The Florentine Codex, otherwise known as “The History of the Things of New Spain” is a groundbreaking research on Aztec civilization carried out 1540-1590s. It is a solid collective work consisting of twelve books, yet it was supervised and compelled by one person, Bernardino de Sahagun, a Franciscan Friar. Being the most detailed study of the indigenous culture by a colonial author, it nevertheless is remarkable by its unbiased approach to the local beliefs and traditions. Being a Christian monk did not prevent the man from taking genuine interest in the researched culture and trying to present it as seen through the local people’s eyes. The study included the books devoted to such themes as religion, ceremonies, healing, astronomy, merchants, chiefs, and finally the vision of the conquest.
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As researchers point out, Friar de Sahagun used reliable methods of communication with the locals to get the authentic knowledge translated into the study. Thus, he interviewed the elders and his students, and they gave explanations and interpretations of the traditional paintings ( Carasco 20). These painting pictured the mundane and ceremonial life of the Aztecs, so they are essential part of the study.
Seen through the lens of culture exchange between the Western civilization and the indigenous people of the American continent, The Florentine Codex is an important milestone in history of civilizations. As a researcher puts it, “the Codex is therefore not only a unique case of a rare effort to spread the Christian faith through cultural understanding rather than coercion, but also a reflection of a broader cross-cultural approach to the roles of religion and art in empires”(Guzman). So, the study gave Europeans an opportunity to get access to the unbiased description of a different civilization and suggested a new approach of interaction between them on terms of equality.
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