PLACES IN THE ANCIENT WORLD: Templo Mayor (Mexico)
THE Templo Mayor or Great Temple (called Hueteocalli by the Aztecs) dominated the central sacred precinct of the Azteccapital Tenochtitlan. Topped by twin temples dedicated to the war god Huitzilopochtli and the rain god Tlaloc it was a focal point of the Aztec religion and very centre of the Aztec world. It was also the scene of state occasions such as coronations and the place of countless human sacrifices where the blood of the victims was thought to feed and appease the two great gods to whom it was dedicated.
The Templo Mayor was first constructed in the reign of Itzcoatl (r. 1427-1440 CE), improved upon by his successor Motecuhzoma I (r. 1440-1469 CE), and again enlarged during the reign of Ahuitzotl (r. 1486-1502 CE). These rulers, and others, each employed the resources and labour given in tribute by neighbouring states in order to build a more impressive monument than their predecessors.
The location was chosen with purpose as the temple was a stone improvement on the original shrine the first settlers of Tenochtitlan had built in honour of Huitzilopochtli in the Aztec founding legends. As the temple grew over the years, offerings and precious goods were ritually buried within its ever-expanding layers. The pyramid was reached via a sacred Processional Way constructed along an east-west axis. The Pyramid was similarly built on an east-west axis so that when at the top of the stairway one would face the east and see both Mt. Tlaloc and, on the equinox, see the sunrise exactly between the two shrines on the upper platform. Located at the centre of Tenochtitlan the Templo Mayor was the religious and social heart of the Aztec empire.
Article by Mark Cartwright on AHE