Between around AD 1 and 600, Cholula grew into an important religious center, while powerful Teotihuacán flourished 100km to the northwest. The Great Pyramid was added several times. Around AD 600, Cholula fell to the Olmeca-Xicallanca, who built nearby Cacaxtla. Sometime between AD 900 and 1300, Toltecs and/or Chichimecs took over, and it later fell under Aztec dominance. There was also artistic influence from the Mixtecs to the south.
By 1519, Cholula’s population had reached 100, 000, and the Great Pyramid was already overgrown. Cortés, having befriended the neighboring Tlaxcalans, traveled here at the request of the Aztec ruler Moctezuma. Aztec warriors set an ambush, but the Tlaxcalans tipped off Cortés about the plot and the Spanish struck first. Within a day, they killed 6000 Cholulans before the city was looted by the Tlaxcalans. Cortés vowed to build a church here for each day of the year, or one on top of every pagan temple, depending on which legend you prefer. Today there are 39 churches – far from 365, but still plenty for a small town.
The Spanish developed nearby Puebla to overshadow the old pagan center, and Cholula never regained its importance, especially after a severe plague in the 1540s decimated its indigenous population.