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Templo Mayor
Aztec temples were called, by the people of the empire, Teocalli - God houses. The priests of the Aztec religion
went to these temples to worship and pray, and make offerings to the gods to keep them strong and in balance.
Often a whole area of a city would be dedicated to religious activities. Some monuments would be made to
specific gods. Some were built for specific celebrations. The buildings you probably associate with the Aztec
religion are the great pyramids. These were four sided, stable structures that can withstand the earthquakes that
are common in the area. These would have stairs up one side, and a flat top, often with a shrine on the top. One
of the most important Aztec temple was the Templo Mayor
Templo Mayor
Height: 60m/197ft
The gods: Huitzilopochtli and Tlaloc
Distinctives: A double temple
Completed: 1497
Materials: Built of stone and covered with stucco and polychrome paint
Templo Mayor was a part of the sacred area of the city of Tenochtitlan. It was only one of perhaps 75-80 buildings
which included other pyramids, ornamental walls, gathering places, shops and, of course, bathrooms. Since the
city was built on swampy ground, the temples would often sink and needed to be repaired and built up over the
The temple itself was the main religious building of the capitol city, and it had two shrines on the top - one to
Huitzilopochtli and one to Tlaloc. Huitzilopochtli (Hummingbird of the South) was the patron god of the Aztec
people, the one who led them to Tenochtitlan in the first place. He was the god of the sun and war. Tlaloc was the
god of rain and fertility. Both gods required constant human sacrifice. During the final phase of construction,
thousands were sacrificed.
Many, many rituals were done at the temple - human sacrifice, of course, is the most well-known. But there were
many more, such as the private ritual blood-letting, burning of copal (a tree resin), and the music of worship. This
Aztec temple represented the Hill of Coatepec, where the Aztecs believed Huitzilopochtli was born.