Thursday, April 9, 2020

Calixtlahuaca: The Baptismal Font

Before it was conquered in the mid-1470s by the Aztecs, Matlatzinco had been an independent community in the northern part of the Valley of Toluca, in western Mexico state. The Aztecs renamed the city Calixtlahuaca, “Place of the Plain of Houses,” and erected new buildings in the ancient city center with stone sculptures in Aztec Imperial style.
These monuments included at least two carved, cylindrical pedestals that may have been altars for heart sacrifice. One of these, found on the platform in front of the round temple of the Wind God (Ehecatl), is now located in the main church of San Francisco, serving as a base for the colonial baptismal font. 
   The surmounting font is ringed by the Franciscan knotted cord motif and carved with religious monograms.

 The prehispanic sacrificial stone underlying the font is carved in the Aztec imperial style and is thought to date from the late 15th century, after the Aztecs took political control of Calixtlahuaca.  
   The carved cylinder is ringed by a frieze whose repeated motif features a helmeted head against a crenelated circle flanked by representations of a jade bead—a symbol associated with death, sacrifice and renewal. A deep channel cut into one side, if original, may have been to drain blood from the surface above.
courtesy of Jim Cook
The second altar, now in the site museum at Calixtlahuaca, was also found at the base of the temple of Ehecatl by the pioneering archaeologist José Garcia Payón.
composite image of cemetery chapel courtesy of Michael Smith
Although the main church in San Francisco Calixtlahuaca only dates from the nineteenth century, the smaller cemetery chapel  (panteón) nearby is much older and is probably the original mission site, founded in part on a pre-conquest platform. 
date stone (image courtesy of Michael Smith)

The chapel has a carved stone relief embedded in its rear wall bearing the date "1563 año" and below it, the equivalent for that year in the Aztec calendar (6 Reed). Closed up for many years, the chapel has recently been restored.
text © 2020 Richard D. Perry.  
images courtesy of Michael Smith and Jim Cook
* Please see our earlier posts featuring early Mexican fonts of interest: YucatánOaxacaMichoacanZacatelcoTlalmanalcoCuernavacaTepoztlanZacualpanOtumbaChimalhuacanAcatzingoTlaxcalaZinacantepecTecaliTecamachalco

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