Here Comes the Sun King

I’m interested right now in Jaime Laura’s latest book, Christian Texts for Aztecs. This is the second of two works exploring the ways in which Christian missionaries in the Americas adapted their message for an Aztec audience, and were themselves in turn somewhat adapted by that environment. An image that is particularly striking is that of the ‘sunburst’ monstrance, an artefact with which anyone who has attended much Catholic worship will be familiar.

Before the Christian encounter with Aztec culture
Before the Christian encounter with Aztec culture (Source)
After the encounter with the New World
After the encounter with the New World (Source)

The gold came from Mexico, but did the design too? The question is, to what extent was the design of such artefacts influenced by existing depictions of Aztec deities surrounded by a sunburst motif? And to what extent does the solar design represent an innovation, accentuating a theme – Christ as “Sun of righteousness” – that was already present in Christian theology, but rendered more prominent by implicit comparison with Aztec sun gods?

Did this kind of Aztec design influence the missionaries? (Source)
Did this kind of Aztec design influence the missionaries? (Source)
Advertisements