Today we are going to have a Puebla and Cholula Day Trip. Puebla and Cholula lie about 128 km south-east of Mexico City, at the foot of the Volcán Popocatepetl. First, we’ll see the world’s largest pyramid and its 365 churches at the archaeological zone of Cholula. Continue to Puebla to the UNESCO World Heritage Site and visit the Talavera ceramics factories where large collections of Talavera pieces are made. The tour ends with a visit to the Chapel of the Rosary, which is considered the eighth wonder of the art world.
Cholula—Temples on the Top of Temple Cholula is a city and district located in the center west of the state of Puebla (10 km west of the city of Puebla). The name cholula has its origin in the ancient Nahuatl word “cholollan", which means “place of refuge". Cholula is best known for its Great Pyramid, with the Nuestra Señora de los Remedios Sanctuary on top and its numerous churches.
p.s. According to legend, the city of Cholula has 365 churches, one for each day of the year or one for each pre Hispanic temple destroyed by the Spanish, depending on the version. In reality there are only 37, 159 if all the small chapels in the local haciendas and ranches are counted. The architectural styles of the churches vary from Gothic to Renaissance to Churrigueresque and Neoclassical, with many mixing elements of two or more of the above. Many of these churches contain artwork from the 16th to 19th centuries valued at millions of dollars. Due to the increase in theft of religious art, many of these churches have extra security and some close during the week.
The Zona Arqueológica comprises the excavated areas around the incredible Great Pyramid of Cholula. Several pyramids were built on top of each other during various reconstructions, and over 8km of tunnels have been dug beneath the pyramid by archaeologists to penetrate each stage.
Great Pyramid of Cholula The Great Pyramid of Cholula, also known as Tlachihualtepetl (Nahuatl for “artificial mountain"), is a huge temple-pyramid complex. It was built in several stages, starting from the 3rd century BC through the 9th century AD. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, it is the largest monument ever constructed, and the largest pyramid in the world, in terms of volume (over 4.45 million cubic meters). The pyramid stands 55 meters above the surrounding plain, and in its final form it measured 405 by 405 meters . Its base covers an area of nearly 45 acres. The pyramid is a temple that has traditionally been viewed as having been dedicated to the god Quetzalcoatl. The architectural style of the building was closely linked to that of Teotihuacan in the Valley of Mexico, although influence from the Gulf Coast is also evident, especially from El Tajín.
p.s. Many big pyramids however come with a very large base but are not very tall. A better measure of size therefore is probably the volume of a pyramid. The volume of a pyramid can be calculated by the following formula: Length of base x Width of base x Height x 1/3.
Santuario de Nuestra Señora de los Remedios The construction of the church dedicated to Our Lady of Remedies began in 1594 and finish in 1666. The church was built with brada stone and decorated with laminilla of 24 carat gold. p.s. Before establishing the chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Remedies on the Great Pyramid Tlachihultepetl, a cross was placed in the Teocalli or temple dedicated to the prehispanic deity (Chiconauhquiauhitl, Goddess of the Nine Rains).
Puebla, World Heritage City—the City of Angels
Puebla de los Angeles, also known as Puebla de Zaragoza, is Mexico’s 4th largest city and among the oldest cities in the country. Founded on April 16, 1531, Puebla was the first city in Mexico built entirely from scratch by Spanish settlers. No indigenous structures were dismantled or repurposed. Nicknamed “The Shrine of America” due to its architectural beauty, the city of Puebla was, according to legend, created and laid-out by angels, to be enjoyed by mortals. The city of Puebla is best known for its Colonial architecture, influential cuisine, and talavera pottery.
Santuario de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe was completed in the early 18th century, and is a good example of Poblano Baroque, with stone-based ornamentation, tile, brick and mortar. The towers and domes show the wealth of that style. The facade is notable for tile panels that show the four apparitions of the Virgin of Guadalupe and other Marian symbols.
Puebla Historical City Centre is a UNESCO World Heritage site and it is one of Mexico’s best-preserved Spanish Colonial treasures. It contains more than 2,600 monuments in nearly 400 city blocks.
Zócalo (Plaza de Armas) has existed since the founding of the city in 1531, was the first block to be laid out. Throughout history it has been a meeting place and social center of the city. This main plaza originally was rectangular, but later made square because the earlier version was considered to be ugly.
Today, the Zócalo is a tree-filled plaza and contains a large number of sculptures, but the most noted is the one of the Archangel Michael, the city’s patron saint, stands atop a beautiful stone fountain in the middle of the square, with its rippling portals (arcades) on three sides in 1777.
Catedral Basílica de Puebla dedicated to the Immaculate Conception, is a Roman Catholic cathedral, a treasure of colonial art.
The cathedral is the second-largest in the country after Mexico City Cathedral, designed by Francisco Becerra and Juan de Cigorondo. The first stage of construction took place between 1575 and 1618. The initial plans included four corner towers like the cathedral of Valladolid, Spain. The second phase of construction was under the direction of Bishop Juan de Palafox and Mendoza who consecrated the cathedral on April 18, 1649.
The façade is classified as late Baroque in transition to Neoclassical, with Doric and Corinthian columns. It is made of dark grey quarry stone and was completed in 1664. The north tower was added in 1678 and the south tower in 1768. The towers are over 200 feet (at 73.9 m; 244 f) high, the tallest in Mexico.
p.s. Puebla’s cathedral is pictured on the back of the Mexican 500 peso bill.
Palacio Municipal (Town Hall) is located on the Zócalo’s north side. Built on the original Spanish authority seat of government, the current Palacio Municipal was completed in 1906.
The building is an example of the Franco-Spanish Renaissance style typical of public architecture in Mexico during the rule of Porfirio Diaz. The façade is made of gray cantera stone in Renaissance style, using Ionic columns and pediments, differing from the other buildings that border the main plaza. The portal has two levels topped by a central garret, in which there is a clock (installed in 1904) and towers on each side.
Hotel Colonial de Puebla The hotel building has been on the city map since 1668 and is cataloged as a Historic Monument, because of its magnificent colonial architecture. History tells that this building was constructed by the Jesuits, after they built the Templo del Espíritu Santo La Compañía and its college (Universidad Autonoma de Puebla), located right across the street.
From its construction to present, the building has had three different uses: 1. Jesuit monastery until the end of the 18th Century. 2. At the end of the 18th Century, the building was acquired by Mr. Covarrubias, a very important man in Puebla, to host important travelers on their way from Veracruz to Mexico City (under the name “Hotel del Jardín"). 3. In 1930 the building was bought by the Del Campo family, who restored it and changed the name to Hotel Colonial.Hotel and Restaurant from the middle of the 19th Century up to our days.
The Hotel Colonial is known locally for its excellent cuisine, and recommended in almost every foreign tour guide. The “Mole Poblano" served every day in its dining rooms is reputed to be the best in the world. That is the reason we are having the lunch here.
p.s. Puebla’s most seductive culinary innovation is Mole Poblano, which contains more than 20 ingredients including chili peppers and chocolate, created by the Santa Rosa Convent’s nuns during the colonial period. The dish is so complex and luxurious that is a special dish typically reserved for wedding, baptisms, etc.
Calle de los Dulces
6 Oriente Street is known as el Calle de los Dulces—Sweets Street or Candy Street because of the number of dulcerias (candy shops) along here selling a wide variety of traditional candies, cookies and other Poblano specialties.
Talavera: Clay Turns into Art Soon after its foundation, Puebla was well known for its fine ceramics, especially for the style that would be called Talavera. This has been due to the abundance of quality clay in the region, drawing some of the best artisans. Between 1550 and 1570, Spanish potter from Talavera de la Reina in Spain came to Puebla to teach the locals European techniques of using the potter’s wheel and tin glazing. These new methods were mixed with native designs to give rise to what became known as Poblano Talavera.
Museo Regional de la Revolución Mexicana City Puebla is not only the place where Mexico’s famous victory over the French took place, but also the birthplace of the Mexican Revolution of 1910.
It was here, in a Colonial mansion downtown, that Aquiles Serdán (1877-1910) and his family stockpiled weapons for the fight against President Porfirio Díaz. On November 18, two days before the revolt was officially scheduled to begin, authorities learned of the stash and surrounded the building. A bloody stand-off ensued.
The house, still riddled with bullet holes, today houses the Museo Regional de la Revolución Mexicana. The museum depicts the life and times of Aquiles Serdán and his family, and has a room dedicated to the women of the Revolution, helps tell the story of a few lesser-known national heroes.
Iglesia de Santo Domingo was originally part of a Dominican monastery (no longer active), considered to be Mexico’s most exuberantly decorated temple.
Construction of the Santo Domingo church took place between 1571 and 1611, except for the left tower which was not completed until the 19th century. It is a Roman Catholic church within the jurisdiction of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Puebla de los Angeles, with the San Miguel Arcángel as its patron saint. The church is especially famed for its Capilla del Rosario (1690, in honor of the Virgin of the Rosary), an impressive sight with overwhelming New Spanish Baroque decoration and lavish use of gold leaf.
The main portal is a pure classic style finished in gray quarry stone. It consists of three levels with paired Doric-like columns. In the first, to the side of the arch lie two mating pairs of Tuscan columns. The second with two pairs of smooth columns that flank a large square window and down it an image of San Miguel Arcángel in marble. It is flanked by two dogs with a torch on the snout and a balloon between the feet, the symbol of its founder. In the top of the facade there is a statue of Santo Domingo in marble and Tecáli up a Greek cross, the shield of the Dominican order surrounded by a rosary.
p.s. Javier Marín’s sculptures are showing in the atrium. Javier Marín (1962~) is a Mexican artist, an exceptional sculptor. His series of sculptures have been shown in the most important public spaces of Pietrasanta (2008), Milan (2009), the Hague (2009), Brussels (2010) and Rome (2012), now in Puebla (2013). His sculpture is unique and dynamic blend of Western European and Mexican culture.
The centerpiece of the sanctuary is the Baroque High (Main) altar (dates to 1688 and is attributed to Pedro Maldonado) dedicated to the Virgin Mary, who almost appears to float in midair. The gold canopy surrounding her came from the hands of Lucas Pinto, an Iberian artisan, and the columns were carved of stone from nearby Tecali de Herrera. Multiple saints adorn the walls surrounding the altar: At left are Mary’s husband, St. Joseph, and her cousin St. Elizabeth, who was the mother of St. John the Baptist.
Capilla del Rosario is one of the most elaborately decorated Baroque chapels in Mexico. It was constructed between 1650 and 1690. It is also the first chapel in Mexico dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary, to whom the Dominicans had great devotion. The walls and dome are completely coated with ornate sculpture in gold leaf and plaster, including saints, cherubs, and dancing angels. Each of the images in the chapel is significant and relate to the Virgin Mary, the life of Jesus, or the Dominican order. This chapel is undoubtedly one of the finest examples of baroque art in Mexico.
On the sides of the nave are exhibited six paintings of the painter José Rodríguez Carnero (1649-1725), which allude to the “joys" of the Virgin Mary.
p.s. On the walls, golden vines form the frames of six paintings depicting the mysteries of the rosary. Tradition says that the Virgin Mary gave the rosary to Saint Dominic, the founder of the Dominican order.
The right transept is displayed a painting with the coronation of Mary and the figures of St. Mark and St. Luke; in the top window, you can see San Joaquin and Santa Ana. Tribute to the evangelists is that they were the first to speak of the Virgin, whose family appears here surrounded by angels (praises), flowers (offerings), birds (music) and Pelicans (the symbol of Christ).
p.s. This place is reminiscent of the interrelation between its symbolism and religious architecture: square that forms in the transept represents the Earth, the octagonal base of the dome recreates the rebirth after death, and its perfect curvature represents the celestial vault, symbol of paradise.
Cypress that protects the Cesarini image of Our Lady of the Rosary is a true work of art that shines like gold to receive the rays of light. Its base and the 12 corinthian columns made from marble of Tecali, represent the apostles. In the first part some Dominican Saints can be seen, and in the second twelve beautiful spiral columns covered with roses and lilies that frame to Santo Domingo. Saints embedded to the niches of the ceiling hold clusters of flowers; four decorative ribs are embraced by plants and are arranged in the form of the Creeper. At the auction on the Lantern, is San Gabriel Arcángel, figure that finishes off this grandiose Baroque work signed by Lucas Pinto.
Wow, what a long day!