Structure XI: The Astronomer's Pyramid
Plaza de Kanjobal. The other structures of the plaza are un-excavated mounds of rubble.
cenotes (limestone sink holes) provide the primary source. However, in the Southern Peninsula, they are scarce. The ancient Maya solved this problems by cutting bottle-shaped chambers, called chultunes, down into the limestone. Drainage channels were then cut to the chultunes so that rainwater runoff from buildings and plazas could be collected and stored.
The Early Franciscan Open Chapel
Capillas Abiertas (Open Chapels) became distinctive features of Mexican Catholic architecture during the early 16th century Spiritual Conquest of Nueva España (Mexico). They were used by Franciscan friars as they evangelized indigenous populations. The mass conversions conducted during this period meant that there were often thousands of people who attended services. Building churches that would fit them all was beyond the resources of the friars. Most of Mexico's great cathedrals and basilicas were still a century into the future. In addition, the indigenous people were accustomed to attending pagan rituals conducted in the open air in front of their temples.
The friars' solution was to gather the indigenous people they were evangelizing into a large, un-roofed area, called an atrium. Facing the atrium would be a simple, open-faced chapel. The area behind the arch, called the presbytery, was roofed, but the archway itself was kept open so people could see the rituals that were being conducted. To the left of the presbytery is a sacristy where priestly vestments and other religious articles were kept. The room on the right, accessed from the front of the chapel, may have been used for administrative purposes or as temporary quarters for the itinerant friars.
Dzibilchaltún, a pre-hispanic Maya ruin near Mérida in northern Yucatan. The Spanish often constructed their churches and chapels in areas that indigenous people had been venerating for centuries. Oxtankah had long been a sacred precinct to the local Maya, even during the period of its abandonment between 600-900 AD. Thus, it is not surprising that this Capilla Abierta was built only a stone's throw from the Plaza Abejas.
This concludes my series on the ancient Maya city of Oxtankah. I hope you have enjoyed it and, if so, please leave any thoughts or questions in the Comments section below or email me directly.
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Hasta luego, Jim