Seminario 8, Centro Histórico de la Cdad. de México, Centro, Cuauhtémoc, 06060 Ciudad de México, CDMX
55 4040 5600
Wandering the streets of Mexico City’s historic center is to wander through its rich history as well, and one landmark that shouldn’t be missed is the Templo Mayor at the very heart of the city. It was THE main temple of Tenochtitlán, the Aztec Capital, but as with many other buildings, it was razed by the Spanish when they arrived. It wasn’t until the XX century that the ruins were discovered 2 meters underground when workers were doing reparations to the city’s electrical system. Many artifacts (now housed at the National Museum of Anthropology) were discovered in a good state, enough to warrant their study, and an effort in earnest was conducted to excavate the whole site, for which endeavor 13 buildings (from pre-colonial to the 1930’s era) had to be demolished. People have been visiting the site ever since digging started, but in 1987 it was officially converted into a museum, the Museo del Templo Mayor.
It’s recommended to visit this covered museum before wandering around the ruins, as it will give you an idea of what you’re about to see, it has a miniature scale of this part of the city of how it looked back then, this way you can get a sense of what you’re looking at like maybe the base of what was once a great pyramid, and not just a bunch of stones. The caveat is that the museum sits at the end of the tour, so ask around and start at the exit before you go to the actual ruins. Access to the museum and tour costs $80 pesos and the closest Metro station is “Zócalo” from Línea 2. The Zócalo, or the main center of modern Mexico City, is located just a few meters away from the old main center of Tenochtitlán. The main entrance to the Templo Mayor is in a street called Seminario, right next to Plaza Manuel Gamio.
The Templo Mayor was part of a bigger Sacred Precinct; Bernardino de Sahagún, a Spanish friar, attested that this area was made up of 78 buildings and that the Templo Mayor towered over all of them. There were models, or idols, of the Aztec gods inside the temple, and that the one for Huitzilopochtli, the god of war, was made up of amaranth seeds held together with honey and blood (that must’ve been quite a sight!), inside of “him” were bags containing jade, bones, and amulets to give life to the god.
According to the legend, the Templo Mayor sits exactly at the spot where Huitzilopochtli told the Mexica people they would find THE sign to found their city: an eagle standing on a cactus eating a serpent. Several centuries later this site was fortunately recovered from the earth and opened once more for the people to admire.
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