Quetzalcoatl, a Major Deity of the Cholula People


The Tovar Codex, attributed to the 16th-century Mexican Jesuit Juan de Tovar, contains detailed information about the rites and ceremonies of the Aztecs (also known as Mexica). The codex is illustrated with 51 full-page paintings in watercolor. Strongly influenced by pre-contact pictographic manuscripts, the paintings are of exceptional artistic quality. The manuscript is divided into three sections. The first section is a history of the travels of the Aztecs prior to the arrival of the Spanish. The second section, an illustrated history of the Aztecs, forms the main body of the manuscript. The third section contains the Tovar calendar. This illustration, from the second section, depicts Quetzalcoatl, with conical hat, a beak, and feathered shield and cape, holding a curved knife. Quetzalcoatl (Feathered Serpent), one of the principal gods of the Aztecs, was a god of creation, linked to fertility and resurrection, and rain in his manifestation as Ehecatl or the wind god. There was a large temple honoring him in Cholula. He was often identified with Topiltzin, a legendary and possibly historical priest-king of Tula in the Toltec era and was described as light skinned and bearded. When Hernán Cortés arrived in Mexico in 1519, Emperor Moctezuma II (reigned 1502–20) was convinced that Cortés was Quetzalcoatl. The design of the god’s cape, hat, and loincloth represent the wings of a butterfly, symbol of fallen soldiers.

Last updated: October 26, 2012