Kopilli Ketzalli

The sacred feathercrown of Montezuma, (the 9th emperor of the Aztecs), the “Kopilli Ketzalli”, the Aztec word for "precious crown", has been in possession of the Austrians since 1524. It is currently located in the Museum of Ethnology (Volkerkundmuseum) in Vienna.

The Kopilli Ketzalli consists of 400 feathers of the Quetzal bird. To the Aztecs, the Quetzal is a sacred bird, representing wisdom, fertility, freedom and peace. Its feathers are given only for supreme achievement. The number 400 is the symbol for eternity and immensity. According to Aztec tradition, only the highest person is entitled to wear the 400 feathers of this sacred Quetzal bird.

Originally, the crown also consisted of a helmet of pure gold. After the slaying of Montezuma during the Spanish invasion of Hernando Cortez, the crown was confiscated by the Spaniards. The gold helmet was melted down into bars and the feathered head piece was sent as a present to Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain (known there as Charles I). Charles V was also the Archduke of Austria where the Hapsburg dynasty had their residence. It presently resides in an exhibit in the Vienna Hofburg - Museum for Ethnology.

For many years, the Mexican government has been asking the Austrian government to return the feathercrown. Currently, a replica of the head piece can be found in the Anthropological National Museum of Mexico City. This along with other representative items of Mexico’s original culture has been offered to the Austrians in exchange for the sacred headdress.

Since 1986, descendants of the Aztec Nation have been gathering signatures in the streets of Europe to petition the Austrian government. They want the sacred feathercrown returned to the country of its origin for display in the Anthropological National Museum of Mexico City (Museo Nacional de Antropologia) which is built over the remains of Montezuma’s residence. These Indians hold that, when the feathercrown returns to this sacred place, the Indian Sun will dawn over the entire planet and teach harmony, peace and respect to all people.