loader image

Tepeyac (Guadalupe)

Home » Places » Tepeyac (Guadalupe)

Zbigniew Treppa
University of Gdansk, Poland

A hill with a name derived from the Indian language (Náhuatl) of the region of present-day Mexico, where apparitions of Mary took place in 1531. The hill’s later name, Guadalupe, refers to the site of Marian apparitions in the Spanish village of the same name, where Mary is venerated in the form of a small wooden statue. As a result of various misunderstandings and linguistic coincidences (→Tilma of Guadalupe), the term referring to the site of Mary’s apparitions on the Old C.

The hill of Tepeyac was located near the road leading to Tlatelolco, a town near Tenochtitlán, the capital of the Aztec Empire. It was on this hill that, on 12 December 1531, Mary left an image on the outer garment of Saint Cuauhtlatoatzin (baptismal name: Juan Diego), who belonged to the Chichimeca people. At the time, both Tlatelolco and Tenochtitlán were situated on an island created by the Aztecs in Lake Texcoco. The city of Tenochtitlán was located in its southern and central part, while Tlatelolco was at its northern end. Nowadays, all the sites mentioned, including Tepeyac Hill, belong to the agglomeration of Mexico City (Ciudad de México). Today, the Tlatelolco district is home to the centre of devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose most important site is the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe (Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe).

At the time of Mary’s apparitions, the centre of the city of Tenochtitlán, with its double pyramid built in honour of the god of war Huitzilopochtli and the rain god Tlaloca, was located on an island close to the western shore of the giant Lake Texcoco. This has been confirmed by excavations carried out around the Plaza de la Constitución, where the historic cathedral and presidential palace now stand on the ruins of the Aztec temple complex surrounding the pyramid. The remains of an early pyramid structure are to the west of the cathedral. Its current name, the Great Temple (Templo Mayor), refers to the sacred functions that the building performed in Aztec times. The island was connected to the shores of Texcoco by several causeways built across this gigantic lake. The longest of these was about eight kilometres long. The bulk of the city, which had a harmonious structure, was located on artificial islands called floating gardens (chinampas), which were formed from silt drawn from the marshy areas around the lake. The Chinampas, which were a testament to the extraordinary diligence and persistence of the Aztecs, were unparalleled works in the entire history of human culture. Plants and silt from the lake were stacked in layers, and then, to consolidate the newly created soil, willows were planted on top of it, which took root in the previously created layers. The result was an extremely fertile area of farmland to feed the population of 300,000.

The city was conquered in 1519 by a small force of Spanish conquistadors led by Hernán Cortés, aided by his skilful diplomatic moves and political intrigue. When the first Franciscan and Dominican missionaries arrived in Tenochtitlán in 1521, the first episcopal see on the American continent was established in Tlatelolco. Soon the conquistadors, and in their wake the colonisers of the Aztec Empire conquered by Cortés adopted another name for the city of Tenochtitlán: México, which was associated with the cult of the god Huitzilopochtli, whose alternative name was Mexitli. According to some accounts, it was to this deity that the Aztecs owed their second name: Mexicas, or Mexicans.


Osiński K., Autoportret z Guadalupe, Warszawa 2012.

Treppa Z., Meksykańska symfonia. Ikona z Guadalupe, Warszawa 2006.

Vaillant G.C., Aztekowie z Meksyku. Powstanie, rozwój i upadek narodu azteckiego, przeł. J. Maliszewska-Kowalska, Warszawa 1965.

Zmierzch Azteków. Kronika zwyciężonych. Indiańskie relacje o podboju, wybór oprac. i wstępy M. León-Portilla, przeł. M. Sten, Warszawa 1967.

Sources of Images

1. Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:MIguel_Cabrera_-_Fiel_retrato_do_venerável_Juan_Diego.jpg (public domain)

2. Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:S_d_n_Sra_d_Gdpe_-_Fuente_ornamental.jpg (CC BY-SA 2.5)

3. View from Tepeyac Hill, https://www.flickr.com/photos/paullew/24866292929 (Lawrence OP, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

4. Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Painting_of_Tenochtitlan-Tlatelolco_on_Lake_Texcoco_(9755215791).jpg (Gary Todd z Xinzheng, China, public domain)

5. Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tenochtitlan.jpg (Hanns Prem, public domain)

Zbigniew Treppa

Full professor at the Institute of Media, Journalism and Visual Communication, University of Gdańsk, Head of the Department of Image Anthropology, Associate of the Polish Syndonological Centre in Krakow, Member of the Syndonological Section of the Polish Theological Society. In his research work he undertakes issues of visual theology, using the tools of image semiotics, he analyses artefacts of religious cult and structural properties of non-human-hand-made images (Greek: acheiropoietos). He has recently published The Phenomenon of the Image of Incarnate Mercy (Gdansk 2021).

error: Content is protected !!