Dedicated to the God of War and God of Agriculture, the towering complex of Templo Mayor was once the centre of the ancient Aztec empire. The ruins and accomompanying museum conjure up vivid images of the 1 million people who live in the shadow of the magnificent temple, granting a glimpse into daily life of the Aztec era.
Templo Mayor was the main temple of the Aztecs in their capital city of Tenochtitlan, now Mexico City. Aztec legend says the city was built in that particular spot because an eagle was seen perched on a cactus devouring a snake, fulfilling an ancient prophecy. The site quickly became the centre of the Aztec world. The architecture of the city dates back to the postclassical period of Mesoamerica - the original structure was formed sometime after 1325 and rebuilt a number of times after that. The city was razed Spanish conquistadors arrived in 152. Tenochtitlan was completely destroyed and covered by a new Colonial City.
Today’s site is part of the historic centre of Mexico City. Excavated around the 1980s saw more than 7000 objects uncovered – effigies, pots, animal skeletons, urns, tools, masks and decorated skulls now live in the Templo Mayor museum, on the same site as the ruins. The museum has eight halls, including two wings dedicated to the gods the temple was dedicated to: Huitzilopochtli, god of war, and Tlaloc, god of rain and agriculture. The museum has information on everything visitors need to know about Aztec life, including a fascinating hall dedicated to the importance of human sacrifice in the era.
Right next to the Zócalo subway station and on the route of many local buses, Templo Mayor is incredibly easy to get to. Visitors should be aware the site is closed on Mondays. Guided tours are available, however the English-language ones should be booked well in advance, particularly in peak season. Three hours will be needed to meander through both the museum and the archeological site, however an entire day could be spent in the area – Templo Mayo is right next to a grand cathedral built by Spanish colonisers, one of the largest in Latin America, and Mexico City’s Grand Plaza is right nearby. The area makes for a fascinating display exploring all parts of Mexico’s fascinating history.