Open main menu

Page:The despatches of Hernando Cortes.djvu/38

This page needs to be proofread.


20 INTRODUCTION. whoje enterprise ; he never resorted' to hostile measures until every possible effort had been made to avoid them without success. The principal temple on this island attracted the attention of the Spaniards ; it was well built of stone, in the form of a square tower, with four doors or windows opening upon an embattled corridor. It contained an idol of unusual dimen- sions, placed against the wall, and unlike in figure any others they had seen. In the rear was a room corresponding to the sacristry or vestry of a church, where were kept the articles used in the service of the temple, and belonging to the idol or the priests. There was a small, secret door that opened through the wall into the body of the idol, by means of which one of the priests entered, and answered audibly the prayers and petitions of the worshippers, who believed that the idol itself spoke, and were liberal in their offerings, which consisted of the fumes of copal, burnt as incense, bread and fruits, together with the blood of quails and other birds, dogs, and even men. Such was the fame of this idol, that devotees resorted to the island from various countries for the purpose of paying it homage- But what was most remarkable in the religious ceremonies of this people was their worship of the cross ; for within an en- closure formed by a handsome turreted wall of stone and lime, at the base of this temple, stood a cross of stone about ten feet high, which they adored as the god of rain ; and in times of drought, the devotees going in large processions made it offer- ings of quails to appease its anger. The origin of this worship of the cross is quite mysterious, says Gomara, (from whom this account is almost literally taken,) for there is no reason to sup- pose that the gospel was ever preached on their island, or any where else in the new world, before the arrival of the Spanish discoverers.* During his stay on this island, Cortes took means to reform

  • Cron. Nuev. Esp. Cap. xv. Stephens, in his recent work on Yucatan, has

an interesting account of his visit to the island of Cozumel, which, it seems, is now destitute of inliabitants. The remains of the temple described above are still to be seen there. A " Cozumel cross" is shown in a church at Merida, but if the same seen on the island by the conquerors, it has received sundry addi- tions. Incidevts of Travel in Yucnfnn. 11, 376^7.