Ex Convento de Culhuacán

C. Morelos 10, Culhuacan, Iztapalapa, 09800 Ciudad de México, CDMX
55 4040 5500

Right at the foothills of the Cerro de la Estrella, where in ancient times of the Aztecs the legendary “New Fire” ritual took place, a grand ceremony every 52 years involving human sacrifice in order to appease the sun god for another 52 years and welcome the “new fire” into the city, another religious landmark was erected for another religious cause, in a country that has been deeply religious over the ages, such as Mexico. This “new” landmark is the Exconvento de San Juán Evangelista (the building was actually built in 1607) but is better known as the Exconvento de Culhuacán. The exact location of Culhuacán was also important because there were ceremonies venerating the gods of water and fertility and its name in náhuatl translates as “place of the ancestors”. It’s alleged that Culhuacán was part of the Teotihuacán (who built the big pyramids north of the city) from 600 to 800 A.C., before being a part of the Toltec Empire, and finally falling under the rule of the Aztecs and Tenochtitlán a few years before the Spanish conquistadors arrived.

The Spanish missionaries soon followed and as was soon customary in the new world, they built their new buildings on top of the destroyed indigenous places of worship, even using the stones from the fallen building for the construction of their new one. And so the convent of San Juán Evangelista was built. In modern-day it’s considered as an architectural marvel, as it’s only one of two buildings in Mexico City that was built in the first decades of the XVI century. Its walls were built with volcanic rock and its interiors are decorated with scenes from the life of Jesus Christ, along with depictions of other saints and priests; the paintings also show the delicate work performed by the indigenous painters recruited for such a task. The large wooden door is the only one in the city from that century, and it also has decorations imprinted on it depicting the Passion of the Christ.

In 1993 the place was turned into a museum as is now known as the Centro Comunitario Culhuacán, which now has six exhibition rooms and has on display works from the pre-Columbine era such as a sculpture of Chicomecóatl, the goddess of corn also called the “seven serpents”, or a mask of Tlaloc, the god of rain. Admission is free and there’s a Metro station a couple of blocks away called “Culhuacán” from Línea 12. Both indigenous and Christian heritage can be appreciated at this beautiful place called the Exconvento de Culhuacán.


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