You’d think the world’s largest pyramid is in Egypt – after all, it’s called The Great Pyramid – but it’s actually hidden beneath a hill in the nearby town of Pueblo in Mexico. This ancient Aztec temple, known as the Great Pyramid of Cholula, has a base four times larger than Giza’s and nearly twice the volume.
Tlachihualtepetl (Nahuatl for “made-by-hand mountain”), also known as the Great Pyramid of Cholula, is a massive complex in Cholula, Puebla, Mexico. It is the largest pyramid (temple) archaeological site in the New World, as well as the largest pyramid by volume known to exist today.
The adobe brick pyramid stands 55 meters (180 feet) above the surrounding plain, far shorter than the Giza pyramid’s 137 meters (449 feet), but much wider, measuring 450 by 450 meters (1,480 by 1,480 feet) in its final form, compared to the Giza pyramid’s 230 by 230 meters (750 by 750 ft).
This makes it the world’s largest monument ever constructed. Hernán Cortés, the famous Spanish explorer, completely missed it and built a church on top of it. The church is still standing today and is known as La Iglesia de Nuestra Seora de Los Remedios (Our Lady of Remedies Church).
The pyramid is a temple that was thought to be dedicated to the god Quetzalcoatl in the past. The building’s architectural style is closely related to Teotihuacan in the Valley of Mexico, though there is also evidence of influence from the Gulf Coast, particularly from El Tajn.
The temple was built to honor Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent and Aztec god of wind and learning, and the creator of all mankind, according to historians. The Aztecs expected divine protection in Cholula after dedicating such a large monument to the god and even building a holy city around it — but they were wrong. But first, let’s take a look at the Cholula Pyramid’s history.
The pyramid is made up of six superimposed structures, one for each dominant ethnic group. However, only three have been thoroughly investigated. The pyramid is only a small part of Cholula’s larger archaeological zone, which is estimated to be 154 hectares in size (0.59 sq mi). The pyramid’s construction began in the Preclassic Period and was completed six times to reach its final dimensions of 450 meters on each side at the base and 66 meters tall. The base spans 160,000 square meters, more than three times the size of Pharaoh Khufu’s Great Pyramid of Giza’s base of 53,056.5 square meters. Tlachihualtepetl has the world’s largest pyramid base. The first phase of construction features talud-tablero architecture, which is typical of the region and became strongly associated with Teotihuacan’s great metropolis. Some of the pyramids have been buried, with skeletons discovered in various positions and numerous offerings, particularly ceramics. Stairs on the west side lead to a temple on top, which faces Iztacchuatl, in the final stage of construction. The pyramid was severely damaged on its north side during the colonial period in order to construct the Camino Real to Puebla. Later, the west was harmed by the construction of a rail line.