opposite (the Teocalli of)
Huichilobos, and we also learn that the Solar of Alonzo de Avila was “en
la tercia parte donde estaba el Huichilobos,” _i. e._ in the third part
or portion where (the Teocalli of) Huichilobos stood. Alaman confesses
that he cannot understand this last expression, but I venture to suggest
that as the Temple Enclosure was divided unevenly by the line of the
Calle de Iztapalapa, two-thirds lying to the West of that line and
one-third to the East of it, the expression implies that the Teocalli
was situated in the Eastern third of the Enclosure. This would bring it
sufficiently near to the Palace of Axayacatl for the Mexicans to have
been able to discharge missiles into the quarters of the Spaniards. It
would also occupy the site of the Solar de Alonzo de Avila, and might be
considered to face the Solar of Cristóbal Flores and his neighbours, and
we should naturally expect to find it in line with the Calle de Tacuba.
Sahagun’s plan is not marked with the points of the compass, but if we
should give it the same orientation as Tracing A_{2}, the Great Teocalli
falls fairly into its place.

Measurements of the Great Teocalli.

There were two values to the Braza or Fathom in old Spanish measures,
one was the equivalent of 65·749 English inches, and the other and more
ancient was the equivalent of 66·768 English inches. In computing the
following measurements I have used the latter scale:—

                      Spanish.     English.
                      1 foot   = 11·128 inches.
           3 feet   = 1 vara   = 33·384   „     = 2·782 feet.
           2 varas  = 1 Braza  = 66·768   „     = 5·564   „

The Pace is reckoned as equal to 2·5 English feet and the Ell mentioned
by Tezozomoc as the Flemish Ell = 27·97 English inches or 2·33 English

There is a general agreement that the Teocalli was a solid quadrangular
edifice in the form of a truncated step pyramid.

The dimensions of the Ground plan are given as follows:—

                    Spanish Measure.                      English feet.

 ANONIMO 150 × 120 paces                                 = 375 × 300

 TORQUEMADA 360 × 360 feet                               = 333·84 ×

 GOMARA 50 × 50 Brazas                                   = 278·2 × 278·2

 TEZOZOMOC 125 Ells (one side)                           = 291·248

 BERNAL DÍAZ = six large Solares measuring 150 × 150     = 341 × 341
   feet each, which would give a square of about

 IXLILXOCHITL 80 Brazas                                  = 445[6]

 Motolinea says the Teocalli at Tenayoca measured 40 ×   =222·56 ×
   40 Brazas                                               222·56

The measurements are rather vague. The Anonymous Conqueror’s
measurements may refer to the Teocalli at Tlatelolco and the length may
have included the Apetlac or forecourt. Torquemada may be suspected of
exaggeration. Tezozomoc was not an eye-witness and Bernal Díaz’s
estimate of six large Solares is only an approximation.

In Tracing A_{2} I have taken 300 × 300 English feet as the measurement
of the base of the Teocalli.

Orientation of the Great Teocalli.

 SAHAGUN       Facing the West.

 TORQUEMADA    Its back to the East, “_which is the practice the large
                 Temples ought to follow_.”

 MOTOLINEA     The ascent and steps are on the West side.

 TEZOZOMOC     The principal face looked South.

 IXTLILXOCHITL Facing the West.

I think the evidence of Sahagun, Torquemada, Motolinia, and
Ixtlilxochitl must be accepted as outweighing that of Tezozomoc, who
also says that the pyramidal foundation was ascended by steps on three
sides, a statement that is not supported by any other authority and
which received no confirmation from the description of the attack on the
Teocalli as given by Cortés and Bernal Díaz.


 SAHAGUN says  “it was ascended by steps very narrow and straight.”
 ANONIMO (Tlaltelolco ?)—120–130 steps on one side only.
 BERNAL DÍAZ (Tlaltelolco ?)—114 steps.
 CORTÉS—over 100 steps.
 TORQUEMADA—113 steps on the West side only.
 MOTOLINIA—over 100 steps on the West side.
 DURAN—120 steps on the West side.

Torquemada says that the steps were each one foot high, and Duran
describes the difficulty of raising the image and litter of the God from
the ground to the platform on the top of the Teocalli owing to the
steepness of the steps and the narrowness of the tread.

=The sides and back of the Teocalli= were in the form of great steps.

 CORTÉS says that there were 3 or 4 ledges or passages one pace wide.
 BERNAL DÍAZ—5 recesses (concavidades).

Both the pictures show four ledges.

The Anonymous Conqueror gives the width of the ledges as two paces.

The height of the wall between each ledge is given as follows:—

              CORTÉS—the height of three men    = say 16′.
              ANONIMO—the height of two men  = say 10′ 8″.
              MOTOLINIA—1½ to 2 Brazas          = say 11′.

The size of the platform on the top of the Teocalli cannot be decided
from the written records. Torquemada says that there was ample room for
the Priests of the Idols to carry out their functions unimpeded and
thoroughly, yet in an earlier paragraph he appears to limit the width to
a little more than seventy feet. Possibly this measurement of seventy
feet is meant to apply to a forecourt of the two sanctuaries.

Motolinia gives the measurement of the base of the Teocalli at Tenayoca
as 222½′ × 222½′ (English), and the summit platform as about 192′ × 192′
(English). Applying the same proportion to a Teocalli measuring 300′ ×
300′ at the base, the summit platform would measure about 259′ × 259′.

Duran says “in front of the two chambers where these Gods
(Huitzilopochtli and Tlaloc) stood there was a Patio forty feet square
cemented over and very smooth, in the middle of which and fronting the
two chambers was a somewhat sharp pointed green stone about waist high,
of such a height that when a man was thrown on his back on the top of it
his body would bend back over it. On this stone they sacrificed men in
the way we shall see in another place.”

Ixtlilxochitl gives a similar description but, says the sacrificial
stone was on one side towards (hacia) the doorway of the larger chamber
of Huitzilopochtli.

=The Oratories of Huitzilopochtli= and =Thaloc=.

Motolinia, Torquemada, Ixtlilxochitl, and Gomara agree in placing the
two oratories or shrines on the extreme eastern edge of the platform, so
that there was only just room for a man to pass round them on the east
side. The two oratories were separate one from the other, each being
enclosed within its own walls with a doorway towards the west. The
oratory of Huitzilopochtli was the larger of the two and stood to the
south. The oratory of Tlaloc stood to the north. No measurements are
given of the area covered by these two oratories, but there is no
suggestion that they were large buildings[7] except in height. The roof
and probably the upper stages were made of wood (Torquemada), and we
know that they were burnt during the siege.


 ANONIMO—“Ten or twelve men’s bodies.”
 TORQUEMADA—“Each in three stories, each story of great height.”
 MOTOLINIA—“The Great Temples had three stories above the altars, all
    terraced and of considerable height.”

Ixtlilxochitl gives the height of the great Teocalli as over
twenty-seven brazas (150′). If this means the height from the ground to
the top of the Oratory of Huitzilopochtli it would very nearly agree
with the height given on the hypothetical section on Plate B.

In the description of the map of the city published in 1524 [see
‘Conquest of New Spain,’ vol. iii. (Hakluyt Society)] I called attention
to the “full human face probably representing the Sun” between the
Oratories of the Teocalli of Huitzilopochtli. The map is, I believe, in
error in placing the Teocalli on the west side of the Temple Enclosure,
but that the full human face is intended to represent the sun is
confirmed by the following passage from Motolinia[8]:—

    “Tlacaxipenalistli.—This festival takes place when the sun stood in
    the middle of Huichilobos, _which was at the Equinox_, and because
    it was a little out of the straight[9] Montezuma wished to pull it
    down and set it right.”


The map of 1524 was probably drawn from a description given by one of
the Conquistadores, and if we turn to the pages of Gomara, an author who
was never in Mexico and who wrote only from hearsay, it is easy to see
how such a mistake in orientation arose.

  GOMARA, Historia General de las Indias—Conquista de Mejico. (El Templo
      de Mejico.)

“This temple occupies a square, from corner to corner the length of a
crossbow shot. The stone wall has four gateways corresponding to the
four principal streets.... In the middle of this space is an edifice of
earth and massive stone four square like the court, and of the breadth
of fifty fathoms from corner to corner. On the west side there are no
terraces but 113 or 114 steps leading up to the top. _All the people of
the city[10] look and pray towards the sunrise_ and on this account they
build their large temples in this manner.... In addition to this tower
with its chapels placed on the top of the pyramid, there were forty or
more other towers great and small on other smaller Teocallis standing in
the same enclosure (circuito) as this great one, and although they were
of the same form, _they did not look to the east_ but to other parts of
the heaven, to differentiate them from the Great Temple. Some were
larger than others, and each one (dedicated) to a different god.”

The confusion of thought between a temple that faced the east and a
temple where the worshippers faced the east is evident.

There can be little doubt that the steps of the Great Teocalli were on
the west side, that the Oratories of Huitzilopochtli and Taloc were on
the east side of the summit platform, and that their doorways faced the
west. _The priest and worshippers faced the east to watch the sunrise at
the equinox in the narrow space between the two oratories_, and because
the alignment was not quite correct Montezuma wished to pull down the
oratories and rebuild them.

Following from this, it appears to me that Duran was probably not far
from correct in placing the great green sacrificial stone “fronting the
_two_ chambers,” but that Ixtlilxochitl was still more accurate in
placing it towards (hacia) the doorway of the sanctuary of
Huitzilopochtli. The heart of the human victim would be torn out and
held up to the rising sun from the spot where the priest stood to
observe the sunrise.

It will at once be urged against this solution of the difficulties
attending the orientation of the Great Teocalli that the plan and
tracings locate the Teocalli eight degrees from the east and west line,
and that, therefore, my explanation fails. To this I can only reply that
I plotted the measurements, taking the east and west line of the Calle
de Tacuba from the modern map as a datum, and this may vary slightly
from the ancient line of the street. Then I have observed in Maya
temples that sometimes the shrines stand slightly askew from the base:
this is clearly noticeable at Chichén Itzá. If the error of 8° were
divided between the lines of the Temple enclosure, the base of the
Teocalli, and the sides of the oratories, the difference would not
easily be perceptible.

Moreover, we cannot now ascertain the exact spot from which the
observation was made nor the distance between the two sanctuaries. If,
as Ixtlilxochitl states, it was towards the doorway of the sanctuary of
Huitzilopochtli and not between the two sanctuaries as is stated by
Duran, then the error would be reduced.

                          RECENT EXCAVATIONS.

We have now to consider the position of the Great Teocalli in relation
to the excavations made in the Calle de las Escallerillas when pipes
were being laid for the drainage of the city in the year 1900. These
excavations were watched on behalf of the Government by Señor Don
Leopoldo Batres, Inspector General of Archæological Monuments, who
published an account of his researches in 1902, with a plan showing the
position and depth below the surface at which objects of archæological
interest were discovered. Unfortunately Señor Batres was already fully
convinced that the Great Teocalli faced the south and occupied more or
less the position of the present Cathedral.

At a spot marked _a_, in Tracing A_{2}, 38 metres from the east end of
the Escalerillas, Señor Batres discovered a stairway of four masonry
steps which he states measured each 29 cm. in the rise and 22 cm. in the
tread, but unfortunately beyond this statement he gives no information
whatever regarding them. However, I presume that the steps followed the
same direction as a stairway of nine steps which he had previously
described and which will be alluded to immediately. _These three steps I
have taken to be the central stairway leading to the forecourt or
apetlac of the Great Teocalli._

Señor Batres had already noted a stairway of nine steps, marked _b_ in
Tracing A_{2}, each measuring 22 cm. in rise and 26 cm. in tread. This
stairway was 2 metres wide and faced the west. The stairway was
apparently joined at one or both sides to a sloping wall[11]. Embedded
in the débris which covered these steps was found an idol of green stone
measuring 75 cms. in height and 61 cms. in diameter. The idol is now
preserved in the National Museum.

I take the foot of this stairway of nine steps to have been in line with
the great stairway of the Teocalli, and it may have been part of the
great stairway itself; however, a stairway only two metres wide is not
likely to be the beginning of what must have been the principal approach
to the Teocalli, and I can only suggest that it may have been a stairway
leading to a niche which held the idol of green stone and that the great
stairways passed on either side of it. An idol in a somewhat similar
position can be seen on the Hieroglyphic Stairway at Copan.

  THE ANONYMOUS CONQUEROR. A Description written by a Companion of
      Hernando Cortés.

 XIV. _What these Towers are like._

They build a square tower one hundred and fifty paces, or rather more,
in length, and one hundred and fifteen or one hundred in breadth. The
foundation of this building is solid; when it reaches the height of two
men, a passage is left two paces wide on three sides, and on one of the
long sides steps are made until the height of two more men is reached,
and the edifice is throughout solidly built of masonry. Here, again, on
three sides they leave the passage two paces wide, and on the other side
they build the steps, and in this way it rises to such a height that the
steps total one hundred and twenty or one hundred and thirty.

There is a fair-sized plaza on the top and from the middle [of it] arise
two other towers which reach the height of ten or twelve men’s bodies
and these have windows above. Within these tall towers stand the Idols
in regular order and well adorned, and the whole house highly decorated.
No one but their high priest was allowed to enter where the principal
God was kept, and this god had distinct names in different provinces;
for in the great city of Mexico he was called Horchilobos
(Huitzilopochtli), and in another city named Chuennila (Cholula) he was
called Quecadquaal (Quetzalcoatl), and so on in the others.

Whenever they celebrated the festivals of their Idols, they sacrificed
many men and women, boys and girls; and when they suffered some
privation, such as drought or excess of rain, or found themselves hard
pressed by their enemies, or suffered any other calamity, then they made
these sacrifices in the following manner....

 XXI. _About their Temples and Mosques._

They have in this great city very great mosques or temples in which they
worship and offer sacrifices to their Idols; but the Chief Mosque was a
marvellous thing to behold, it was as large as a city. It was surrounded
by a high masonry wall and had four principal doorways.

  FRAY TORIBIO BENAVENTE or MOTOLINIA, Historia de los Indios de Nueva
      España, Treatise No. I. Ch. XII.

There have never been seen or heard of before such temples as those of
this land of Anahuac or New Spain, neither for size and design nor for
anything else; and as they rise to a great height they must needs have
strong foundations; and there was an endless number of such temples and
altars in this country, about which a note is here made so that those
who may come to this country from now onwards may know about them, for
the memory of them all has already almost perished.

These temples are called Teocallis, and throughout the land we find that
in the principal part of the town a great rectangular court is
constructed; in the large towns they measured from corner to corner the
length of a crossbow shot, in the lesser towns the courts are smaller.

This courtyard they surround with a wall and many of the walls are
embattled; their gateways dominate the principal streets and roads, for
they are all made to converge towards the court; and so as to give
greater honour to their temples they lay out the roads very straight
with rope line for a distance of one or two leagues, and it is a thing
worth seeing from the top of the principal temple, how straight all the
roads come from all the lesser towns and suburbs and converge towards
the Court of the Teocallis.

In the most conspicuous place in this court would stand a great
rectangular block (cepa). So as to write this description I measured one
in a moderate-sized town named Tenanyocan [Tenayoca] and found that it
measured forty fathoms from corner to corner all built up with a solid
wall, on the outside the wall was of stone, and the inside was filled up
with stone only or with clay and adobe; others were built of earth well

As the structure rose it contracted towards the centre and at the height
of a fathom and a half or two fathoms there were some ledges going
inwards, for they did not build it in a straight line, and the thick
foundation was always worked towards the centre so as to give it
strength and as the wall rose it got narrower; so that when it got to
the top of the Teocalli it had narrowed and contracted itself seven or
eight fathoms on each side, both by the ledges and the wall leaving the
foundation [mound] on the top thirty-four or thirty-five fathoms.

_On the west side were the steps and ascent_, and above on the top they
constructed two great altars, placing them towards the east side, so
that there was no more space left behind them than was sufficient to
enable one to walk round them. One altar was to the right and the other
to the left. Each one stood by itself with its own walls and hood-like
roof. In the great Teocallis there were two altars, in the others only
one, and each one of these altars[12] had upper stories; the great ones
had three stories above the altars, all terraced and of considerable
height, and the building (cepa) itself was very lofty, so that it could
be seen from afar off.

One could walk round each of these chapels and each had its separate
walls. In front of these altars a large space was left where they made
their sacrifices, and the building (cepa) itself had the height of a
great tower, without [counting] the stories that covered the altars.

According to what some people who saw it have told me, the Teocalli of
Mexico had more than a hundred steps; I have seen them myself and have
counted them more than once, but I do not remember [the number]. The
Teocalli of Texcoco had five or six steps more than that of Mexico. If
one were to ascend to the top of the chapel of San Francisco in Mexico,
which has an arched roof and is of considerable height, and look over
Mexico, the temple of the devil would have a great advantage in height,
and it was a wonderful sight to view from it the whole of Mexico and the
towns in the neighbourhood.

In similar courts in the principal towns there were twelve or fifteen
other Teocallis of considerable size, some larger than others, but far
from as large as the principal Teocalli.

Some of them had their fronts and steps towards others[13], others to
the East, again others to the South, but none of them had more than one
altar with its chapel, and each one had its halls and apartments where
the Tlamacazques or Ministers dwelt, who were numerous, and those who
were employed to bring water and firewood, for in front of each altar
there were braziers which burnt all night long, and in the halls also
there were fires. All these Teocallis were very white, burnished and
clean, and in some of them [the temple enclosures] were small gardens
with trees and flowers.

There was in almost all these large courts another temple, which, after
its square foundation had been raised and the altar built, was enclosed
with a high circular wall and covered with its dome. This was [the
temple] of the God of the Air, who was said to have his principal seat
in Cholula, and in all this province there were many of them.

This God of the Air they called in their language Quetzalcoatl, and they
said that he was the son of that God of the great statue and a native of
Tollan [Tula], and thence he had gone out to instruct certain provinces
whence he disappeared, and they still hoped that he would return. When
the ships of the Marqués del Valle, Don Hernando Cortés (who conquered
this New Spain), appeared, when they saw them approaching from afar off
under sail, they said that at last their God was coming, and on account
of the tall white sails they said that he was bringing Teocallis across
the sea. However, when they [the Spaniards] afterwards disembarked, they
said it was not their God, but that they were many Gods.

The Devil was not contented with the Teocallis already described, but in
every town and in each suburb, at a quarter of a league apart, they had
other small courts where there were three or four small Teocallis, in
some of them more, and in others only one, and on every rock or hillock
one or two, and along the roads and among the maize fields there were
many other small ones, and all of them were covered with plaster and
white, so that they showed up and bulked large, and in the thickly
peopled country it appeared as though it was all full of houses,
especially of the Courts of the Devil, which were wonderful to behold,
and there was much to be seen when one entered into them, and the most
important, above all others, were those of Texcoco and Mexico.

  SAHAGUN, FR. BERNADINO DE (Bustmamante Edition), p. 194. Report of the
      Mexicans about their God Vitzilopuchtli. [Huitzilopochtli,

The Mexicans celebrate three festivals to Vitzilopuchtli every year, the
first of them in the month named Panquetzaliztli. During this festival
[dedicated] to him and others, named Tlacavepancuexcotzin, they ascend
to the top of the Cue, and they make life-size images out of tzoalli:
when these are completed, all the youths of Telpuchcalli carry them on
their hands to the top of the Cue. They make a statue of Vitzilopuchtli
in the district [barrio] named Itepeioc[A]. The statue of
Tlacavepancuexcotzin was made in that of Vitznaoao[14]. They first
prepare the dough and afterwards pass all the night in making the
statues of it.

After making the images of the dough, they worshipped them as soon as it
was dawn and made offerings to them during the greater part of the day,
and towards evening they began ceremonies and dances with which they
carried them to the Cue, and at sunset they ascended to the top of it.

After the images were placed in position, they all came down again at
once, except the guardians [named] Yiopuch.

As soon as dawn came the God named Paynal, who was the Vicar of
Vitzilopuchtli, came down from the lofty Cu, and one of the priests,
clad in the rich vestments of Quetzalcoatl, carried this God
(Vitzilopuchtli) in his hands, as in a procession, and the image of
Paynal (which was carved in wood and, as has already been stated, was
richly adorned) was also brought down.

In this latter festival there went in front of [the image] a
mace-bearer, who carried on his shoulder a sceptre in the shape of a
huge snake, covered all over with a mosaic of turquoise.

When the Chieftain arrived with the image at a place named Teutlachco,
which is the game of Ball [that is at the Tlachtli court], which is
inside the Temple courtyard, they killed two slaves in front of him, who
were the images [representatives] of the Gods named Amapantzitzin, and
many other captives. There the procession started and went direct to

Many Chieftains and people came out to receive it, and they burned
incense to them [the images] and decapitated many quails before them.

Thence they went directly to a place named Popotla, which is near to
Tacuba, where now the church of S. Esteban stands, and they gave it
another reception like that mentioned above. They carried in front of
the procession all the way a banner made of paper like a fly-whisk, all
full of holes, and in the holes bunches of feathers, in the same way as
a cross is carried in front of a procession. Thence they came direct to
the Cu of Vitzilopuchtli, and with the banner they performed another
ceremony as above stated in this festival.

        Account of the Buildings of the Great Temple of Mexico.

The court of this Temple was very large, almost two hundred fathoms
square; it was all paved, and had within it many buildings and towers.
Some of these were more lofty than others, and each one of them was
dedicated to a God.

The principal tower of all was in the middle and was higher than
the others, and was dedicated to the God Vitzilopuchtli

This tower was divided in the upper part, so that it looked like two,
and had two chapels or altars on the top, each one covered by its dome
(chapitel) and each one of them had on the summit its particular badges
or devices. In the principal one of them was the statue of
Vitzilopuchtli, also called Ilhuicatlxoxouhqui, and in the other the
image of the God Tlaloc. Before each one of these was a round stone like
a chopping-block, which they call Texcatl, where they killed those whom
they sacrificed in honour of that God, and from the stone towards the
ground below was a pool of blood from those killed on it; and so it was
on all the other towers; _these faced the West_, and one ascended by
very narrow straight steps to all these towers.

(Sahagun mentions seventy-eight edifices in connection with the Great
Temple, but it is almost certain that these were not all within the
Temple enclosure.)

  SAHAGUN, Hist. de la Conquista, Book 12, Ch. XXII.

They [the Mexicans] ascended a Cu, the one that was nearest to the royal
houses [_i. e._ of Axayacatl], and they carried up there two stout beams
so as to hurl them from that place on to the royal houses and beat them
down so as to force an entry. When the Spaniards observed this they
promptly ascended the Cu in regular formation, carrying their muskets
and crossbows, and they began the ascent very slowly, and shot with
their crossbows and muskets at those above them, a musketeer
accompanying each file and then a soldier with sword and shield, and
then a halberdier: in this order they continued to ascend the Cu, and
those above hurled the timbers down the steps, but they did no damage to
the Spaniards, who reached the summit of the Cu and began to wound and
kill those who were stationed on the top, and many of them flung
themselves down from the Cu: finally, all those [Mexicans] who had
ascended the Cu perished.

  HERNANDO CORTÉS, 2nd Letter. (The attack on the Great Teocalli.)

We fought from morning until noon, when we returned with the utmost
sadness to our fortress. On account of this they [the enemy] gained such
courage that they came almost up to the doors, and they took possession
of the great Mosque[15], and about five hundred Indians, who appeared to
me to be persons of distinction, ascended the principal and most lofty
tower, and took up there a great store of bread and water and other
things to eat, and nearly all of them had very long lances with flint
heads, broader than ours and no less sharp.

From that position they did much damage to the people in the fort, for
it was very close to it. The Spaniards attacked this said tower two or
three times and endeavoured to ascend it, but it was very lofty, and the
ascent was steep, for it had more than one hundred steps, and as those
on the top were well supplied with stones and other arms, and were
protected because we were unable to occupy the other terraces, every
time the Spaniards began the ascent they were rolled back again and many
were wounded. When those of the enemy who held other positions saw this,
they were so greatly encouraged they came after us up to the fort
without any fear.

Then I (seeing that if they could continue to hold the tower, in
addition to the great damage they could do us from it, that it would
encourage them to attack us) set out from the fort, although maimed in
my left hand by a wound that was given me on the first day, and lashing
the shield to my arm, I went to the tower accompanied by some Spaniards
and had the base of it surrounded, for this was easily done, although
those surrounding it had no easy time, for on all sides they were
fighting with the enemy who came in great numbers to the assistance of
their comrades. I then began to ascend the stairway of the said tower
with some Spaniards supporting me, and although the enemy resisted our
ascent very stubbornly, so much so that they flung down three or four
Spaniards, with the aid of God and his Glorious Mother (for whose
habitation that tower had been chosen and her image placed in it), we
ascended the said tower and reaching the summit we fought them so
resolutely that they were forced to jump down to some terraces about a
pace in width which ran round the tower. Of these the said tower had
three or four, thrice a man’s height from one [terrace] to the other.

Some fell down the whole distance [to the ground], and in addition to
the hurt they received from the fall, the Spaniards below who surrounded
the tower put them to death. Those who remained on the terraces fought
thence very stoutly, and it took us more than three hours to kill them
all, so that all died and none escaped ... and I set fire to the tower
and to the others which there were in the Mosque.

  JUAN DE TORQUEMADA, Monarchia Indiana, Vol. II. Book 8, Ch. XI. p.
      144. [Giving a description of the Great Temple.]

This Temple was rebuilt and added to a second time; and was so large and
of such great extent, that it was more than a crossbow-shot square.

It was all enclosed in masonry of well squared stone.

There were in the square four gateways which opened to the four
principal streets, three of them by which the city was approached along
the causeways from the land, [the fourth] on the east in the direction
of the lake whence the City was entered by water.

In the middle of this enormous square was the Temple which was like a
quadrangular tower (as we have already stated) built of masonry, large
and massive.

This Temple (not counting the square within which it was built) measured
three hundred and sixty feet from corner to corner, and was pyramidal in
form and make, for the higher one ascended the narrower became the
edifice, the contractions being made at intervals so as to embellish it.

On the top, where there was a pavement and small plaza rather more than
seventy feet wide, two very large altars had been built, one apart from
the other, set almost at the edge or border of the tower on the east
side, so that there was only just sufficient ground and space for a man
to walk [on the east side] without danger of falling down from the

These altars were five palms in height with their walls inlaid with
stone, all painted with figures according to the whim and taste of him
who ordered the painting to be done. Above the altars were the chapels
roofed with very well dressed and carved wood.

Each of these chapels had three stories one above the other, and each
story or stage was of great height, so that each one of them [of the
chapels] if set on the ground (not on that tower, but on the ground
level whence the edifice sprang) would have made a very lofty and
sumptuous building, and for this reason the whole fabric of the Temple
was so lofty that its height compelled admiration. To behold, from the
summit of this temple, the city and its surroundings, with the lakes and
all the towns and cities that were built in it and on its banks, was a
matter of great pleasure and contentment.

On the West side this building had no stages [contractions], but steps
by which one ascended to the level of the chapels, and the said steps
had a rise of one foot or more. The steps, or stairs, of this famous
temple numbered one hundred and thirteen, and all were of very well
dressed stone.

From the last step at the summit of this Temple to the Altars and
entrance to the Chapels was a considerable space of ground, so that the
priests and ministers of the Idols could carry out their functions
unimpeded and thoroughly.

On each of the two altars stood an Idol of great bulk, each one
representing the greatest God they possessed, which was Huitzilupuchtli
or by his other name Mexitli.

Near and around this Great Temple there were more than forty lesser
ones, each one of them dedicated and erected to a God, and its tower and
shape narrowed up to the floor on which the Chapel and altar began to
arise, and it was not as large as the Great Temple, nor did it approach
it by far in size, and all these lesser Temples and towers were
associated with the Great Temple and tower which there was in this City.

The difference between the Great Temple and the lesser ones was not in
the form and structure, for all were the same, but they differed in site
and position [orientation], for the Great Temple had its back to the
East, which is the practice the large temples ought to follow, as we
have noticed that the ancients assert, and their steps and entrance to
the West (as we are accustomed to place many of our Christian Churches),
so that they paid reverence in the direction of the sun as it rose, the
smaller temples looked in the other direction towards the East and to
other parts of the heaven [that is to] the North and South.

                  *       *       *       *       *

In order that my readers may not think that I speak heedlessly, and
without a limit to my figures, I wish to quote here the words of Padre
Fray Bernadino de Sahagun, a friar of my Order and one of those who
joined very early in the discovery of this New Spain in the year
twenty-nine [1529], who saw this and the other temples.... He says these
words:—“This Temple was enclosed on all sides by stone walls half as
high again as a man, all embattled and whitened. The ground of this
Temple was all paved, with very smooth flag stones (not dressed but
natural) as smooth and slippery as ice. There was much to be seen in the
buildings of this Temple; I made a picture of it in this City of Mexico,
and they took it to Spain for me, as a thing well worth beholding, and I
could not regain possession of it, nor paint it again, and although in
the painting it looks so fine, it was in reality much more so, and the
building was more beautiful. The principal shrine or chapel which it
possessed was dedicated to the God Huitzilupuchtli, and to another God
his companion named Tlacahuepancuezcotzin, and to another, of less
importance than the two, called Paynalton....”

And he adds more, saying “the square was of such great circumference
that it included and contained within its area all the ground where the
Cathedral, the houses of the Marques del Valle[A], the Royal houses[16]
and the houses of the Archbishop have now been built, and a great part
of what is now the market place,” which seems incredible, so great is
the said area and space of ground.

I remember to have seen, thirty-five years ago, a part of these
buildings in the Plaza, on the side of the Cathedral, which looked to me
like hills of stone and earth, which were being used up in the
foundations of God’s house and Cathedral which is being built now with
great splendour.

  PADRE FRAY DIEGO DURAN, Historia de los Indias de Nueva Espana, Vol.
      II. Ch. LXXX. p. 82.

Having heard what has been said about the decoration of the Idol, let us
hear what there is notable about the beauty of the Temples. I do not
wish to begin by relating the accounts given me by the Indians, but that
obtained by a monk who was among the first of the Conquerors who entered
the country, named Fray Francisco de Aguilar, a very venerable person
and one of great authority in the order of our Glorious Father Santo
Domingo, and from other conquerors of strict veracity and authority who
assured me that on the day when they entered the City of Mexico and
beheld the height and beauty of the Temples they believed them to be
turreted fortresses for the defence and ornament of the City, or that
they were palaces and royal houses with many towers and galleries, such
was their beauty and height which could be seen from afar off.

It should be known that of the eight or nine temples which there were in
the City all stood close to one another within a great enclosure, inside
of which enclosure each one adjoined the other, but each had its own
steps and separate patio[17], as well as living rooms and sleeping
places for the Ministers of the temples, all of which occupied
considerable amount of space and ground. It was indeed a most beautiful
sight, for some were more lofty than the others, and some more
ornamental than others, some with an entrance to the East others to the
West, others to the North and others to the South, all plastered and
sculptured, and turreted with various kinds of battlements, painted with
animals and figures and fortified with huge and wide buttresses of
stone, and it beautified the city so greatly and gave it such an
appearance of splendour that one could do nothing but stare at it.

However, as regards the Temple, especially [dedicated to] the Idol
[Huitzilopochtli] with which we are dealing, as it was that of the
principal God, it was the most sumptuous magnificent of them all.

It had a very large wall round its special court, all built of great
stones carved to look like snakes, one holding on to the other, and
anyone who wishes to see these stones, let him go to the principal
Church of Mexico and there he will see them used as pedestals and bases
of the pillars. These stones which are now used there as pedestals
formed the wall of the Temple of Huitzilopochtli, and they called this
wall Coatepantli, which means wall of snakes. There was on the top of
the halls or oratories where the Idol stood a very elegant breastwork
covered with small black stones like jet, arranged with much order and
regularity, all the groundwork being of white and red plaster, which
shone wonderfully [when looked at] from below—on the top of this
breastwork were some very ornamental merlons carved in the shape of

At the end of the abutments, which arose like steps a fathom high, there
were two seated Indians, in stone, with two torch-holders in their
hands, from which torch-holders emerged things like the arms of a cross,
ending in rich green and yellow feathers and long borders of the same.

Inside this [the] court there were many chambers and lodgings for the
monks and nuns, as well as others on the summit for the priests and
ministers who performed the service of the Idol.

This Court was so large that on the occasion of a festival eight or ten
thousand men assembled in it; and to show that this is not impossible, I
wish to relate an event that is true, related by one who with his own
hands killed many Indians within it....

This Court had four doors or entrances, one towards the East, another
towards the West, another towards the South, and one on the North side.
From these commenced four Causeways, one towards Tlacopan, which we now
call the street of Tacuba, another towards Guadelupe, another towards
Coyoacan, and the other led to the lake and the landing place of the

The four principal Temples also have their portals towards the said four
directions, and the four Gods which stand in them also have their fronts
turned in the same directions.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Opposite the principal gateway of this Temple of Huitzilopochtli there
were thirty long steps thirty fathoms long; a street separated them from
the wall of the patio[18]. On the top of them [the steps] was a terrace,
30 feet wide and as long as the steps, which was all coated with
plaster, and the steps very well made.

Lengthwise along the middle of this broad and long platform was a very
well made palisade as high as a tall tree, all planted in a straight
line, so that the poles were a fathom apart. These thick poles were all
pierced with small holes, and these holes were so close together that
there was not half a yard between them, and these holes were continued
to the top of the thick and high poles. From pole to pole through the
holes came some slender cross-bars on which many human skulls were
strung through the forehead. Each cross-bar held thirty heads, and these
rows of skulls reached to the top of the timbers and were full from end
to end ... all were skulls of the persons who had been sacrificed.

                  *       *       *       *       *

After describing a procession in which the God was carried to
Chapultapec and thence to Coyoacan, the author continues:—

When they arrived at the foot of the steps of the Temple they placed the
litter [on which the image of the God was carried] there, and promptly
taking some thick ropes they tied them to the handles of the litter,
and, with great circumspection and reverence, some making efforts from
above and others helping from below, they raised the litter with the
Idol to the top of the Temple, with much sounding of trumpets and
flutes, and clamour of conch-shells and drums; they raised it up in this
manner because the steps of the Temple were very steep and narrow [in
the tread] and the stairway was long and they could not ascend with it
on their shoulders without falling, and so they took that means to raise
it up.

  HERNANDO ALVARADO TEZOZOMOC, Cronica Mexicana, Ch. XXX, p. 319,
      writing of the Temple of Huitzilipochtli, says:—

It could be ascended on three sides and would have as many steps as
there are days in the year, for at that time the year consisted of
eighteen months, and each month contained twenty days, which amounts to
three hundred and sixty days, five days less than our Catholic religion
counts. Others count thirteen months to the year. At all events the
steps were arranged on three sides of the ascent.

The principal ascent faced the south, the second the east, and the third
the west, and on the north side were three walls like a chamber open to
the south. It had a great court and Mexican plaza all surrounded by a
stone wall, massive and strong, [of which] the foundations were more
than a fathom and the height [of the wall] was that of four men’s
stature. It had three gateways, two of them small, one facing the east
and the other the west; the gateway in the middle was larger, and that
one faced the south, and in that direction was the great market place
and Tianguiz[19], so that it stood in front of the great palace of
Montezuma and the Great Cu. The height of it [the Great Cu or Temple]
was so great that, from below, persons [on its summit], however tall
they might be, appeared to be of the size of children eight years old or

  IXTLILXOCHITL (‘Codice Goupil’).

The Temple and principal Cu of this City, indeed of all New Spain, was
built in the middle of the city, four square and massive as a mound
(terrapleno) of stone and clay, merely and only the surface [built] of
masonry. Each side was eighty fathoms long (445 Eng. ft.) and the height
was over twenty-seven fathoms (150 Eng. ft.). On the side by which it
was ascended were one hundred and sixty steps which faced the west. The
edifice was of such a shape that from its foundation it diminished in
size and became narrower as it rose in the shape of a pyramid, and at
certain distances as it rose it had landing places like benches all
around it. In the middle of the steps from the ground and foundation
there rose a wall up to the summit and top of the steps, which was like
a division that went between the two ascents as far as the patio which
was on the top, where there were two great chambers, one larger than the
other—the larger one to the south, and there stood the Idol
Huitzilopochtli; the other, which was smaller, was to the north and
contained the Idol Tlaloc, which (Idol) and Huitzilopochtli and the
chambers looked to the west. These chambers were built at the eastern
edge and border of the said patio, and thus in front of them the patio
extended to the north and south with a [floor of] cement three palms and
more in thickness, highly polished, and so capacious that it would hold
five hundred men, and at one side of it towards the door of the larger
chamber of Huitzilopochtli was a stone rising a yard in height, of the
shape and design of an arched coffer, which was called Techcatl
(Texcatl) where the Indians were sacrificed. Each of these chambers had
upper stories, which were reached from within, the one from the other by
movable wooden ladders, and were full of stores of every sort of arms,
especially macanas, shields, bows, arrows, lances, slings and pebbles,
and every sort of clothing and bows for war. The face and front of the
larger chamber was ornamented with stone in the shape and form of
death’s heads whitened with lime, which were placed all over the front,
and above, for merlons, there were carved stones in the shape of great
shells, which and the other with the rest of the Cu is painted on the
following page. * * * * [see Plate D].

                                PLATE A.
             Part of the City of Mexico from a modern Map.

                             TRACING A_{1}.
                      After J. García Icazbalceta.

                             TRACING A_{2}.
          Suggested site of the Great Teocalli and enclosure.

                                PLATE B.
           Suggested plan and section of the Great Teocalli.

                                PLATE C.
               Plan by Padre Sahagun, after Dr. E. Seler.

                                PLATE D.
   View of the Great Teocalli, after Ixtlilxochitl (‘Codice Goupil’).

                                PLATE E.
    View of the Great Teocalli and enclosure, from ‘The Chronicle of
 Mexico,’ 1576. (Manuscript in British Museum, No. 31219. Additional.)

                     PRINTED BY TAYLOR AND FRANCIS,
                     RED LION COURT, FLEET STREET.


  Tracing A_{1}


                     PRINTED BY TAYLOR AND FRANCIS,
                     RED LION COURT, FLEET STREET.


  Tracing A_{2}



                     PRINTED BY TAYLOR AND FRANCIS,
                     RED LION COURT, FLEET STREET.


  Plate A.



  Plate B.


  Plate C.


  a = _Great Teocalli_
  b = _Eagle Vase_
  c = _Priest’s House_
  d = _Outer Altar_
  e = _Eagle Warrior’s House_
  f = _Tlachtli Court_
  g = _Skull Scaffold_
  h = _Yopic Teocalli_
  i = _Wheel Stone_
  k = _Collaiacan Teocalli_
  l = _5 Lizard (date)_
  m = _5 House „_
  n = _Dancing Places_
  o = _Snake Wall_
  p = _Temple Entrances_


  Plate D.


  Codice Goupil—IXLILXOCHITL.


  Plate E.




Footnote 1:

  ‘Mexico en 1554. Tres Dialogos Latinos que Francisco Cervantes Salazar
  escribio y imprimio en Mexico en dicho año.’ A reprint with Spanish
  translation and notes by Joaquim García Icazbalceta. Mexico, 1875.

Footnote 2:

  Dr. Seler states that the house of Mota still retains its name.

Footnote 3:

  See paragraphs on pp. 7 & 8.

Footnote 4:

  _I. e._ the Enclosure of the Great Temple.

Footnote 5:

  A note by Don Lucas Alaman says: “I do not know what was the origin of
  this division of the Temple into three parts, which this expression
  appears to indicate.”

Footnote 6:

  This would agree fairly well with Tracing A_{2}, if the Apetlac or
  forecourt were included.

Footnote 7:

  Bernal Díaz speaks of them as Torrezillas.

Footnote 8:

  Memoriales de Fray Toribio de Motolinia. Manuscrito de la coleccion
  del Señor Don Jonquin García Icazbalceta, publicalo por primera vez su
  hijo Luis García Pimentel. Paris: A. Donnamette, 30 Rue de Saints
  Pères, 1903. This is probably the original manuscript from which the
  ‘Historia de los Indios de Nueva Hispaña’ was taken.

Footnote 9:

  Un poco tuerto.

Footnote 10:

  Todo el Pueblo.

Footnote 11:

  “Donde parecia terminar la escalinata se descubrió un muro en talud
  siguiendo la misma dirección de la escalera.”

Footnote 12:

  This must refer not to the altars themselves but the temples
  containing the altars.

Footnote 13:

  Or towards the rear.

Footnote 14:

  Sahagun specifies 78 edifices in connection with the great Temple,
  among these are “No. 72, named Itepeioc, a house where the Chieftains
  make the image of Vitzilopuchtli out of dough [masa],” and “No. 73,
  the building named Vitznoacealpulli, which is the house where they
  make the image of the other God, the companion of Vitzilopuchtli,
  named Tlacavepancuexcozin.” It thus appears that the two “barrios” or
  districts mentioned were sections of the Temple enclosure.

Footnote 15:

  Cortés evidently uses the term Mosque (Mesquita) for the whole group
  of Temples within the Enclosure.

Footnote 16:

  This is evidently an exaggeration, the houses of the Marques del Valle
  and the Mexican royal houses were not included in the area of the
  Temple Enclosure.

Footnote 17:

  The apetlac?

Footnote 18:

  The apetlac?

Footnote 19:

  Tianguiz is the Mexican word for Market.


                          TRANSCRIBER’S NOTES

 1. P. 20, changed “five hundred Italians” to “five hundred Indians”.
 2. Silently corrected obvious typographical errors and variations in
 3. Retained archaic, non-standard, and uncertain spellings as printed.
 4. Re-indexed footnotes using numbers and collected together at the end
      of the last chapter.
 5. Enclosed italics font in _underscores_.
 6. Enclosed bold font in =equals=.
 7. Denoted superscripts by a caret before a single superscript
      character or a series of superscripted characters enclosed in
      curly braces, e.g. M^r. or M^{ister}.
 8. Denoted subscripts by an underscore before a series of subscripted
      characters enclosed in curly braces, e.g. H_{2}O.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A note on the position and extent of the great temple enclosure of Tenochtitlan,: and the position, structure and orientation of the Teocolli of Huitzilopochtli." ***

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