The Ciudadela & Temple of Quetzalcoatl

The Ciudadela or Citadel anchors the southern end of the Avenue of the Dead and received its name from the Spanish because of its impressive walls. However, it was actually a large sunken plaza that was big enough to house almost all of Teotihuacán’s residents. La Ciudadela centers around the Temple of Quetzalcoatl or Feathered Serpent. Completed in the third century, apartment complexes stand on two sides of the pyramid; archaeologists believe the city’s rulers may have lived in them.

The Temple of the Feathered Serpent is the smallest of the three pyramids at Teotihuacán. It’s built on six levels with the outside of each level featuring feathered serpent heads and other snake heads; these serpent heads may be symbolic of war. Obsidian was used for eyes, making them glimmer when the sun struck them. A bas relief of the full serpent is below the heads.

Temple of Quetzalcoatl

Temple of Quetzalcoatl

The feathered serpent on the pyramid may have represented life and peace, while the fire serpent may have stood for war and the hot desert. Since Teotihuacáns did not have a written culture, archaeologists have had to rely on legends and writings of other cultures for their assumptions.

In the 1980s, archaeologists discovered a mass grave containing the remains of 200 people at the site where the temple’s construction was believed to have started. Most of the remains are men, believed to be warriors, since weapons are buried with them.

The temple’s construction features the talud-tablero architectural style where a rectangular panel sits atop a sloping panel. It is believed this is the first time this style was used, and it was later found in other Mesoamerican cultures. A platform called Asodada is on the front of the pyramid, hiding much of it from view at this angle.