10 Interesting Facts About the Great Pyramid of Cholula in Mexico
The Great Pyramid of Cholula was at the center of a large city and the religious capital of the highland of Mexico. It has undergone several excavations, and you’ll be amazed to learn what lies beneath it!
The famous Great Pyramid of Cholula is a hidden gem worth discovering. Keep reading to learn and explore 10 fascinating facts about the largest pyramid in the world!
A Brief History of the Great Pyramid of Cholula
Cholula was a large city and the religious capital of the highland of Mexico in the pre-Columbian age. Workers built the Great Pyramid in four stages that began in the 2nd century B.C.
The Great Pyramid was dedicated to the deity Quetzalcoatl. Cholula was considered a sister city to Teotihuacan. It was 590 feet (180 m) long on each side.
Circa 1200, the Toltecs conquered this region and took the Temple of Quetzalcoatl as their ceremonial center. By the time the Spanish conquered Cholula, the Great Pyramid had been hidden in nature so it looked like a normal hill. It was later discovered to be a huge pyramid.
10 Interesting Facts About the Great Pyramid of Cholula
Check out these fun facts about the Great Pyramid of Cholula that will make you want to visit as soon as possible!
1. Popocatepetl Divides the Great Pyramids and the Valley of Mexico
The Great Pyramid looks like a grassy hill by a church. The church on the hill is Nuestra Señora de los Remedios (Rectoral parish of Our Lady of Remedies.) Once you discover the unreconstructed pyramid next to it, you see the original geometric outline of the original structure with four levels.
From this perspective, you have a view of El Popocatépetl, the majestic volcano that separates Cholula from the valley of Mexico.
2. It’s Hidden Under a Mountain
The Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt is the most famous pyramid in the world, but it isn’t the biggest. The Great Pyramid of Cholula holds that title. It’s four times larger than Giza and twice its volume.
The reason why it’s commonly overlooked is because the gigantic pyramid is hidden under layers of dirt. People usually see it more as a hill than a place of worship.
3. It Contains 7 Pyramids
The Great Pyramid of Cholula actually has seven pyramids. It is a giant construction with many layers to discover.
Excavations discovered the original colors of the bricks and how they called the first pyramid La Conejera (Building A). The pyramid’s second phase was the Pyramid of the Pointed Skulls on top of La Conejera, and it had seven levels that led to the Altar of the Sculpted Skulls. The Pyramid of the Nine Stories, which was the largest part of the construction, had nine floors and the Altar del Jaguar (Jaguar Altar.)
4. It was Built by the Toltecs
The Toltecs built the first pyramid of Cholula. The structure is similar to the nearby Teotihuacán with the Toltec Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon.
Each indigenous group added their own contribution to their pyramids. Cholula was the center of worship for Quetzalcoatl, one of the Mayans’ most important gods. When the Aztecs eventually arrived, they were amazed by Cholula’s size. They believed the mythological giant Xelhua must have built it.
5. It was a Religious Temple
Indigenous death rituals took place in the center of the pyramid. Most Mesoamerican pyramids primarily served as altars for religious ceremonies—including human sacrifice. Instead of keeping their rituals a secret, ancient Mesoamerican priests conducted them in public to demonstrate their power.
6. Cholula is a Nahuatl Word
The word Cholula is a Nahuatl word meaning the place of retreat. There’s even a famous hot sauce in Mexico called Cholula. When you’re there, be sure to learn more words in Nahuatl and to try this famous Mexican hot sauce!
7. It’s Covered in Vegetation
During the power shifts from indigenous groups to the Spanish conquerors, Cholula lost a lot of people. The Toltec-Chichimeca built new pyramid temples close to the Great Pyramid of Cholula.
The adobe bricks that the Toltecs used for the Great Pyramid didn’t hold up well due to the humid climate. The bricks also made it a fertile ground for vegetation to take over. The pyramid was majestic and became indistinguishable after Mother Nature took over.
8. It’s a Burial Ground
Over 400 human burials were uncovered during excavations of the Great Pyramid. These burials are from the postclassic period; they were human sacrifices during the Toltec’s rituals. Cholula was the second most popular city in its glory. But the conquerors forced the indigenous tribes out of their home in Cholula.
9. They Knew the Conquerors were Coming
According to legend, the Toltecs knew that the Spanish conquerors were coming. The locals decided to cover the precious temple with soil so that they couldn’t find it.
To build the pyramid, the outer bricks were smoothed. When it was in its prime, their temple was covered in yellow, red, and black insects.
Nearly 500 years after the colonial conquest, the ruins can be explored through tunnels. The site is full of tourists curious to see the largest pyramid in the world.
10. Catholic Churches were Built on Top of It
The conquistadors, led by Hernán Cortés, decided to build a church on top of the Great Pyramid, not knowing what was beneath it. Experts believe that Cholula had 365 churches, one for each day of the year and matches to the 365 temples.
Fewer churches are there today, and the most visible one is on top of it. A multi-domed cathedral was built in 1594.
Map of Cholula
Check out this aerial map of the Great Pyramid of Cholula!
Travel to Mexico and Learn History
Check out this documentary to find out more about Cholula. The Great Pyramid of Cholula has a fascinating history, as well as a deep connection to ancestry. What’s amazing about traveling to these countries is getting to know where they came from and what they believed in. The Toltecs had strong beliefs and honored nature. Learning about these civilizations inspires us to learn more about the history and why it matters.
Learning Spanish is a good idea, too! According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, interpreters and translators are among the top five fastest-growing occupations, with opportunities expected to increase by 46% between 2012 and 2022. So, why not learn Spanish to travel and further your career in the process? To prepare for your trip to Mexico, sign up for a free trial class at Homeschool Spanish Academy and be ready for your trip to the Great Pyramid of Cholula.
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