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THE CONVENTS’ ROUTE                                                                                                   Printer friendly version


The convent’s route is a trip where you can meet with the heart and the roots of Yucatán. Since the arrival of the Franciscan priests in 1524 many of the indigenous buildings were destroyed in order to build on top of them convents or catholic constructions, this was a common symbol of the triumph over Mayan beliefs.

More enticing than ever, The Convent Route is a day trip that will take you somewhat off the beaten path and into the heart of the Yucatán. Meandering through the country side of the west-central part of the state, you will visit Mayan villages and ruins, colonial churches, cathedrals and convents, courtyards and cenotes, all dating back centuries.

Start on the "Periferico" (highway) and go to Route 18. (Signs will say Kanasin, not "Route 18".) Follow the signs to Acanceh and on from there the amount of time spent at each stop will vary from ten minutes to forty-five minutes.

The main attraction here is "The Square of the Three Cultures" which brings together the pre-Hispanic (the Grand Pyramid currently being restored) a colonial church and a modern day church all on the same plaza. In Acanceh one finds the chapel and convent of the Virgin of Guadalupe, both from the XVI century. The 17th century facade has an entrance with twisted columns and an entablature at the dividing point between two parts. Above the entrance, the chancel window is surmounted by a curved pediment. Next to the church are the ruins of a pyramid with four tiers and a central staircase and about 300 yards further on, the ruins of another, monumental pyramid. The facade of the so-called "Stucco Palace" is decorated with an extremely rare, Late Classic cosmological composition whose main figures are symbolic animals.

Tecoh is the place where the temple of the Candelaria is found. The temple was built in 1751 and is dedicated to the Virgin of the Ascension. The carved stones and altar along with the statues and painting are impressive. While you are there, you might notice that this complex is built on what appears to be a hill, but is really the base of a very large Mayan Pyramid.

A small village that has a small, austere chapel and a wonderful cenote that you can visit in the plaza. Stairs have been carved in the cenote for your convenience.

This important archeological site (Mayapán was the last Maya capital) is in the process of being restored. Kukulkán II of Chichén-Itzá founded Mayapán between 1263 and 1283 AD. After his death an aggressive family named the Cocoom seized power and used Mayapán as a base to subjugate northern Yucatán. They succeeded through wars by using Tabascan mercenaries and intermarrying with other powerful families. The Cocoom ruled for 250 years until 1441 - 1461 AD when an upstart Uxmal based family named Xiu rebelled and slaughtered the Cocoom. This walled city has 4,000 mounds of which six are in different stages of advanced restoration. Mayapán is the size of Chichén-Itzá, and you will find the buildings are replicas of the ones in Chichén-Itzá. Visiting this site allows you to observe many mounds in their original state (covered with trees, shrubs, etc.) and to see others in transformation with the archeologists actually working on them. You will be viewing a real archeological "dig."

Tekit is a large prosperous looking village. There you will find the church of "San Antonio De Padua", built in 1591; the convent next door has a collection of paintings from the XVI century. The temple houses many ornate statues of saints in their individual niches.

Mama is famous for its large beautiful bell-globed church of the Ascension. The complex offers a large garden, a well and a closed atrium along with frescos on the wall, statues of saints in the niches and a very ornate altar. It is believed this is the oldest church on the route. Built in the XVII century, its facade distinguishes from the rest of the temples by its marvelous Mayan handwork on the stones. The church has a display of paintings and saints on each wall. It has room for five bells and the convent's inner patio contains the remains of four sundials.

The sacred book of the Mayas, "Chilam Balam" was first found in Chumayel. The temple and convent are believed to be built in the XVI century and are dedicated to the Virgin of the Conception.

The temple of Saint Peter the Apostle was built here in Teabo between 1664 and 1696. The convent was established in 1607, which in time marked the beginning of the temple construction. This 17th century church was built along similar lines to the churches of Oxkutzcab and Tekax. The nave is 60 yards long and 22 yards wide. Frescos recently discovered in the sacristy are clearly of European inspiration and are among the most beautiful found anywhere in Yucatán. The cloisters, which like most Yucatecan colonial buildings, were part of a complicated network of massive structures. Fragments of frescos on these structures have survived the eroding effects of the weather. Teabo is also famous for its embroidered textiles and handicrafts.

In Tipikal one finds the church dedicated to the Virgin Magdalene, its construction is placed in the second half of the XVI century.

There is a church and a convent in Mani. The first temple was raised in 1547 and in 1559 was built over by stone. The greatest importance of Mani in history is on July 12th, 1562 when Friar Diego de Landa settled a rule of faith against Mayan chiefs. He tortured, humiliated and maimed hundreds of the Maya, burned and destroyed priceless Mayan manuscripts and codices. These codices, the first books believed to have been produced in North America, were hand lettered on a type of bark that had been carefully worked until it was thin and pliable. For this reason, little is known today of Mayan history. The great bonfire Landa held turned to ashes almost all written records of the Maya. Only three codices are known to have survived. Landa proclaimed the books contained "nothing but the lies of the Devil" and he burned them to aid his mission, converting the Maya to Christianity. Like most Spanish colonial churches of Yucatán it was built by using the cut stones of Pre-Columbian Maya temples. Mani was continuously occupied for approximately 4,000 years. In the post-Classic Mesoamerican era it was home to the Tutal Xiu Maya dynasty, which moved their capital here from Uxmal in the 13th century. The Xiu were the dominant power in the western Yucatán after the fall of Mayapán in 1441. A yearly festival in honor of the deity Kukulkán was held here. Mani is about 100 Km. to the south-east of Mérida.

This bustling city-town is located 100 Km. south of Mérida. Tikul produces all the wonderful red clay planter pots that you see in the area. It is also known for the fine leather shoes designed and made here in town. Most of these businesses - clay and shoes- are home based workshops where you will find the entire family working.

Muna is a small town on the road to the Puuc Route (Uxmal is just a few miles to the south.). The 16th century Franciscan Monastery, dedicated to the Assumption of The Virgin, stands in the large plaza and, like most Yucatecan monasteries, is partly preserved. The church square has been transformed into a public square. The monastery and church were enlarged in the 17th century and other elements added. The furniture and altars were destroyed in 1915.

Oxkutzcab was founded by a group of Maya Xiu and named after Saint Francis of Assisi, the church was built between 1581 and 1699 with a convent beside it. The Franciscan coat-of-arms is carved on the central arch in the facade, at the level of the bell towers.

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Yucatan, Tekit, Church of San Antonio de Padua - Photo by Sectur Yucatan
 Yucatan, Tekit, Church of San Antonio de Padua
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Yucatan, Mama, Church of the Asuncion
Yucatan, Teabo, Church of San Pedro Apostol, Frescos - Photo by Sectur Yucatan
Yucatan, Teabo, Church of San Pedro Apostol, Frescos
Yucatan, Tipikal, Church of the Virgen Magdalena, Retablo of San Miguel - Photo by Sectur Yucatan
Yucatan, Tipikal, Church of the Virgen Magdalena
Retablo of San Miguel
Yucatan, Mani, Church and Convet of San Miguel - Photo by Sectur Yucatan
Yucatan, Mani, Church and Convent of San Miguel
Yucatan, Muna, Church of the Virgen of the Asuncion - Photo by Sectur Yucatan
Yucatan, Muna, Church of the Virgin of the Asuncion