Home Headlines These are the findings in the excavation of the Convent of San Antonio de Padua in Izamal

These are the findings in the excavation of the Convent of San Antonio de Padua in Izamal

by Sofia Navarro
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Archaeological search activities began in the main part of the Franciscan convent of San Antonio de Padua in April, where the old well was located. These works are carried out by professionals from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH).

The recent discoveries have generated deep interest among the population, as this construction was built on ruins and a Maya platform. There is also a hypothesis that there may be a water source underneath that supplied the friars during the colonial period.

In an article titled “Izamal: New Concepts on Ancient Discoveries” published in the UADY newsletter in 1989, renowned archaeologist Luis Millet states the following: “The sacred connotation of caves and their relationship with fertility and rain cults, present since ancient times as evidenced by the artists of Chalcatzingo, may have contributed to the fame Izamal enjoyed.”

The presence of tunnels, caves, or passages in pre-Hispanic constructions is widely recognized, as Izamal features an important artificial tunnel in the interior plan of the Kinich Kakmo pyramid.

The convent of Izamal was built on what was once a Maya shrine of Papholchac, which is why there are interior tunnels that the early missionaries must have been aware of. Additionally, the walls are made of carved stones with pre-Hispanic symbolic details.

The Franciscan abbey of Izamal was constructed in 1549, one of the first five evangelization centers, where the friars needed to obtain water and spread the word of God. They conducted campaigns to conceal the ancient Maya religion by closing caves and ancient wells and opening new water sources.

The “Relación de Izamal” (February 1581), written by encomendero Juan Cuevas de Santillán, reports that the wells were relatively easy to open. Likewise, Fray Antonio de Ciudad Real, during his visit to Izamal in 1588, mentions the existence of the convent’s well, from which water was drawn to irrigate the garden and supply the entire congregation.

The well supplied water throughout the three centuries of Spanish rule, as the friars withdrew from the religious administration of Izamal in 1821, and the convent passed into secular hands.

A document found in the general archive of the archbishopric of Yucatán, dating between 1830 and 1835, celebrates the inauguration of a well in the convent with a long verse. This poetic verse, a rare surviving piece of Yucatecan literature, says: “If San Diego de Tekax has a well on a hill, the Lady of Izamal equally has the joy, even though it’s not Jacob’s, as we are not in Samaria. Everyone comes to drink from it as if it were a prayer.”

Chaltun Ha Pyramid (Photo: SIPSE)

In the 19th century, with this new well in the convent, the destruction of the well did not cause further problems. The convent of Izamal faced persecution and limitations imposed by pre-constitutional governments, which confiscated the garden land and opened a street over it, destroying the cenote and covering it. The new street was named Revolución.

The presence of passages, caves, and cenotes beneath ancient pre-Hispanic constructions is well-documented in both oral tradition and archaeological research. These are considered places of access to divinity in Maya culture and, over the centuries, they have carefully guarded a world of knowledge yet to be discovered.

TYT Newsroom

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