Uxmal, Nunnery Quadrangle Detail

Nunnery Quadrangle, South Building

The Quadrangle is especially noted for the way Chan-Chak-K'ak'nal-Ahaw [Lord Chac] integrated its levels and building lines. This coordination of scale and architectural detailing included not only the internal view, but also the vista over the South Building toward the House of the Governor and the House of the Turtles, and over the East Building toward the Pyramid of the Magician.

Uxmal, Nunnery Quadrangle Panorama

"The wide frieze of the South Building is very sober, with some stylized huts, dominated by large masks, placed in a "latticework" frame."

Paul Gendrop, Rio Bec, Chenes, and Puuc Styles in Maya Architecture, p. 194

North Bldg, Nunnery Quadrangle

The South Building is decorated with Maya style huts, topped by reptilian masks sprouting corn shoots.

Starting with the South Building at the lowest level, the East and West Buildings are elevated so that the bottom of the South Building's medial molding is level with the platforms these building rest upon and the top of the South Building is level with the bottom of their medial moldings.

In turn, the North Building is elevated so that its platform is level with the bottom of the East and West Building friezes.

Uxmal, Nunnery Quadrangle

A cardinal objective of the American Indian architect in all periods and regions was to achieve differentiation by height. The ceremonial centers and the cities display a multiplicity of level that probably distinguished the hierarchic rank of the vague functions to which the edifices were dedicated.

Kubler, Studies in Ancient American & European Art, p. 249
Photo from June 22, 1995

North Bldg, Nunnery Quadrangle

Schele & Mathews discuss the iconography seen here at length, writing in part: "Each of these sculptures consists of a thatched-roof house called a xanil nah by the modern Maya. The depiction of the thatch shows some of its strands blown by the wind...

Each house in front of the lattice has a zoomorphic monster head on top of the roof, just like a roofcomb in temple architecture. The features of the face are anonymous, but maize foliation grows from the top of the head. The maize reminds us of Palenque, Copan, and Tikal, where texts mention houses called Na Te'K'an, "First Tree-Precious."

At Palenque and Copan, the actual houses survive and show us that the maize tree represents the reborn Maize God and the place where the gods formed the first human beings from maize dough. We think the maize houses on the South Building convey the same meaning. The South Building represents the house where the first people were made, and where their descendants remember First Father in his guise as a maize plant."

Schele & Mathews, The Code of Kings: The Language of Seven Sacred Maya Temples and Tombs, p 265

North Bldg, Nunnery Quadrangle

The formal entrance to the quadrangle is through a large corbeled arch in the center of the South Building. It is also possible to enter the quadrangle from any of the four corners because the buildings are not attached to each other.

There are remains of red handprints on the interior of the arch.

Nunnery Quadrangle, Grand Entry Arch

"The builders marked this ceremonial entrance with a towering corbeled arch that funneled elaborate processions into the courtyard. It acts as a huge frame focusing on the North Building of the Quadrangle from the outside looking in, and on the House of the Governor from the inside looking out.

LindaSchele & Peter Mathews, The Code of Kings: The Language of Seven Sacred Maya Temples and Tombs, p. 260-261.

Uxmal: platforms leading up to the Entry Arch in the South Building of the Nunnery Quadrangle

The Entry Arch in the South Building looking into the Quadrangle. Notice the various platforms that elevate the quadrangle, including the interior stairs leading up to the North Building.

"The Quadrangle stands on the highest of three terraces. The lowest is three feet high and twenty feet wide; the second, twelve feet high and forty-five feet wide; and the third, four feet high and five feet wide, extending the whole length of the front of the building."

Stephens, Incidents of Travel in Yucatan, Vol. 1, p. 177

Uxmal, Nunnery Quadrangle

View into the quadrangle through the Entry Arch in the South Building, which shows the combined use of stacked masks, stylized huts, frets, and "lace" panels on friezes of the North Building.