The South Building Arch was the grand ceremonial entrance into the Quadrangle

Uxmal, Nunnery Quadrangle Detail

This photo was taken from the elevated platform of the North Building

The South Building, as the ceremonial entry point into the Quadrangle, occupies the lowest elevation. The platforms of the East and West Buildings are even with the bottom of the frieze of the South Building, and the North Building rises above everything else.

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.

The south frieze features a stylized Maya hut above each doorway

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

The intricate iconography of the frieze references primal myths of Maya culture

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

Movement within the Quadrangle is directed upward to the elevated North Building

North Bldg, Nunnery Quadrangle

Stairway leading to the East Building's platform

The stair leading up to the East Building platform is interrupted with small stage areas which might have supported elaborate ritual performance or dance. The West Building does not have these areas.

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 hierarchic rank of the vague functions to which the edifices were dedicated.

Kubler, Studies in Ancient American & European Art, p. 249

Differences in elevation of buildings supported ritual activity, processions & dance

Uxmal, Nunnery Quadrangle

Stairway leading up to West Building

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 frieze is level with the platforms these building rest upon and the top of the South Building is level with the bottom of their friezes.

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

The interior of the arch is decorated with mysterious red handprints

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.

The arch shaped and dramatized movement into and out of the Quadrangle

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."

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

The approach into the Quadrangle is equally dramatic

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. Three exterior sets of stairs lead up to the Arch, then an interior staircases rises to the central door of the North Building.

The Arch perfectly frames North Building's stair & central doorway

Uxmal, Nunnery Quadrangle

The Arch highlights and frames the stacked mask towers, stylized huts, frets, and "lace" panels displayed on friezes of the North Building.