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03-Jun-2019 10:35

Occupying the east side of Mexico City's main square, Zócalo, the immense National Palace (Palacio Nacional), built of reddish tezontle stone and boasting a 200-meter-long façade, is the official residence of the president.

Built on top of an Aztec palace, it was the seat of the Spanish viceroys during the colonial period and has been much altered and enlarged over the years.

The city preserves countless reminders of its past, though Pre-Columbian art and architecture exist only in isolated fragments and museum reproductions since the Spanish Conquistadors built their new city on the ruins of the old Aztec metropolis of Tenochtitlán.

A number of the splendid Baroque churches and palaces built during this early colonial period survive, alongside fine examples of modern Mexican architecture from the 1950s and 1960s.

As spectacular as the building itself, is its vast collection, which includes archaeological finds from extinct Indian cultures along with details of the lifestyles of contemporary Indian inhabitants of Mexico.

Other highlights include the National Library of Anthropology, founded by Lucas Alaman in 1831 and developed by Emperor Maximilian, which boasts more than 300,000 rare volumes.

The cathedral's interior also shows a mingling of styles, with particular highlights being the richly carved Altar of the Kings (Altar de los Reyes) from 1739 with its superb devotional painting of the Assumption (Asunción de María), to which the cathedral is dedicated.

Also of interest are a chapel containing the remains of Mexican Emperor Agustin de Iturbide, and the Crypt with its tombs of many of the city's archbishops, among them Juan de Zumárraga, the great teacher of the Indians and the first incumbent of the see.

The palace boasts many handsome rooms laid out around its 14 courtyards, some accessible to visitors, with the most notable being the arcaded Grand Courtyard with its fine frescoes depicting the country's rich history.

Adjoining the church is one of the old convent buildings, formerly the Colegio Imperial de Santa Cruz, in which the Franciscans taught the gifted sons of the Aztec nobility (one of the most notable teachers was Bernardino de Sahagún, the great chronicler of the history of New Spain).