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Friday, August 17, 2012

Mexican Eagles 3: The Imperial Eagle

The imperial coat of arms of the Emperor Charles V of Spain

The Hapsburg Imperial Eagle

Following the Spanish conquest, the Aztec eagle was supplanted by the double headed Imperial Eagle of the Hapsburgs—the insignia of the Holy Roman Empire and the ruling dynasty in 16th century Spain.

The Hapsburg eagle was incorporated into the Spanish Royal arms and emblazoned on churches and public buildings in the early colonial period in Mexico. Many of these armorial reliefs, however, retained the physical features of the Aztec eagle, especially in the graphic treatment of the feathers, carved as they were for the most part by native craftsmen.
This coat of arms, one of two emblazoned on the 16th century Palacio de Justicia, in Tlaxcala,  includes all the elements of the Spanish royal arms, including the Hapsburg two-headed eagle, the Imperial crown, the quartered Lions and Castles  (León & Castile) of Isabelline Spain, the pillars of Hercules, and the chain and lamb pendant of the aristocratic Order of the Golden Fleece.

Also in Tlaxcala, the upper part of a similar relief now serves as the base for a baptismal font in the parish church of San José  
The same elements appear in another well preserved escutcheon in the colonial Palacio Municipal of  Huitzo in Oaxaca
Another variant is seen in this companion escutcheon to the first Tlaxcala relief, which incorporates many of the same elements, except that bearded "wild men" holding tree branches replace the Pillars.  The wild men were a common feature in European heraldry, especially in the German states.


Prussian coat of arms with Herculean wild men
text © 2012 Richard D. Perry


for more on the early monasteries of Puebla and Tlaxcala see our guidebook Mexico's Fortress Monasteries

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