Monday, January 21, 2013

The Stoutest Tree in the World: Tule, Mexico

Tule tree, Montezuma Cypress, Taxodium mucronatum
On the way home from Hierve el Agua we stopped in Tule to see the famous tree. Santa María del Tule is a small town southeast of Oaxaca centered on a colonial-era baroque church and the enormous tree in its churchyard.
Taxodium mucronatum, Tule tree, Montezuma Cypress
El Arból del Tule is an enormous Montezuma Cypress (Taxodium mucronatum) with the distinction of having the thickest trunk in the world. It is #1594 on UNESCO's 'tentative' World Heritage list, which I guess are places that haven't yet finished the nomination process but are too awesome not include. The tree is somewhere between 1,000 and 3,000 years old, depending on who you ask.
Taxodium mucronatum, Montezuma Cypress, Tule tree
 I think it cost about 10 pesos to enter the churchyard to get closer to the tree (I should really start writing this stuff down), although there is an inner railing protecting the trunk from us tourists. The tree was impressive, but I found it just about impossible to capture its massiveness in a photo. You'll have to go visit.
church, pre-colonial, statue
 The most amazing thing I saw in Tule was the church hidden behind the tree.
El Templo de Santa Maria de la Asuncion, church, pre-colonial, 18th century
El Templo de Santa María de la Asunción is a charming 18th century church absolutely stuffed with remarkable statuary. 
statuary, Jesus Christ, Passion, santossantos, church
The walls of the nave are lined with smaller saints standing around in and out of glass cases:
saints, icons
Some of these are apparently pre-colonial painted santos, although  I couldn't tell you which are which.
sleeping Holy Child, santos, saint, baby, Catholic
 The whole church was decorated for Christmas with rainbow-colored metal lanterns, swags of faux evergreens, gold baubles, and poinsettias to the point where the original elaborately carved and gilded altarpiece and the enormous crystal chandeliers were quite overshadowed.
Christmas decorations
It was also incredibly dark, so I couldn't get a good shot of the interior, but this should give you some idea of the over-the-topness of it all.
 Larger-than-life angels holding lanterns and flanked with electric lotus flowers. Wow.
Then there was this memorable altarpiece. It's like Georgia O'Keefe collaborated with Hieronymus Bosch and then Terry Gilliam chimed in. If it doesn't give you fits of giggles then you are much more mature than I am.
Santa Maria de la Asuncion, Santa Maria del Tule, Oaxaca, Mexico
 On our way out of the church, we met a nun selling cookies and rompopo. I found the name later - at the time all we could decipher is that it was made with eggs, cream, cinnamon, and something alcoholic, which turned out to be quite a bit of rum. I finally bought a bottle because in my limited experience when nuns sell food it is usually worth tasting. And it was!

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