Chichen Itza Uxmal Mayapan Dzibilchaltun Xcambo Tulum

The Church in Chichen Itza

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When the Church in Chichen Itza first discovered, this building was notable for the good state of preservation it was in, and for the richness and beauty of its ornaments. La Iglesia (the Church) is a small building next to Las Monjas (the Nuns) with a single chamber and one access door, similar to a rectangular chapel, hence its name.

This building has a rectangular floor plan and consists of a single vaulted room. The main facade faces the west, with an entrance made of stone lintel in the central part of the building.

Physical description of The Church in Chichen Itza

Decorated fringes

Two fringes decorated with frets runs along the whole building, the first one is a simple pattern above the door limited by two moldings. The second fringe comes above the decorated frieze, and it’s made of a band of serrated and zig-zag bars forming inverted triangles that give the impression of a serpent, all within two simple molds.

Decorated Frieze

In the decorated frieze you can see three masks made in the stone mosaic technique, one in the central part and one in each corner, with their noses hooked or rolled representing Chac, the god of rain.

Chac mask of the Church in Chichen Itza
Chac mask of the Church in Chichen Itza

On each side of the central mask, there is a kind of niche with two figures, sitting on a shelf or throne, which have been identified with the Four Bacabes* that held the sky in its four directions.

In the niche from the north you can see a figure with wings and an oval pectoral hanging on a rope or string, as well as another figure with a snail on its back; while in the south niche one of the figures carries a kind of shell around the body, and the other has a turtle shell. Some consider the Bacabes disguised as crab, snail, armadillo, and tortoise.

The Church frontal cresting

The Church's crest in Chichen Itza
The Church’s crest in Chichen Itza

A cresting rises on the facade wall that gives more height to the Church in Chichen Itza, profusely decorated with stone mosaic, in the Puuc style. This is composed of a fringe decorated with frets, between two simple moldings, then the frieze decorated with masks of Chac. And finally comes the cornice that tops the building.

Location of the Church in Chichen Itza

The Church in Chichen Itza is a stand-alone building next to the Nuns building.

The Bacabes

*The Bacabes are gods that belong to Mayan mythology. There are four gods that each have a different color: red, white, black and yellow; their destiny was to hold the four corners of the sky with their hands up.



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