On several previous visits to the Historical Center, I missed out on visiting
this major Museum. However, this time around, I was determined to finally see the excavations and made a visit to the Museum my primary purpose of going to the Center.
The Museo Templo Mayor (Great Temple) is located next to the Zócalo (Main
Plaza) between the Office of the President and the Cathedral. The Spanish
conquistadors made it a policy to build churches on or right next to the
indigenous religious sites and the massive Mexican Metropolitan Cathedral, Latin
America’s largest, was no exception.
Mexico City, or Tenochtitlán as it was then known, made an awesome
impression on the Spanish conquistadors who first saw the capital of the Aztec
Empire in 1518. It was a city build on islands in a large lake. It was as large
as the largest European city and its splendor exceeded much of what was known on
the old Continent.
As in Spain, religion played a dominant role in the Aztec Empire and it
should have been no surprise to the Spanish that the largest constructions in
the city were temples to the various gods. None was larger or more important
than the Templo Mayor (Great Temple) dedicated to the gods Tlaloc (rain and
water) and Huitzilopochtli (war). Twin shrines were built on top of a huge
pyramid, which in its final incarnation measured 45m high with a base of 76m by
81m. (In contrast, the Metropolitan Cathedral is 60m high).
The pyramid and temples were painted predominantly white, although it was soon confirmed that some of the red marks were indeed the blood of human offerings. This was the Hill of the Serpent, the most sacred of Aztec sites and the place where around 1325, an eagle was seen perched on a cactus devouring a snake -- glance at the Mexican flag for a picture telling more than a thousand words -- which was the sign that the new Aztec city must be founded here.
The conquistadors were disgusted with the human offerings, but more than
enchanted by the obvious wealth of the city, and they set out to conqueror and loot the Aztec Empire. It is a history of intrigue, deceit, and dastardly deeds, which led to the end of the Aztec Empire and the attempted destruction of all its religious symbols.
The museum consists of two distinct parts: an outdoor archaeological site of
excavations and a museum building exhibiting the findings at the site, as well as Aztec life in general.
Entry is NM$ 37 -- a sign claims that correct change is needed and change
cannot be given to people paying with a Peso 50 note! Remember to keep the
ticket at hand as you need to show it again when moving from the archaeological
site into the museum building.
Open: Tuesday through Sunday 9am-6pm
Continue to Templo 2