Una gran ciudad espanola…A great Spanish city – Toledo. It is the city of El Greco, the “Imperial City,” as it held the royal court of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, and “the City of the Three Cultures,” as its main cultural influences were Muslim, Jewish, and Christian. Toledo is known worldwide for its bladed weapons, particularly swords, and many shops were selling them. (By the way, the one thing we both remembered from being in Toledo 12 years ago, for one day, was the many sword shops and the great number of knights in armor inside them for taking pictures.) The city is located on a mountain top with a 150-degree view, and has a very long and varied history. We visited churches and synagogues with obvious Muslim influences…around the city, all three cultures are casually mixed together. It feels ancient, very “old school” Spanish, and really wasn’t at all like the other cities we visited and photographed.
The first four photos are of the Alcazar, the city’s military fortress, which dominates the skyline. As you enter the city from any direction, your eye is drawn to the highest point and the four proud spires of the Alcazar. Because we were atop the building, we couldn’t photograph all of them, so multiply by four the single one seen in the first photo! There is also a military museum in the complex with displays of the knight and horse in armor and the army of men in armor. After that are two lovely shots of the countryside from the highest point in the Alcazar. The castle seen is San Servando, which is now a hostel. After those photos is one of the cathedral, but it was not open to visitors.
The next stop was the El Greco Museum in the Jewish Quarter, which we thought would have some of his paintings….nope! But, it was his restored home…no, again! It was bought and restored by the Marquis de la Vega Inclan, who thought it was El Greco’s house, but he was mistaken. Fortunately, he purchased the remains of an elegant 14th century palace, whose vaulted galleries over two floors raised the palace so that it became a landmark in the city when it was built. The three photos are one of the underground vaults and two of the pretty gardens.
If you read our blogs about the Alhambra in Granada and the Alcazar in Seville, you will recognize the architecture in the Synagogue of El Transito, dating from 1356. It started as a synagogue, then was a church, followed by military headquarters during the Napoleonic wars, then a national monument, and now a museum. The two photos show the Great Prayer Room, its arches with detailed carvings and elaborate plasterwork surrounding them, and a closeup of the top rank of arched windows.
Almost looking like the same building…next up is the Synagogue of Santa Maria la Blanca. Erected in 1180, it is the oldest synagogue in Europe still standing, and is owned and preserved by the Catholic Church. Its elegant construction is considered Mudejar (there is that word again!), built by Moorish architects for non-Islamic purposes. It was turned into a church in the early 15th century. We have included six photos of this interior…the glorious pillars with Moorish arches repeated, the golden half dome, and the final shot of the magnificent ceiling dome.
After the ceiling dome are eight photos of the Monastery of St. John of the Monarchs, the monarchs being Isabella and Ferdinand. It was originally dedicated in 1504, and you can see the motto Tanto Monta – Monta Tanto on the stained glass windows, which is also on the ceiling and columns. It refers to the equality of power between Ferdinand and Isabella. Most of the original complex was destroyed in 1808-1809 by Napoleon’s army, which also included an impressive library. Restoration started in 1883 after a period of abandonment, but wasn’t completed until 1967! You can see in the photo of one of the lonely-looking four arched walkways that surround a courtyard that there are saints positioned on either side. At first, we saw the usual male saints and thought, Of course, this was built as a monastery…all we see is men. But then, as we turned a corner, to our surprise we started seeing more and more women saints, so we included a closeup of one of them. Following a photo of a chandeliered dome in a stairwell is one photo of the exterior of the Jesuit church, St. Ildephonse.
The last photos are various buildings as we walked the city, streets, retail shops (including a sword shop!), statues, walkways, and a covered upper passageway. We saved the best for last, though. In the museum of the Synagogue of El Transito was this lovely set of Pinza y Cuchillo, translated as….pliers and knife….for circumcision! All the men’s faces around us looked a little pained.