Temple of the Cross

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The Group of the Cross is a complex of temples at the Maya ruins of Palenque in the state of Chiapas in Mexico. It is located in the south-east corner of the site and consists of three main structures, the Temple of the Sun, the Temple of the Cross and the Temple of the Foliated Cross.


The Temple of the Cross were built by Kan-Bahlum who reigned between AD 684 and AD 702. One purpose of the temple was to house the panels that recorded Kan-Bahlum's ancestral history, his accession and the divine origin of his lineage. In the sanctuaries in the temples there are carved stone tablets to be found, one tablet for each tower containing hieroglyphic information about the purpose of each temple. They also contain information about the Palenque triad of gods (GI, GII, and GIII) and their right to leadership.

Within the inner chamber of these temples a carved relief is found, depicting two figures. At first scientists thought that the smaller figure was K'inich Janaab' Pakal, Kan Bahlum's father, and that the bigger figure was K'inich Kan B'ahlam himself. Now, with a greater knowledge of iconography and epigraphy, it is believed that both figurines represent Kan Bahlum: one in his youth at the ritual of passage, and the other at adulthood representing his accession to the throne. Between these figures is the Ceiba, also known as the World Tree.

These pyramids were built in the Late Classic period of the Mesoamerican chronology, constructed according to the general Mesoamerican architectural traditions. They relied on intricate carved stone to make the spectacular stair-step design.

These three temples are the only structures in the Maya realm that play the role of a Maya codex (bark paper book) in three parts. Within the temples there is both real and mythical history recorded. The recorded history is cohesive; as you move from temple to temple, you can read the history as if it were a book.

Representing paths to the Otherworld, each one of the three temples is also dedicated to a certain god in the Palenque triad. These paths to the Otherworld were crucial for the reigning king, since he must take them in order to bring back gifts of life and prosperity to his people. In this group of temples, the most significant is the Temple of the Cross which is associated with the God GI, the first born in the triad, also known as Hunahpu. Human by aspect, he is far more recognisable than his brothers because he has a shell earflare, a square-eye and a fish fin on his cheek. He is known to wear the quadripartite Monster as a headdress and he is also associated with the so called Waterbird. What should be remembered is that Kan-bahlum lived and reigned before any of the triad Gods and that he constructed and built these temples so that the triad gods could put their mark on them.

In 1993 archaeologists found an offering containing more than 100 incense burners within the Temple of the Cross.