Tuesday, May 23, 2017

ancient and mystical Cholollan

If you visit Puebla, you must take a few hours to visit the district of Cholula (Cholollan, or "place of those who fled", in Nahuatl), which is just a short 15-20 minute drive from the city of Puebla. We actually went there twice. First, to visit the famous Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de los Remedios, which sits, as so many churches do in Mexico, atop a pyramid, the Pirámide de Cholula, a massive thing with the largest base in the continent (some four times bigger than the Great Pyramid of Giza).

Now, the church itself is nice but, for us, the main attraction was just getting up there and have stunning views of two volcanoes you can also see from Mexico City – the Popocatépetl (the "smoking hill" in Nahuatl, on the left in the first photo below) and the Iztaccíhuatl (the "white woman", on the right). 

What can I say, I love these volcanoes. And having these views was amazing!

For this picture here we had to walk quite a bit. The most famous pictures of Cholula feature the church with the Popocatépetl as background. But you need to find the proper spot, which is no easy task since it seems nobody's willing to share their precious photographic secret. And then, well, weather needs to cooperate, which it didn't in our case since on the walk to the spot a cloud planted itself over half of the volcano. At least we tried!

We also visited the ruins of the pyramid, but one of its main draws – tunnels within – was closed off to the public. And though the remains of the pyramid you can see from outside are nice, you could safely miss the museum, although they have a scale model of the pyramid that gives you an idea of how it looked like and how it is – like so many other pyramids – a layered building, with the newer parts simply built on top of the more ancient ones. 

Now, when we were at the Museo Internacional del Barroco, we saw a video that very briefly showed the very baroque but also very indigenous-influenced interior of a church – the Iglesia de Santa María Tonanzintla. Also in the district of Cholula, but in the Tonantzintla community. It looked gorgeous, and our last day in Puebla we decided we had to pay it a visit before we came back to Mexico City.

This church is from the 16th century, though its most famous part – its interior decoration – was done in the 17th. And it is famous because it's a fantastic example of indigenous baroque. So it's dense and rich and over the top, like most baroque church interiors, but it's also got plenty of local elements – the use of colour, angels with feather headdresses, eagle warriors (a kind of Aztec soldier), local plants... It's absolutely unique and breathtaking.

On the way to Tonantzintla the car passed by Acatepec, another Cholula locality. One glance at the façade of the church and we knew we would have to stop by after Tonanztintla. It's just a 15 minute walk from Tonantzintla, and then you get to the Templo de San Francisco Acatepec. It's from the 18th century, and it's known not just for its baroque façade, but for the use of Talavera (the ceramic from Puebla) on it. Gorgeous. So colourful and rich!

The inside was nice, too. Although I'm afraid that, after Tonantzintla, there was no way anything could take our breath away anymore! But still, a nice interior and an unbelievable façade. 

Cholula is said to have at least as many churches as there are days in a year. We only visited these three. And I couldn't be more satisfied. 

Just two more posts on Puebla left! One on food (but of course!) and the usual odds and ends one, lol.

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