World Religions

Places of Worship: Teotihuacan


Location: Teotihuacan, Mexico
Belief: Native American
Date Established: 100 CE

In the plains of Mexico, almost 50 kilometres northeast of the capital of Mexico City, lies the remains of an ancient city named Teotihuacan by the Aztecs, and meaning ‘Place of the Gods’ in their native Nahuatl language. [1]

The people had been pastoral farmers, yet in a very short space of time, they built a vast city complex inspired by their leader Quetzalcoatl (the feathered serpent, also meaning a wise man). Although Quetzalcoatl is depicted as a deity, there are many scholars in Mexico who consider him to have been a real person who inspired his community. In that tradition, he is described as somebody who wanted to stop warfare and human sacrifice, discourage the drinking of alcohol and promote a more moral lifestyle. He also promoted the seeking of knowledge and is credited with being the originator of their calendar. [2] Maybe it was this kind of revolutionary thinking that led to the sudden creation of the city and temples of Teotihuacan. The same character is also associated with Kukulcan in Chichen Itza further east in Mexico in the Yucatan Peninsula.

While there is doubt as to how long the city was occupied, most agree that it was inhabited from 100 – 700 CE. At its peak, the city had a population between 60,000-200,000 and covered 10 square miles; Teotihuacan was possibly one of the largest cities in the world at that time.

The main features of the religious complex are the Pyramid of the Sun (approximately 60m high) and the Pyramid of the Moon at one end of the main Avenue of the Dead, and the Citadel and the Temple of Quetzalcoatl at the other end. The Pyramid of the Sun was erected over a large natural cave complex as a deliberate choice. These large caves with seven chambers became a place of pilgrimage for Aztecs, and would later be referenced in the Mayan creation myth as Popol Vuh. [3] So Teotihuacan became a centre for religion, and there were many smaller
temples and shrines dotted around the city, just at the same time as in Europe and the Middle East, first Christianity and then Islam began to gain a foothold.

The influence of the Aztecs and the significance of their sites waned over time, and further still once the Spanish conquered the region and established Christianity.


  1. P. Devereux, Secrets of Ancient and Sacred Places (London, UK: Brockhampton Press, 1998), 63.
  2. J. Campbell, The Hero With a Thousand Faces (London, UK: Fontana Press, 1993), 358.
  3. M. Wood, In Search of the First Civilizations (UK: BBC Books – Random House Group, 2005), 154.

Other References:

N. Davies, The Ancient Kingdoms of Mexico (London, UK: Penguin Books, 1990).

S. Vogel, Teotihuacan – History, Art and Monuments(Mexico: Monclem Ediciones S.A., 1995).

Add Comment

Click here to post a comment