The beautiful pyramid known as El Castillo or The Pyramid of Kulkulkán has been very well restored. It is a square based structure over 25m (80 feet) high, having nine terraces and four staircases., supposed to represent the nine heavens and the four cardinal points. Each staircase has 91 steps for a total of 364 steps. If the final step up to the summit platform is included, there is one step for each day of the year. On each of the staircases is a large snake's head. The staircases ascend at an angle of 45° . At the end of the ascent, on top of the pyramid, is the corbel vaulted Temple of Kulkulkán.
During the restoration of El Castillo, a temple in the pure Maya style was discovered in the interior of the pyramid. It stands on an earlier pyramid that was buried by the construction of the newer one. At the entrance to this temple was a stone Chacmool and a throne in the form of a snarling jaguar, painted red with eyes and spots of inlaid jade and fangs of shell. This temple is reached through a passage leading to the inner pyramid and is open only at certain times.
The alignment of the pyramid was accurately planned to align with astronomical phenomena. At the spring equinox, the play of light and shadows formed by the pyramid on one of its staircases, and ending at the large serpent's head at the base of the staircase, shows the descent of the serpent god, Kulkulkán from his temple, a sign that it is time to plant the corn.
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© 1995 - Karen M. Strom