Old Town of Toledo (World Heritage)

By | August 12, 2021

Toledo is one of the oldest cities in Spain. The city center, with its numerous monuments, is an architectural masterpiece that testifies to 2000 years of history and long-term coexistence between Jews, Christians and Muslims. After the Reconquista by Alfonso VI. Toledo became the residence of the Castilian Kingdom in 1087 and was the capital of Spain until 1561. Outstanding monuments of the old town are the cathedral with the 33 m high central nave and the high altar, the Alcázar that dominates the cityscape, the monastery church of San Juan de los Reyes, several churches and two synagogues that were converted into churches after the expulsion of the Jews.

Old City of Toledo: Facts

Official title: Old town of Toledo
Cultural monument: City center with the triangular Plaza de Zocodover, the Alcázar, the Puerta Vieja de Bisagra, the oldest city gate, the churches of San Román and Santo Tomé in the Mudéjar style, the cathedral with the 33 m high central nave, the huge high altar, where 20 artists worked for four years worked for a long time, and with the choir stalls carved from walnut wood and the Santa Cruz Hospital with the large collection of El Greco’s paintings
Continent: Europe
Country: Spain
Location: Toledo, southwest of Madrid
Appointment: 1986
Meaning: an architectural masterpiece that preserves more than 2000 years of history and a testimony to the coexistence of Jews, Christians and Muslims

Old town of Toledo: history

193 BC Chr. Mentioned as the Celtiberian city of Toletum
1st century BC Chr. Conquest by the Romans
573 Relocation of the Visigothic royal court to Toledo
712 Part of the Muslim empire of al-Andalus
1085 Recapture by the troops of Alfonso VI.
1492 Expulsion of 36,000 Jews
1561 after the transfer of the court of Philip II to Madrid at the end of Toledo’s heyday
1577-1614 El Greco in Toledo
September 26, 1936 After a 70-day siege, the Alcázar was taken by Franco supporters

Melting pot of three cultures

“Toledo is not just a city with historical monuments, Toledo is a gigantic monument itself,” say the Spaniards proudly. In fact, time seems to have stood still in the labyrinthine network of alleys. According to ehistorylib, the former state capital, which was the heart of Spain well into the 16th century, still houses the centuries-old traces of Arabs, Jews and Christians as well as stone evidence from Visigothic and Roman times.

The “Compendium of History” lies like a fortress on a protective rocky hill that is almost completely enclosed by the Río Tajo. The most beautiful panoramic view of the “city of three cultures”, which has to endure countless busloads of tourists every day, is offered by the terrace of the state-owned Parador hotel, especially in the light of the setting sun. Depending on their interests, some visitors dedicate themselves to ancient monuments, Arabic ceramics and Damasquinado handicrafts – truly a filigree art in which jewelry items made of metal are finely engraved and decorated with fabric-like patterns made of gold and silver wire. As culture is known to go through the stomach, other visitors to Toledo enjoy culinary specialties such as stuffed partridge.

The most important monument of the city of the painter El Greco is the Gothic cathedral, which rises with its five naves exactly where the main mosque of the city once stood. The cloister obliterates the traces of the former Jewish market. Due to a building activity that lasted more than two centuries, the main church of the city – after Seville, the second largest in Spain – combines a wide variety of architectural styles: here Gothic pointed arches and mighty bundle pillars, there ornamental Plateresque exuberance at the entrance to the chapter house and finally highly Gothic drama in the scenes of the high altar. A jewel is the precious cathedral treasure with a gold-plated silver custodia almost four meters high, which is carried through the city during the annual Corpus Christi procession; The important collection of paintings in the sacristy is splendid, primarily preserving works by El Greco, Goya and Velázquez for posterity. El Greco, buried in eternal rest in San Torcuato, is present all over the city with his visionary works that are captivating with their dramaturgical lighting and image division. One of his most famous paintings, “Burial of the Count of Orgaz” (1586), the union of a realistic portrait with a depiction of heavenly apparition, is in a chapel at the rear of the Church of Santo Tomé.

The most important evidence of Jewish culture are the synagogue “Santa María la Blanca” consecrated to the church – the blood of the pogroms of 1405 on the walls – and the “Sinagoga del Tránsito”, which belonged to the residential palace of the treasurer of the Castilian king Pedro the Cruel. The most important Muslim legacies are the “Santo Cristo de la Luz” mosque, a jewel of Arab architecture, consecrated to a church, built from bricks and decorated with broken brick patterns, and the so-called “Moorish workshop” (“Taller del Moro”), an incompletely preserved palace with filigree patterns cut in plaster as elaborate wall decorations.

The extent to which all these cultures mix in Toledo is illustrated by the bridges, city walls and city gates that have been destroyed several times and rebuilt on old foundations, some of which go back to Roman and Gothic, but above all to Arab builders. The only exception is the city gate “Puerta Nueva de Bisagra” decorated with a double-headed eagle, the triumphal arch of the Habsburg emperor Charles V.

Old Town of Toledo (World Heritage)