Maya Christians and Their Churches in Sixteenth-Century Belize

Maya Christians and Their Churches in Sixteenth-Century Belize

by Elizabeth Graham



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Maya Christians and Their Churches in Sixteenth-Century Belize by Elizabeth Graham

It is widely held that Christianity came to Belize as an extension of the conquest of Yucatan and that adherence to Christian belief and practice was abandoned in the absence of enduring Spanish authority. An alternative view comes from the excavations of Maya churches at Tipu and Lamanai, which show that the dead were buried in Christian churchyards long after the churches themselves fell into disuse, and pre-Columbian ritual objects were cached in Christian sacred spaces both during and after Spanish occupation. Excavations also reveal that the architectural style of these early churches is Franciscan in inspiration but nonetheless the product of continuing community efforts at construction and repair. A conclusion difficult to ignore is that the Maya of Tipu and Lamanai considered themselves Christians with or without Spanish presence.

Viewing historical and archaeological data through the lens of her personal experience of Roman Catholicism, and informed by feminist approaches, Elizabeth Graham assesses the concept of religion, the significance of doctrine, the empowerment of the individual, and the process of conversion by examining the meanings attributed to ideas, objects and images by the Maya, by Iberian Christians, and by archaeologists. Graham's provocative study also makes the case that the impact of Christianity in Belize was a phenomenon that uniquely shaped the development of the modern nation.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780813036663
Publisher: University Press of Florida
Publication date: 08/28/2011
Series: Maya Studies Series
Edition description: First
Pages: 456
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Elizabeth Graham is senior lecturer of Mesoamerican archaeology at University College London.

Table of Contents

List of Figures ix

List of Maps xiii

Acknowledgments xv

Introduction 1

Part I

1 The View from Belize and the Vision from St. Mike's 9

2 Yucatan and Belize on the Eve of Conquest 29

3 Cheese and Terms 59

4 Being Christian and the Doctrine of the Church 86

Part II

5 The Environment of Early Contact 105

6 The Millennial Kingdom and the Belize Missions 137

Part III

7 How to Tell a Church 167

8 The Churches at Tipu and Lamanai 189

9 Reductions and Upheaval in the Seventeenth Century 239

Part IV

10 What Europe Did for Us 263

11 Being Pagan 285

12 Everyone Knows What a Dragon Looks Like 307

Appendix 1 Friars in Belize 314

Appendix 2 Bishops of Yucatan to 1714 323

Notes 325

Glossary of Terms 375

References Cited 385

Index 415

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