The Palace of Palenque (Mexico)

The Royal Residence of a Classic Maya Capital

One of the finest examples of Maya architecture is without a doubt the Royal Palace of Palenque, the Classic Maya (250-800 AD) site in the state of Chiapas, Mexico. Royal residence of the rulers of Palenque since the Early Classic (250-600 AD), Palenque's constructions now visible in the archeological sites date to the Late Classic (600-800/900 AD) and the period of its famous king Pakal the Great and his sons.

In the 7th century, Pakal the Great enlarged the palace and constructed a new throne room, House E. There, the typical characteristics of Maya house architecture, such as high thatch roof and rooms facing an open patio, were replicated in stone, with the addition of stone decorations and crests. The building walls were decorated with stucco motifs and painted in bright colors, mostly red, with elements of blue, yellow, white and green.

Architecture of the Palace at Palenque

The main entrance of the Royal Palace at Palenque approached from the north and east sides, both flanked with monumental staircases. The different houses, corridors and the tower that form the intricate and elegant plan of the palace are organized around central courts, following a typical Maya pattern. The largest of these courts is the East Court, on the northeast side of the palace. Here, a wide open area was the perfect space for public events, important visits of other nobles and leaders.

The surrounding walls, in fact, are decorated with images of humiliated captives to show the military achievements of Pakal.

Perhaps, the most important building in the palace was House E, the throne room. This was one of the few buildings painted in white instead of red, the typical color used by the Maya in royal and ceremonial buildings.

At the center of the main room stood the throne, a stone bench, on top of which the king sat with is legs crossed, and where he received high dignitaries and nobles from other Maya capitals. Behind the throne, a stone carving, the famous Oval Palace Tablet, described the ascension of Pakal as ruler of Palenque in 615 AD and his incoronation by his mother, Lady Sak K'uk'.

Purpose of the Palace at Palenque

This royal complex was not only the residence of the king, provided with all the comforts such as latrines and sweat baths, but also the political core of the Maya capital, and was used to receive foreign visitors, organize sumptuous feasts, and to work as an efficient administrative center.

Sources

Martin Simon and Nikolai Grube, 2000, Chronicle of the Maya kings and Queens, Thames and Hudson, London

Miller Mary and Simon Martin, 2004, Courtly Art of the Ancient Maya, Thames and Hudson, London-New York.