The newest fortress in Acanceh, in Mexico’s Yucatán, is a yellow church that stands imposingly on a modern street, fenced off from the town’s major tourist attraction: the massive restored Mayan Pyramid of the Masks. It dates to the fifth century, and now sits incongruously next to a bakery, a grocery store and a storefront that hosts AA meetings. Next to it, and across from the newer church, the centuries-old Iglesia de Acanceh sits high atop the former pyramid’s steps. Two yellow fortresses, dueling one another across a tiny city street.
Once a fairly large population center of the Mayan civilization, Acanceh fell in 1524 to the Spanish, whose religious convictions tended towards worship of the Virgin of Guadalupe—and not the mythological sun god of the pyramid builders.
There’s more than one pyramid in town, and more than one church, to more than one god (mythological or not), and there are even more archaeological sites of the Mayan culture nearby, including Canicab, Poxilá and Ekmul. That makes Acanceh a worthy stop among the many Spanish monasteries built over former Mayan pyramids, along Yucatán’s Ruta de los Conventos, or Convent Route. ♣
There’s more to know here:
- Rescuing a Dream: Fascinating story of the discovery of the unique masks of Acanceh’s pyramid
- Along the Convent Route: Drive the well-charted route from Mérida to Mani to see monasteries built in the 16th-17th centuries atop Mayan pyramids
- The History of the Mayan Culture: More than you’d ever want to know from Wikipedia
- Mission Mexico: My mission: to unearth and tell the stories from mission churches, past and present, with photographs that bring them to life