Spring 2023 Tegeder-Berg Society Event

Under the Knife: Aztec Religion and Human Sacrifice Reconsidered

Professor Brian Larkin

The Aztec Empire practiced human sacrifice on a scale never seen before or after its florescence in 15th-century Mexico. This singular religious ritual revolted Spanish conquerors and later Spanish priests intent on converting the Aztecs to Christianity. During and soon after the conquest, they spun gruesome and chilling accounts of Aztec religion, particularly the public, ritual practice of human heart excision. Those Spanish narratives colored understandings of Aztec culture as barbaric and satanic for centuries. Even today, popular accounts depict Aztec religion as sanguinary and cruel. (Think of Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto, a film really about Aztec rather than Maya society.)

But recent historical studies and archeological findings cast doubt on those early accounts, allowing for a new interpretation of Aztec culture not beholden to Spanish biases. What was Aztec religion really like?  Why did the Aztecs perform the rituals they practiced? And what legacy has Spanish demonization of Aztec religion bequeathed to us today?

Event Details


Tuesday, March 28, 2023


6-8:30 p.m.


Kieran’s Kitchen Northeast, 117 14th Ave NE, Minneapolis, MN 55413
Neighborhood street parking available


$10, includes heavy appetizers, cash bar

College of Saint Benedict
Saint John’s University

Dr. Gregory Schroeder 
Chair, History Department
CSB Richarda N1