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Tlaxcala

Former diocese of the colony of New Spain

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* Published by Encyclopedia Press, 1913.


Tlaxcala (TLAXCALENSIS), a former diocese of the colony of New Spain. It was the fifth diocese established in the Americas by order of seniority; the second established in Mexico (the first in title being Yucatàn); and the first diocese of the colony of New Spain with an acting bishop, Fray Juliàn Garcés, Dominican, nominated by Clement VII, at the request of Charles V. At first Fray Garcés was only presented as Bishop of Yucatàn; the royal provision of Charles V reads: "We present you (Rev. Father Juliàn Garcés) to the Bishopric of Yucatàn and Santa María de los Remedios", but, as the territory discovered and conquered by Hernando Cortés became better known, Clement VII in the document sent to Bishop Garcés in 1525 says: "We grant you and the bishops who shall suceed you, that you call yourselves not bishops of Santa María (de los Remedios or of Yucatàn) but `Tenuxtitlàn' and of other lands to be mentioned." This document denotes the new title of the bishop but does not determine it. Father Garcées himself in his first declaration enlightens us by saying: "We choose the town of Tlaxcala as the seat of our cathedral church." Bishop Garcés reached New Spain in 1527 and took possession of his see. Subsequently finding that it was impossible to hold the choir office at Tlaxcala because there was no cathedral, but only an altar covered with thatch work, and as a sumptuous church with three naves had been erected in the new city of Puebla de los Angeles, the bishop declared that the chapter should pass to the latter city and transferred thither the episcopal see on October 3, 1539. This change was approved by royal warrant of June 6, 1543, and since then the bishops of the diocese have resided in Puebla.

Although the official title of the diocese was "of Tlaxcala" or de Puebla de los Angeles, it was not until August 11, 1903, that the ancient See of Tlaxcala (Angelopolitana) was made an archbishopric under the name of Puebla de los Angeles, and the name of Tlaxcala was suppressed. The original limits of the Diocese of Puebla (Tlaxcala) comprised the present states of Puebla, Tlaxcala, Vera Cruz, Tabasco Hidalgo, and Guerrero. As new dioceses were erected (see Mexico) its territory was gradually reduced to its present limits, the states of Puebla and Tlaxcala, with the exception of a few parishes which belong to the jurisdiction of the dioceses of Huajuàpam and Oaxaca. In the first years of its foundation almost all the churches and parishes were under the care of the regulars, the Franciscans having important convents at Tlaxcala, Huexotzingo, and Cholula. In the time of the sixth Bishop of Puebla, Diego Romano (1578-1607), the churches began to pass into the hands of the seculars, and by 1640-49, under Bishop Juan de Palafox y Mendoza, the change was finally accomplished.

The ancient Tlaxcala was a powerful republic which the Aztecs vainly tried to conquer and which waged continuous and ferocious wars against them. The Indian hieroglyphic of its name represents two hands beating a tortilla, or corn cake, which is the meaning of the word "tlaxcallan". In former times this republic was thickly populated, but epidemics, emigrations, and the work of constructing the canal of Nochistongo to drain the valley of Mexico brought about the almost entire extinction of the natives, reducing them to an insignificant number. In the archives of Tlaxcala is a royal document, bearing the date of 1539, which orders that the Indians of Tlaxcala be exempted from all works of servitude. This prerogative was conceded in return for their services to Hernàn Cortéz during the conquest. It is doubtful whether this order was ever carried out, for a document dated 1625 states that the city of Tlaxcala contained 300,000 inhabitants in the sixteenth century, while only 7000 remained when this document was written. The city of Puebla, which is the residence of the bishop and of the governor of the state, was founded in 1531 by the auditor Juan de Salmerón and Fray Toribio de Motolinía (see Toribio de Benavente Motolinia). The cathedral of Puebla, one of the most beautiful in the whole republic of Mexico, was finished by Bishop Palafox in 1649. There are, counting colleges and parochial schools, about three hundred Catholic schools in the archdiocese. The Protestants have ten colleges. The conciliar seminary was raised to the rank of a Catholic university on August 5, 1907. It has an attendance of 275 students. Among the notable churches should be mentioned that of Nuestra Señora de los Remedios situated on the top of the Pyramid of Cholula. This pyramid was built by the Indians before the advent of the Spaniards; it measures 177 feet in height and 1444 feet on each side of its base, and is, therefore, larger than, although not as high as, the great pyramid of Egypt. The level space on the top, upon which the church is built, measures 46,444 sq. feet.

Besides the two bishops already mentioned, other notable ones were the successor of Bishop Palafox, Diego Osorio de Escobar y Llamas, who was viceroy of Mexico in 1664, and D. Pelagio Antonio Labastida y Dàvalos, who was driven from his see during the reform era and did not return until 1863 as Archbishop of Mexico. The present archbishop, Ramón Ibarra y Gonzàlez, translated from the Diocese of Chilapa, Guerrero, on July 6, 1902, was preconized first Archbishop of Puebla in 1903, and the Diocese of Huajuàpam de León, erected at the same time, was made suffragan to Puebla. Tlaxcala had in 1910 a population of 2812. The town is now silent and desolate. The ancient buildings, preserved for the traditions which cling to them, and the resident Indians transport the visitor to the time of the conquest. The State of Tlaxcala has an area of 1594 sq. m., and a population (1910) of 183,805.

CAMILLUS CRIVELLI


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