Cholula, Puebla – Church on pyramid

Butcher Hernán Cortés called Cholula ”the most beautiful city outside Spain”. Afterwards he caused a bloodbath where 3000 humans met their death. Then he continued via Paso de Cortés to mow down the Aztecs where Mexico City is located today. Cholula isn’t only one of the most attractive but oldest cities as well. It is constantly inhabited since 5 BC. The pyramid with Mesoamerica’s largest area was built here. The Spaniards erected a church on its 65 m high point. From far it looks like Nuestra Señora de los Remedios sits enthroned on a grassy hill but upon getting closer we discern the pyramid, covered with soil and grown over with grass and trees.

The original church doesn’t exist any more; it was replaced in the 19th century. The steep ascend is worth the effort; not only to admire the altar that’s amply decorated with gold but to enjoy the magnificent view to the sister volcanoes Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl. The weather shows itself merciful today. Izta remains hidden, but clouds and smog around Popo disperse so that we nearly have unhampered view to the legendary smoke popping mountain. Scientists dug five kilometres of tunnel through the pyramid, from which a part is accessible. There are some archaeological finds and a museum as well.

Cholula’s inhabitants like to spread a rumour that there are 365 churches in town – one for each day. That’s not the complete truth; there are 49 only, but still more than enough for the 130,000 people. San Francisco de Asis for example has a spectacular facade with white and yellow tiles with flower patterns, modelled on a mosque. The church’s vault is outrageously splendid baroque made from pure gold. The outside walls of Santa Maria de Tonantzintla are slightly plainer with dark red bricks with intarsia of blue and white tiles. If San Francisco flaunted with gold, Santa Maria takes our breath away. All walls are densely covered with white, green and golden stucco ornaments like children’s bodies and heads that replace here the usual angels. The entire thing is so precious that it is not allowed to take any pictures or videos, but of course there are picture postcards to buy. The excessive flaunting of wealth and power succeeded: Nearly 90 % of the Mexicans are catholic, although the evangelic church is growing.

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