Church with pre-Hispanic pyramid

Otherworldly Gallery
Church of Nuestra Señora de los Remedios, 17th-18th c. with pre-Hispanic pyramid, ca. 10th c. Cholula, Mexico.
Photograph from the Collection of Dana Leibsohn and Barbara E. Mundy.

The Catholic church of Nuestra Señora de los Remedios crowns the huge mass of Cholula’s great pre-Hispanic pyramid complex. This sprawling set of plazas and pyramids was once a pilgrimage site for Nahua people across central Mexico, dedicated to the deity Quetzalcoatl. By the 1580s, a map of the city shows the pyramid as an overgrown ruin. Sometime later, the Catholic Church reclaimed this space for Christian worship, and set a structure dedicated to Our Lady of the Remedies on its summit.

For modern viewers, the sight of a church on a pyramid makes visible the colonial imposition of Christianity on native religions. Across Spanish America, friars of many orders consciously tried to erase potent reminders of pre-Hispanic religion by dismantling or forcing abandonment of sacred structures. But unlike the great Aztec Templo Mayor in Mexico City, which was largely razed to street level, the great pyramid at Cholula, like the Korikancha in Cuzco, was reappropriated—as foundation for the Church of Remedios, and as a source of stonework for the streets of the new colonial city that cut through its base.



Kubler, George. 1985. “The Colonial Plan of Cholula.” In Studies in Ancient American and European Art: The Collected Essays of George Kubler. Thomas Reese, ed., pp. 92-101. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Maza, Francisco de la. 1959. La ciudad de Cholula y sus iglesias. Mexico City: Impre. Universitaria.

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