A SANCTUARY ON TOP OF ANOTHER SANCTUARY
The best views you will find in Cholula will be from the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Remedies. On top of the gigantic pyramid of Cholula or Tlachihualtepetl, the construction of a hermitage began in 1594, not long after the arrival of the Spaniards. In 1854, an earthquake almost destroyed it, for which reason it was rebuilt 10 years later. From the top of the pyramid where the church is located, you can enjoy wonderful views of the whole valley of Cholula, and even the Popocatepetl volcano, if the sky is clear.It is a baroque church with a neoclassical façade, whose interior is decorated with paintings and has wooden and plaster altars.
It is quite a lot gold-coloured inside and its dome is decorated with Talavera tiles.The interior houses the image of the Our Lady of Remedies, highly venerated for being considered miraculous.The city of Cholula was a pre-Hispanic ceremonial centre for millennia, it was a sacred city. The huge pyramid was a place of pilgrimage for different Mesoamerican ethnicities and cultures, which was unfortunately destroyed  during one of the worst episodes of the conquest when in 1519, after a warning that they were going to suffer an ambush, there was a great slaughter by the followers of Hernán Cortés on their way to Tenochtitlán (today´s Mexico City) in October 1519. Cortés mentions that Cholula had as many towers as Valladolid in Spain in his "Cartas de Relación" letters.
After the military conquest, the religious one began with the construction of Christian temples, sometimes on top of pre-existing pagan temples. This is the case of this church on top of the great pyramid. This way of acting has been recurrent throughout history, not only by the Christians who also built their temples in Europe on the ruins of other Roman or pagan temples, but also by Islam which, after its conquests, did the same on Christian churches or Hindu temples, etc. Pride and the attempt to make one´s own ideas prevail over others sometimes goes beyond the deepest spirituality.The site of Cholula possessed many temples before the arrival of the Hispanics.
The tutelary god of the city was Quetzalcoatl or "the Feathered Snake", and the great pyramid was dedicated to Chiconquiahitl or "Señor 9 Lluvia" (the name given to the God of rain). They were the Franciscans who began the construction of the temple by placing a cross on the site. The image of Our Lady was taken to the church of Saint Peter Cholula in 1874 to be enthroned.It has had illustrious visitors such as the naturalist Alexander Von Humboldt and Maximilian and Charlotte of Habsburg.In 1999 another terrible earthquake shook the region and the sanctuary was badly damaged. The image of Our Lady was moved to the convent of Saint Gabriel during the restoration work, returning on August 15, 2003.
The climb up to the shrine is a little tiring, but the views are definitely worth the effort. Address: on top of Cholula pyramid.Train, Saint Michael, Archaeological area Saint Andrew de Cholula, Puebla.Open daily from 8 h to 19 h.
OLD AND SWEET CURRENCY
In Cholula we advise you to try a very local and delicious drink, the "Xocolhátl", which was already consumed in pre-Hispanic times, considered to be the elixir of the gods, because it was thought to be their favourite. Perhaps that is why it was mainly consumed by the ruling elite, who felt closer to divinity.Cocoa was so important in pre-colonial times that even the seeds of this plant were used as currency. Archaeological evidence has been found out that these seeds were even counterfeited, just like banknotes today, they were emptied and stuffed with other materials.
It is said that even Hernán Cortés adopted the custom of using cocoa as currency, paying his soldiers with it.Today this Cholulteca drink is also known as water chocolate cocoa. It was very much loved by all Mesoamerican peoples, including the inhabitants of Cholula who consumed it as a drink mixed with other products such as ground corn, or simply with water. The tradition of adding piloncillo (an almost virgin sugar from sugar cane) or milk arrived with the Spaniards, as well as the addition of sugar.
Cocoa drinks were not only highly desired by the indigenous people, but also spread rapidly throughout the viceroyalty, and arrived at the Iberian Peninsula where it was highly appreciated, so much so to the point that Spanish noblewomen even consumed it inside churches during ceremonies, although more than one clergyman got angry.It is a drink of great nutritional power, loaded with carbohydrates, fat and proteins, as well as some important minerals such as iron, phosphorus and calcium.Here in Cholula, a very chocolatey city, this drink, which is also known as "Cacao de chocolate de agua", is mixed with ground yellow corn and sugar.
Tradition dictates that it must be drunk in small jars made from the wood of a tree called pancololote, and that are known as jícaras. They assure that these containers retain its essence and peculiar flavour.Sometimes chilli is added.If you want to sweeten your life and recover your energy with a tasty and typical food drink, have a "Xocolhátl". Addresses: easy to find almost anywhere in Cholula.
Outstanding are the ones you will find in the central zocalo and in the city market.
TREES OF LIFE OR DEATH
The pottery tradition in general is a wonderful craft that is made throughout the central mountainous region of Mexico, where the Neovolcanic mountain range runs transversally from west to east, being the state of Puebla and the city of Cholula worthy representatives of it. Among the varied products that you can find such as plates, bowls and vessels, there is a very specialised and elaborate one, the famous "Trees of Life”.The manufacture of ceramic, including figures of people, animals and gods, dates back to at least the second millennium b.C., although with the arrival of the Christian friars, this was replaced by the creation of Christian religious figures including saints and angels. By the XX century, they began to made highly detailed and luxurious pieces such as the Trees of Life.
These were then not only created with religious motifs, but the profane also appeared, like death or springtime.But the most typical concept is the Garden of Eden in which Adam and Eve appear surrounded by all kinds of animals and plants.The Trees of Life are a very fine and detailed work. In addition to many varied characters, depending on whether they are for religious or profane purposes, they are usually decorated with a variety of flowers, and are generally painted in very bright colours, although there are also made with matte tones and only highlight the colour of the clay which is the original material.Characters such as St. Michael the Archangel and the snake from the Garden of Eden are also common.
The size goes from 20 to 60 centimetres, although they can be much larger and require years of work by the artist.In the state of Puebla, the areas of Izúcar and Matamoros stand out in the manufacture of these trees.Some say that they are symbols of fertility and good harvests, which is why they were not only used in religious ceremonies but also as gifts for the bride and groom. Nowadays many are produced for commercial purposes, and just one, even a small one, will bring colour and joy to your living room, and will certainly please a loved one if you give it as a gift.
you can find them in the cultural artisan centre and in Morelos Street.
TWO SAINT MICHAEL ARCHANGELS AND A LITTLE DEVIL
In Plaza de la Concordia or Zocalo of Saint Peter Cholula there is a fountain with a statue dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel where you can take some beautiful pictures with the background of the XVI century arcades that surround the square, which are the largest of their style in all of Mexico. The fountain, over which you can see a statue of the archangel who leads the heavenly troops against evil, was a gift from the King of Spain, Felipe II, in 1554. It is made of grey quarry stone and the sculpture, which is of one piece, has never changed its place since its arrival to the town of Puebla.
As an anecdotal fact, we tell you that in a church close to the square, the church of Saint Miguelito, also dedicated to the heavenly archangel, there is the figure of a little devil kept in the sacristy of the temple. It is said that this figure was unearthed at the crossroads of the old federal highway to Cholula and the highway to Huejotzingo, although others say that it mysteriously appeared at the door of the church atrium inside a cardboard box. It is also said that when the figure was placed, it changed its position, and that it had to be manicured because it scratched the box where it was kept, and that they had to change the box several times because the previous one was too small!!!!
Nowadays they don´t let you go in to see it because they either tell you that it is no longer there or that they want to avoid looting.If you still manage to enter the sacristy and look for this figure, be sure you respect the Holy Archangel St. Michael on the main altar of the church to avoid any disaster or complication if you see the little devil.The Saint Michael of this church is very venerated.The little devil was, for some time, tied to a column of the main altar, but it is said that it sometimes came untied, causing some misfortune in the village, and was then tied to the column again.
At one point it was decided to remove it from there and keep it in the sacristy.The sculpture was made in the XVIII century in coloured wood.It is thought that the little devil was part of the image of an old Saint Michael that was taken out in procession on his saint´s day in September, because the figure of the angel had at his feet a devil with wings and dark skin, with claws on his feet and hands. A figure that is frightening but looks upwards as if he could see the sky.It is said that if a person has seen the little devil, when leaving the church after a religious ceremony, it will be seen twice as if in the second time the little devil had copied the human shape of the visitor and is looking for misdeeds.
It is also said that before the church closes, the devil enters the building again as a human and goes into the sacristy, never to be seen again.
Saint Michael Fountain: Plaza de la Concordia. Cholula
Saint Michael Church: 4 St. Nte 5, Saint Michael district.
Tianguis Náhuatl, Cholula.
HIDDEN BUT INTERESTING CHAPEL
The ex-convent of Saint Gabriel is located right in the centre of the city of San Pedro Cholula and has an imposing atrial wall, the atrium, the Posas Chapels, the great temple or Royal Chapel, the cloister, the Chapel of Naturals..Inside the ex-convent there is a small church, the Chapel of the Third Order , which is located between the sanctuary of Saint Gabriel and the Royal Chapel within the large convent complex. This one is a small temple compared to the majestic Royal Chapel, which is why it sometimes goes unnoticed despite being an interesting place.
It dates back to the XVIII and XIX centuries.Its façade is baroque with Solomonic columns, and its exterior is painted in mustard yellow or saffron with white touches. Inside, the paintings of some of the most famous intellectuals and saints of the Franciscan Order stand out on the pendentives of the vault. There are four of them: Saint Raymond Lull (a great writer), Saint Bonaventure (who was called seraphic doctor), Blessed John Duns (doctor) and Saint Bernardine of Siena (who was a reformer of the order).The main altar, which is white like the rest of the interior, houses an image of the Virgin Mary and another of Saint Francis, the Italian founder of the order.
At both sides of the church, you can still see the remains of the old cemetery that extended along the chapel and the main temple, although unfortunately a large part of its funerary monuments have disappeared due to destruction or vandalism.It has a pulpit decorated with little angels and a dome free of paintings except for those already mentioned on the pendentives.
The walls have paintings of a Franciscan character.Inside there are also other religious images such as a Our Lady of Dolores and a Nazarene, as well as some Franciscan saints.
Third Order Chapel in inside Saint Gabriel ex-convent at Plaza de la Concordia, in the centre of Cholula.
WOULD YOU EAT BUTTERFLY LARVAE?
Here we propose a gastronomic challenge that you have to dare to try, it is the "Cuetlas".Cuetlasis a common dish in Cholula, although it is consumed more during the fair season in September. They are butterfly larvae that grow feeding on chia, caulote, jonote and tlahuiloteplants, and it is on these same plants where they are collected. Their colour is white with black spots and small horns... Are your mouth watering with this information? Well, you should know that they are edible and that they are mainly consumed here in Cholula and in the whole state of Puebla, and also in the states of Morelos, Guerrero and Veracruz.
It is interesting to know that they were already consumed in pre-Hispanic times in these lands and they don´t seem to do any harm, unless you eat too much. You should dare to try them but not abuse!The common name in Mexico for the butterfly that results from this caterpillar is Chiancuetlaor Tepolchinic.The caterpillars are collected during the rainy season, and then, are boiled and dried. In some places, they are cleaned and salted, left in the sun for three days, and then after adding lemon, they are roasted before eating. They are also toasted in the comal, a kind of metal dish similar to an oriental wok, but flatter.They are most commonly eaten in corn tortilla tacos with chili sauce.
They are rich in protein, iron and vitamin B.Cuetlascan be seen in the colourful markets of Mexico´s central states.And if you don´t dare with these larvae, don´t worry, there are other regional dishes based on insects such as the delicious chapulinesor small grasshoppers that are usually eaten dried and roasted, although locals even eat them alive.Orescamoles, the larvae of the güijeras ants, which are usually eaten in stews. These larvae, also eaten in pre-Hispanic times, are considered an exotic delicacy.
They are also eaten fried with butter and epazoteor in molesauce, so appreciated in the state of Puebla. These ants make their nests underground, especially choosing the bases of magueys and nopaleras, near the pepper trees. They are harvested between the months of March and April. The ants are very aggressive, which makes them difficult to collect, and that is why they are a very expensive dish. Enjoy your meal!
restaurants around the zocaloor main square are a good option, although you can always ask a local person where to find the best "Cuitlas", "Escamoles" or "Chapulines".
Thezocaloof Saint Peter Cholula, better known as Plaza de la Concordia and also known as Los Portales, is a marvellous example of architecture from the first century of the colonization, as it has a series of 46 arches or portals that, with 170 metres of length, make them the longest of their style in all Mexico. You can take shelter from the rain if you are travelling in the rainy season or simply take a break from your exhausting pilgrimage, choosing one of its cafeterias or restaurants to sit down, have a drink or eat, as well as enjoy the big number of shops around there, mainly focused on tourism. In addition to the portals, you will find several monuments, including the baroque Church of Saint Peter, the tallest in the city.
It is said that the city has 365 churches, but in reality, are 39. You will also find the convent of Saint Gabriel, which was founded in 1549 on the site of a pyramid.The Franciscan Convent of Saint Gabriel Archangel can be considered one of the oldest in Mexico. Although the first stone was laid in 1549 due to the lack of friars, the place already existed in 1528, located on the land where there was a temple dedicated to the god Quetzalcoatl prior to the conquest. It has a beautiful church with a single elongated nave that has Gothic and Plateresque elements, highlighting its ribbed vault. All this can be seen today, together with other important elements such as the Chapel of the Third Order.
But... Who was Quetzalcoatl, the god of the primitive pre-Hispanic temple where the convent was built?Quetzalcoatl or Feathered Serpent was a chief god of the Aztecs who had inherited from the Toltecs. He was a god of creation related to resurrection and fertility. He is also identified with Topiltzin, the legendary king of Tula who taught the Toltecs the arts. The Toltecs also took the cult of the god to Yucatan where he became known as Kukulcan and to whom the famous pyramid of El Castillo in Chichen Itza is dedicated.
It is said that he was bearded and fair-skinned. Therefore, the Mexican emperor Moctezuma II seems to have been convinced that Hernán Cortés was the same returning god, as Topiltzin left and disappeared to the east of the Mesoamerican lands, exactly where the bearded conqueror arrived.
Miguel Hidalgo Av. y 4 Oriente. Col. Centro
ROUTE OF TEMPLES
Cholula is one of those towns in the Mexican Republic considered magical due to its beauty, its monuments, its cleanliness, etc. And within all the Magical Towns of Mexico, Cholula can boast of having more churches than the rest. Although according to the legend it has 365, one for each day of the year, the truth is that there are actually 39 churches in this city, and they are not few.As it is going to be very difficult to visit them all, we are going to recommend a route for three of them and learn more about the religious architecture of this place. The parish church of Saint Peter is located in the historic centre of the city, specifically in the main square or zocalo, and is the one with the tallest tower.
Its dome is Churrigueresque and has eight windows with XVII century stipites.From here we advise you to take a taxi, because, although the distances are not very long, it would take you too long to walk it all. Your next destination would be a real gem: the Church of Saint Mary Tonantzintla, a temple where you will be able to observe the indigenous baroque in all its splendour. The decoration of this church is the maximum expression of the religious and cultural syncretism that took place during the Spanish colonization. The name of the temple tells us of this syncretism as it is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, but combining her with the pre-Hispanic goddess Tonantzin, the adored mother.
Tonantzintla in the Nahuatl language means "place of our little mother".You will be totally impressed by the sculptural work throughout the interior of the temple, especially in the dome where the sky of Tlaloc, the ancient god of rain, is depicted, in which there are many little faces of indigenous people killed by lightning and reincarnated in the sky. It was made in the 1600s.It will take you about 15 minutes to get here by taxi. Depending on the time you spend in this second church, you can return directly to the Plaza del Zócalo or make another stop at the Santuario del Señor de la Misericordia, which is halfway between the two churches.The Señor de la Misericordia Sanctuary has a stone façade with a medieval appearance.
The whole church is made of stone except for its domes, which were made of white painted brick. The temple has a rustic appearance, but it is one of the most beautiful in Cholula. From there you can return to the starting point at the Plaza de la Concordia.
Saint Peter is in Avenue 5 de mayo. Centre. Cholula.
Open from 9 h to 13.30 h and from 16 h to 20 h every day.
Saint Mary Tonantzintla is in Avenue M. Hidalgo o, Saint Diego, Sta. María Tonanzintla 72828
Saint Andrew Cholula.
Open every day from 9 h to 18 h.Sanctuary Señor de la Misericordia: 3 Street South y 27 pte, Magdalena District, Cholula.
Open Monday to Friday from 8 h to 20 h.
GREEN GARDENS FULL OF CALM
In the Plaza de la Concordia of Cholula there is a large garden full of trees and vegetation that will allow you to abstract yourself for a while from the noise and rest from your walks visiting monuments. It is a place full of nature and very clean. In addition, the vegetation will protect you from the midday sun, creating a very pleasant microclimate. Not many people pass by every day, although it is a classic meeting point for Cholulenses, especially on weekends and holidays, although, you will see enough people to keep you entertained watching them.
You may also be able to buy a delicious and original corn ice cream to refresh yourself, as well as some sweets from the region because there are some street stalls where you will also find typical handicrafts at affordable prices.From time to time cultural events are held here, and you can also listen to musicians, either itinerant or folk bands and groups playing in a kiosk in the central part of the park. In this kiosk there is a Gallery of History that is also a Tourist Office, in case you want to find out about something special or how to get to a particular place or monument. Sometimes there are different exhibitions in the same space.There are benches in the park where you can sit quietly if you don´t want to walk around and just relax.
It is an excellent place if you are would like to relax, observe, meditate or escape from the heat, as well as if you go as a couple or with the whole family, as the park has a play area for children.You might even see squirrels scurrying through the trees.The park becomes very lively on national and patron saint´s days.Another good thing about it is that you can find something to eat, and if nothing satisfies you right there, just a few steps away you have the cafés and restaurants of the Plaza Concordia, as well as its churches and other monuments.
Plaza de la Concordia o Zócalo
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