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Visionary city planning

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Europeans saw the conquest of the Americas as a new Canaanite conquest. Once they subdued the land, what else would they do but build a temple. According to Hamblin and Seely, "Spanish missionary Toribio de Motolinia (d. 1568), for example, described the colonization and evangelization of New Spain (Mexico) as the conquest of a new Canaan, undertaken by the archetypal twelve Franciscan monk-apostles bringing the Ark of the Covenant into the new Temple they would build in the New World. . . .

"Puebla los Angeles ('city of the angels'), founded in 1531, was based on the dream of a friar who saw paradisiacal fields and was given measuring cords by an angel with which to lay out the new town . . . . The next morning he found the exact spot seen in his dream, and the city was built according to Ezekiel's square plan and twelve gates."

Franciscan monasteries in the new world generally followed the plan of Ezekiel's vision, as interpreted by Nicholas of Lyra: "the walled complex was to be square, with four posa chapels and fountains in the four corners, just as Lyra had interpreted Ezekiel." In addition, "Large monumental gateways were flanked by Solomonic columns to be called Jachin and Boaz."

Aztec temples, by contrast, were "demonic parodies of Solomon's, containing a blasphemous Holy of Holies, a veil, and an entrance restricted to their high priest."

posted by Peter J. Leithart on Wednesday, August 22, 2007 at 09:49 PM

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