Diego de Landa

Diego de Landa (* November 12, 1524, † 1579) was Bishop of Yucatán, evangelizing the indigenous Maya.

He is also known that he had burned up all the tangible manuscripts in the Maya writing and thus valuable documents on the history and culture of the Maya. Later he tried in his apologia Relación de las cosas de Yucatán ( = report on the things of Yucatan) a reconstruction of this document, the so-called Landa alphabet, which - despite Landas completely false understanding of the writing system - in the 20th century an important tool was to the decipherment of Maya writing by the Russian Egyptologist Yuri Valentinovich Knorosow.


Diego de Landa was born on November 12, 1524 in the Castilian town of Cifuentes de la Alcarria in Toledo, the son of a prestigious aristocratic family. As a younger son de Landa was determined by his parents according to the general custom at the time of the Spanish aristocracy for the monastic life. He entered as a novice in the Franciscan monastery located in Toledo San Juan de los Reyes one. At the age of 25, he was ordained a priest. Then he asked his superiors about being sent as a missionary to America.

When Diego de Landa came to Yucatan in 1549, the conquest of Francisco de Montejo ( 1479-1553 ) was already made ​​seven years earlier. Landa has been appointed in his arrival, Deputy to the Guardians of the City of San Antonio de Yzamal, which was built on the ruins of the pre-Hispanic city of Izamal. In 1552 he took over the lead as Guardian. There he built from the stones of an ancient Mayan temple for the Indians, the San Francisco Monastery, which was one of the first monasteries in Yucatán. During this time he also ordered the construction of the Mother of God Church for the Indians.

Then he traveled through Yucatan, which brought him into conflict with the Spanish colonizers. The proclamation of the Gospel through mass conversions met with resistance from the colonial masters, who even stayed away from the Christian church and the Franciscan Order accusing the resources of the country and learn to want to dominate the country. In 1561 Diego de Landa was elected Minister Provincial of the Franciscan Order for Religious Province of San Jose, which included the Yucatan and Guatemala, appointed. As the highest religious authority in the region practiced de Landa from the Office of the Inquisitor and got the assistance of the secular power in order to pursue the Indians who had been guilty in his opinion of heresy.

Gained fame Diego de Landa, when he had to proceed against the Maya with a heavy hand, which should be converted to the Christian faith and wanted instead to hold on to their religious rituals. This culminated in an act of faith, which was held on 12 July 1562 and in which de Landa because of his religious zeal in front of the Franciscan convent of San Miguel Arcángel in Maní everything was burned in Maya Written as well as religious images and symbols of the Mayas. Consequence of this book burning is that only (parts of ) have remained four Mayan codices that give us today a glimpse into the past of the Maya. In his work " Relacion de las cosas de Yucatan " de Landa describes the events of Maní as follows:

" When the people taught in religion and the young men were taught to use, as we have said, they were seduced by the priests, that they had in their idolatry, and also by the chiefs, so that they again worship idols and sacrifice applied, which consisted not only of incense, but from human blood. Here About questioned the monks a church investigation and asked the Chief Justice to help, they put many captured and conducted processes, and it was held an act of faith, in which many of them on exhibition stands presented, they donned the Büßermütze, they whipped, they bare reeved and some attracted the hair shirt for a certain time. Others who have been deceived by the devil, hanged themselves from the gloom, and together all showed great remorse and the will to be good Christians. "

In another mention of the process, says de Landa: "We found among them a large number of books with these characters, and because they contained nothing that is free from superstition and the deceptions of the devil, we burned them all, which the Indians deeply regretted and lamented. "

After the auto-da-fe of Maní presented the Spanish colonialists, the legal basis of the force exerted by Diego de Landa inquisitorial powers in question. The Bishop Fray Francisco de Toral de Landa complained formally to have usurped episcopal power in his Häresieprozessen and the act of faith.

To defend and justify, Diego de Landa traveled first to Mexico and then returned in 1563 returned to Spain. The the Indies referred the process to Pedro Bobadilla, the Provincial of the Franciscan Order of Castile. The case against de Landa was to last six years. In 1566 - during the process - de Landa began his Relación de las cosas de Yucatán, like the other traveler to be the memorandum.

In studying the action de Landas, it turned out that he. According to a 1522 adopted bull Pope Hadrian VI acted, in which the Pope the mendicant orders working in America gave episcopal powers, when there was no resident bishop in the province in question. With this confirmation, the authority and privileges of the Order of the steps taken by Diego de Landa measures were considered not only useful, but even as restrained. 1569 de Landa was acquitted of every accusation.

This new situation Diego de Landa was appointed bishop of Yucatan, in order to succeed the late 1571 Francisco de Toral. The the Indies turned to Philip II and the latter to Pius V, the specific de Landa for the office, what. Cops in the new Pope Gregory XIII 15-16. November has been confirmed. In 1573 de Landa took up his new post in Mérida, which he held until his death in 1579.


Landa has his work that " Relación de las cosas de Yucatán ", in Spain, probably already made ​​on the basis of records in Yucatán and entrained documents about the Inquisition processes, written in about 1566. He also processed verbal information by Indians, some of the aristocratic families of which are known by name. These included Juan Nachi Cocom and Gaspar Antonio Chi. In addition, he quotes from the then Spanish reports accessible by Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo, Bartolomé de Las Casas and especially Francisco López de Gómara. Temporal colonial authors have made use of Landa's report in their own scriptures extensive use. Among other things, Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas in its vast Historia general de los Castellanos en las hechos de los tierra firme y islas del Mar Oceano and Diego López de Cogolludo (1613-1665) in his Historia de Yucatán.

The original manuscript is considered lost. The existence of the original in Yucatán in 1581 but has been documented. An edited transcript of the Relación was only discovered in 1863 by an administrative official in the Madrid Biblioteca de la Academia de Historia inside another embedded manuscript. There is clearly a truncated copy in the handwriting of three people. In the manuscript, for example, reference to a drawing, which is not included. The manuscript of the Relación was first published in 1864, and was considered the beginning of the 20th century as a comprehensive source on the culture and history of the Maya. According to recent studies, it is in the manuscript obtained by a random compilation by three or four unknowns.