Temple of the Cross
The ancient inhabitants of Palenque knew the Temple of the Cross by the name Wak Chan (Six Skies) and as the shrine of Ju'n Ye Nal Chaahk, the Maize God. We call it the Temple of the Cross because of the cruciform iconography of its Central Tablet. In reality however, this cross-like element is a representation of the world tree. This image seems to present the Maya's conception of the nearly universal idea of the axis mundi, the point at which the communication between different cosmic realms can occur. This temple was also known as the North House (xaman yotoot) and in this way is identified with the cosmic hearthstone, which the Paddler Gods planted at the Naah Jo' Chan location. It was from this northern hearthstone that the Maize God sprouted in Maya mythology.
The Tablet of the Temple of the Cross was once thought to depict K'ihnich Kan B'ahlam and his father based on the size difference between the two figures. However, it is now known that into the mythological setting described in the Central Tablet texts and depicted by the world tree, K'ihnich Kan B'ahlam inserted two images of himself, one as a child on the day that he was "tied into Okte'-ship" on 9 Ak'b'al 6 Xul (18.104.22.168.3, June 17, 641), and another at the time of his accession on 8 Ok 3 K'ayab' (22.214.171.124.10, January 10, 684) (Bassie 1991).
Both figures stand upon a band containing astronomical signs called a skyband. The signs include those for darkness, the Moon, and stars, on the left side of the central censer, and to the right, those for the sky, possibly a sign for "surface," the Sun, and sky again. This places the scene in a space conceptually in the heavens and perhaps clarifies the reason why temples are sometimes refered to with the term chan ch'e'n. Note that the central censer by overlapping and extending below the skyband visually stands before it. This places it in the foreground while the figures and the world tree are on a different plane. The effect suggests that the censer is closer to viewer, perhaps in his or her space.
The figure on the left shows K'ihnich Kan B'ahlam as a child. He wears a nine-knotted ceremonial costume and holds what is probably a stylized censer bowl similar to the one from which the central world tree sprouts. Interestingly, the sky or chan glyph infixes the bowl he carries, while the censer bowl of the main image contains the more typical sun or k'in sign.
The older version of K'ihnich Kan B'ahlam holds an effigy of the Jester God (probably Ux Hu'n in Epigraphic Mayan) upon a cloth. It seems from this and other images that sacred icons were not to be touched directly. He presents this effigy to the world tree upon which perches the so-called Principal Bird Deity (PBD).