Monasteries at Popocatepetl Volcano, Mexico

The monasteries within a radius of 60km around the volcano Popocatepetl have been UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 1994. They were built at regular intervals to convert the indigenous population to Christianity after their conquest.

The volcano Popocatepetl ("strong smoking mountain") is located in central Mexico in the state of Estado de México and is one of our 10 most famous and beautiful mountains in the world. At just under 5,500 metres, it is the highest volcano in North America and the second highest mountain in Mexico, sending ash and gas several kilometres into the atmosphere at regular intervals.

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The many Missonars monasteries around it are one of our top 10 sights of Mexico. Since 1994, 14 of the monasteries and their mission stations at the foot of Popocatepetl have been UNESCO World Heritage Sites because of their exemplary early missionary architecture.

These were built in the following localities: Atlatlauhcan, Cuernavaca, Hueyapan, Ocuituco, Tepoztlan, Tetela del Volcán, Tlayacapan, Totolapan, Yautepec, Yecapixtla, Zacualpan de Amilpas (State of Morelos), Calpan, Huejotzingo and Tochimilco (State of Puebla).

In addition, the Franciscan monasteries of Atlixco and Huaquechula in Puebla, for example, are not UNESCO World Heritage Sites, but in terms of their importance they are certainly on a par with the award-winning monasteries.

Conversion of the "savages

The monasteries at Popocatepetl were built in the 16th century successively by Franciscan, Dominican and Augustinian monks. They were intended to convert the indigenous inhabitants of Mexico, such as the Aztecs or Mayas, to Christianity and thus tried to increase the influence of civilisation in the conquered territories. The quadrangular monasteries are all surrounded by walls and fortifications, giving them the aura of a knight's castle, and tower high above the other houses of the population.

Impressive architecture of the monasteries at Popocatepetl

The monasteries at the foot of Popocatepetl all impress with imposing towers and crenellated walls, mighty portals and beautifully landscaped courtyards. In addition to their imposing exteriors, the interiors of all the churches are decorated with magnificent mosaics, wall paintings and early coats of arms.

The first monastery built in 1524 and probably the most magnificent and important is the one in the village of Huejotzingo, at an altitude of 2,100 metres. The sculptures and paintings from past centuries can still be seen today. The pulpit and the organ from the 17th century have also been preserved.

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