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Travel : 4 Nights in Toledo, Spain April 21 -24/2022

Second post - a continuation of the trip which started on on April 21st (here)

As was mentioned, I visited Toledo on few other occasions, but the visits were short, so

this occasion allowed a more leisurely & thorougher exploration of this enchanting town.

Toledo - UNESCO -World Heritage Site since 1986

The historic Spanish city of Toledo set on hills rising from the arid plains, is located on the banks of the river Tagus in central Iberia,

It is known as the "Imperial City" (it was the main venue of the court of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor in Spain), and as the "City of the Three Cultures" for the cultural influences of Christians, Muslims and Jews living side by side, as reflected in its extensive monumental and cultural heritage.

Toledo was the capital and episcopal seat from 542 to 725 AD of the Visigothic kingdom, following the fall of the Roman Empire,

A series of church councils were held in Toledo under the Visigoths.

The Muslim invasion in the 8thc by the Islamic conquest of Iberia did not immediately eliminate the Christian presence.

Toledo was reconquered by Alfonso VI, King of León and Castile, in 1085.

Muslim capitulation without bloodshed when the transfer of the city materialized, was due to the king's promise to conserve and respect Muslims institutions of higher learning, as well as their customs and religion, when coexisting with the larger Mozarabic population, was possible.

Toledo remained a city where scholars flocked to study rare Arab and Hebrew texts,

In the 13th century, Toledo was a major cultural center under the guidance of Alfonso X, called "El Sabio" ("the Wise") for his love of learning. The large communities of Muslims and Jews coexist, until they were expelled from Spain in 1492 (Jews) and 1502 (Mudéjars).

.The Toledo School of Translators, that had commenced under Archbishop Raymond of Toledo, continued to bring vast volum of knowledge to Europe by rendering great academic and philosophical works in Arabic into Latin.

Toledo was the seat of the Spanish court until its 16th-c , which then move to Madrid.

Jewish Astronomer -Israeli ben Joseph, (14c) physician/poet -Judah Halevi, ( 1075 – 1141) and Samuel Halevi, (1320-1360) the treasurer of king Pedro I "the Cruel" of Castile

and founder of the Synagogue of El Transito in Toledo,, were the known ones who resided in the city.

So did the famous painter El Greco. the Arabic astronomer Al-Zarqali, Spanish poet -Garcilaso de la Vega , king of Castile-Alfonso X , and Eleanor of Toledo, married to the Medici family.

Most of the city was rebuilt between 1939 and 1957 after the siege of the Alcázar during the Spanish Civil War.

Within the Walls of the Old City

On its cobbled steep lanes, the footprints of Romans, Visigoths, Jews, Arab and Christians have left many memorable marks, for more than two millennia, filling the city with palaces, cathedrals, churches, convents, monasteries, mosques, and synagogues.

Old walls, towers, 11 gates, bridges, narrow allies, squares, museums. fantastic views and trinkets stores, are most interesting and charming to encounter and walk through.

Metal-working industry has historically been Toledo's economic base, from Roman times, but it was under Moorish rule and during the Reconquista that Toledo and its guild of sword-makers played a key role between the 15th and 17th c.

The Toledo bladed weapons industry including sword/daggers/knives has been kept as a common souvenirs of the city.

The old city on the mountain-top, facilitates a 150-degree view, of the bend in the Tagus River, surrounding the city on three sides , along with the green hilly landscape beyond.

Among its many fascinating historical sites, the Alcázar, (arms museum) the cathedral (the primate church of Spain), and the Zocodover, (a central market place) are the core outstanding focal orientation points in town.

The places visited are clustered by the 3 sides of the old town - West, Center, and East

The Jewish Quarter -West part of town

The Jewish community of Toledo which became, in the 12th and 13th centuries, the most populous and rich of the middle ages Kingdom of Castile. coexisted for centuries more or less peacefully, with Muslims and Christians until the 15c expulsion.

One of the many entrances to the quarter is the gate Puerta de Assulca, by which the flea market where oil, butter, chickpeas, lentils and other necessities for daily life were sold.

In the Jewish quarter which its steep steps and narrow allies, we walked up and down

visiting the El Greco museum and the 2 Synagogues (out of the 10 that

once existed) is a must.

El Greco Museum

Marquis of Vega-Inclán, the museum's founder, and important artistic patron of the first half of the 20th c, introduced and assisted in the recovery of El Greco's fame. when he purchased a run down 14c house, under the mistaken assumption he was buying the remains of what was once El Greco's original house, built over the foundations of a Renaissance palace.

However the structure actually was once, the house of the Jewish

The most original painter of the Spanish Renaissance - El Greco( 1541–1614), having been born in Fodele, Crete, spent much of his life in Toledo, He was quite a controversial figure in his fays, gradually forgotten after his death because his work fell out of fashion ,and was later resurrected by the Marquis

Opened in 1911, in the Jewish quarter, the museum consists of two buildings :

a house with courtyard from the 16c and an enlargement from the beginning of the 20 C

with a courtyard, and a fabulous shared garden, which we enjoyed exploring, as much,if not more as the museum's paintings.

The museum has an extensive collection of paintings by the artist of the Spanish Golden Age. especially from his late period. and there are also paintings by other 17th-century Spanish artists, as well as furniture from the period and pottery.

El Greco's most important paintings of this period, includes the Apostolate series the San Bernardino altarpiece, and the View and plan of Toledo,

A labyrinth of tunnels under the building, used for storage and hiding, can be accessed from the garden.

Very close to the museum another el Greco master piece is on view at:

The 14 c church constructed on the site of an old mosque of the 11th c and still carries a square brick and edge stonework Mudejar tower, attracts visitors for the el Greco master piece : "The burial of Lord Orgaz hanging in its interior. Lord Orgaz was the one who rebuilt the church,

Patio of "Palace de Fuensalida"

And Just next to the Santo Tom'e church, the beautiful 15c Toledan Mudéjar

palace de Fuensalida” is seen,

,when walking up the steps, from the street, the building’s beautiful patio, open for view to the public is worth viewing.

Also close by the el Greco museum are the 2 Synagogues


Synagogue El Transito

Synagogue of El Transito, in the Jewish Quarter. is an home to the Sephardic Museum.

The 14th-c building's , old prayer hall contains a mix of beautiful Mudéjar tiling and Hebrew carving

Santa Blanca Synagogue

Santa María la Blanca, the oldest synagogue building in Europe still standing, now owned by the Catholic Church.

The 12th-c building is a gorgeous pale-stoned assemblage constructed at Christian Toledo, command by Islamic architects for Jewish use.

Among Ladino-speaking Sephardi Jews, in their various diasporas, the family name Toledano is still prevalent – indicating an ancestry traced back to this city (the name is also attested among non-Jews in various Spanish-speaking countries).

Within the narrow allies at the Jewish quarter

More on Todeo's Jewish Community

Combrion Gate -"Gate of the Jews"

is built over the remains of a Visigoth gate, double gate with 2 towers and arches, of stone and brick. in the Renaissance style, ,

It underwent two renovations in the early-1570s and in 1576

The church of San Sebastián originally a mosque, called Al-Dabbagin. It was converted for use as church after the Reconquista., and it dates from before the expulsion, to the 10th c , being enlarged in the 11th c, as a mosque, As now its good condition remains show the characteristics of the Mudéjar architectural style, with rich Arabic decorations, and the church's tower shows characteristics of the former minaret

Puente de San Martin, a romantic medieval bridge across the Tagus which was constructed in the late 14th century by archbishopPedro Tenorio to provide access to the old town.

Both sides of the pedestrian only medieval bridge bridge, which are fun to walk through, were heavily fortified with towers, the more recent dating from the 16th c.

Not only the top of the bridge is fun to cross over the river, but the trail below the bridge, along the river is a fun nature walk, with the opportunity to climb the steep steps back into the old town.

Monastery of San Juan de Los Reyes

Another huge monastery monument domineering the western point of the city

It is an IsabellinestyleFranciscanmonastery which, was founded by the Catholic Monarchs (1477–1504). King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile to commemorate both the birth of their son, Prince John, and their victory at the Battle of Toro (1476) over the army of Afonso V of Portugal.

The heart of the Old City

Main Cathedral - Primatial Cathedral of Saint Mary of Toledo

We are not great fans of churches/cathedral hopping, but the one that crowns

the hill top of the town, is so majestic and iconic, that visiting it couldn't be missed.

It is being encountered from any angle, when walking through town.

The 13c white limestone Gothic Roman Catholicchurch , is the seat of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Toledo.

The opulent overwhelming grandiose cathedral, was initially constructed in 1226 and completed in 1493. The Visigoth church was torn down and the main mosque of the city of Toledo was erected in its place

Thus it also combines some characteristics of the Mudéjar style, mainly in the cloister, The last Gothic contributions were made in the 15th c when the vaults of the central nave were finished during the time of the Catholic Monarchs.

El Greco's "Mayor Sanctity" the "Apostles" series masterpiece, along with other precious religious and artifacts treasures decorate the interior and exterior of the magnanimous structure

Ayuntamiento Square

Plaza del Ayuntamiento, is the small quint square beside the main Cathedral, the Archbishop's Palace (Renaissance) and the Palace Arc ;representing the religious power, and where the nice Town Hall (Herrera building) which houses the city council of Toledo, representing the political power, meet and are also joined by the judiciary power with the Palace of Justice.

On that particular day, also the "Wind Power" joined at the square, and made sure to remind and imprint in peoples mind and body, of its ultimate force of nature, way beyond all human societal ruling configurations.

A sculpture-pond Tres Aguas by prestigious artist Cristina Iglesias also decorates the square

Another element of nature -water- to connect humans with the depth of humility,

The Church of San Marcos was part of the convent of the Santísima Trinidad and was built anew during the 17th c,

Now a days it serves as a cultural center, an exhibition hall and an auditorium for event.

We drifted into the building on our walk, lured by an intriguing sign advertising an

art exhibit , which caught our attention

A contemporary exhibit of Toledo's local plastic artist - a painter and sculptor named:Alberto Romero , with whom I tried to have a conversation. in my broken Spanish, and him with me by an absent English, revealed the conceptual framework to his artistic work :

" 3 Cultures, A King" is a tribute to King Alfonso X - (1221-1284) the King of Casilla, Leon & Galicia who was known as "The Wise" and for his tolerance and interchanges with the three religions which peacefully coexisted in the city during his reign . Jews, Muslims, and Christians were encouraged to have prominent roles in his court, and

he fostered the development of a cosmopolitan court that encouraged learning. ,

The wisdom of the Jew

The Christian, Muslim and the Jew

Climb up for the spectacular views on top

Another Church, a Jesuit one, in a Baroque style worth a visit for its impressive 2 observation towers to where narrow steps allows a climb up to the top of one tower, from which the views of the city are spectacular, and

a climb down o the steps of the other tower

Views from the Tower's Top

Museum of Visigothic Council and Culture

Nearby the ildefinso church, located is the impressive building of the Visigoth Museum, which only It’s beautiful exterior we viewed,

The 13th-c Mudéjar church of San Román is the site where once was an old Visigothic structure and probably an ancient Roman building. and now is the site of this museum, dedicated to preserving and displaying the historic and artistic remains of the Visigoth civilization, which made Toledo the capital of its kingdom.

This stunning small square structure, converted into a church around 1085, and made mostly from brick and stone, is a perfect example of Mudejar architecture.

The name "Cristo de la Luz" of the mosque possibly refers to the former Visigothic church, meaning "of the christ of light", which most likely was built on a previous Roman site, as the exposed remains of an excavated Roman road indicates.

The Mosque of Cristo de la Luz is a former mosque, much in the same state as it was when it was originally built in 999, during the Ummayed dynasty - Ahmad Ibn Hadidi, one of the ten, that existed in the city during the Moorish period.

The influence of the caliphate can be seen in the brickwork on the facade of the building which resembles those seen at the Cathedral–Mosque of Córdoba.

It was then known as Mezquita Bab-al-Mardum, deriving its name from the city gate Bab al-Mardum. located near the Puerta del Sol, in an area of the city once called Medina where wealthy Muslims used to live

Built in the late 14th c by the Knights Hospitaller.

The medallion above the arch of the gate depicts the ordination of the Visigothic Ildephonsus, Toledo's patron saint. The name of the gate with its orientation to the east, comes from the sun and the moon, that were once painted on either side of this medallion.

or because where the sun always rises. The gate is no longer there, but the entrance is.

Alcantara Bridge -Roman Romantic

Alcántara bridge, or Trajan's Bridge at Alcantara - the Arches Bride

Roman stone bridge, another only pedestrian one, across the Tagus, linking to Toledo old town, which we walked on.

Built in 104 and 106 AD by an order of the Roman emperorTrajan

The romantic bridge is popular destination for photo shooting of

newly wed

originally called Bab al-Saqra and the only surviving part of the Arab wall.

From the 9th c it is the main old Entrance Gate to the city in Moorish Andalusian times, the only gate from the Muslim age to have survived in reasonably good condition Also known as "Puerta de Alfonso VI".

More architectural styles

On the Eastern side of the city

Plaza Zocodover

This square near the highest point of the old city, in the north-east corner, close by the Alcazar. is from where the commercial streets begins

Though relatively small is in its size, this main plaza of Toledo and one of it's major landmarks and a social nerve center market place of the city, was as such, during most of the city's history, The ancient Arabian market.

The origin of the name Zocodover comes from the Arabic language sūq ad-dawābb, which means "market of burden beasts" .The location of the old cattle market ("Tulaytula") was built on top of the ruins of the Roman wall

Horses, donkeys, foals, mares, mules and other beasts were sold, when the city of Toledo was Spanish-Muslim city, as well as where bullfighting and the cucañas were organized in the celebrations of the locality. Sadly also the plaza was also a center for more disgraceful acts like the autos-da-fé of the Inquisition or the public execution of the prisoners.

Traditional markets, such as the famous "Martes" (Tuesday market) still takes place

The buildings around the plaza consist of some residential, offices, shops and fast food.

Visitors regularly take a break at the plaza's cafes after visiting the Alcazar or the Cathedral or frequent it to catch the bus or riding a tourist train.

Alcazar - Army Museum

Alcazar an enormous 16 c quadrangular fortress situated in the highest part of town, overlooking the city, and can be seen from every point in the city

It now houses the Castilla-La Mancha Regional Library ("Biblioteca Autonómica") and since 2009 the Museum of the Army ("Museo del Ejército") (previously in Madrid)

The stone fortification with framed by four large towers 60 meters high, each crowned by the typical Madrid spire , was once used as a Roman palace in the 3rd c, it was restored under Charles I (Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor) and his son Philip II of Spain in the 1540s. We only enjoyed viewing its exterior on this visit.

Located in the former Santa Cruz Hospital. a 16th-c cloister monastery convent structure

of outstanding features with Plateresque façade, courtyards, staircase and Mudéjar and Renaissance coffered ceilings.

The hospital was founded by Pedro González de Mendoza, archbishop of Toledo 1482-1495 and a cardinal, in order to centralize assistance to orphaned and abandoned children in the city

The museum's collection included: Archaeology, ( Roman, Visigothic, Moorish and Mudéjar cultures) Fine Arts, (16th- and 17th-c paintings from Toledo) and Industrial Arts, (ceramics, glass, fabrics, wrought iron and precious metalwork).

The Palacio de Galiana, known in Arabic as "Almunia Regia" or King's orchard, built in the Mudéjar style, in the 11c is another gorgeous monuments that remained from the period.

Tied up to many romantic love stories: like between the French Emperor Charlemagne and the beautiful Galiana, daughter of the Moorish King Galafré

Outside the City's walls

The views, of the cathedral, alcázar and other structures, on this bright but windy cool day, which sharply, unfolded from the Parador- hotel's outdoors terrace, and for which we specialty arrived to "sip in", along with hot chocolate, was like in El Greco's painting .

Parador de Turimo - Cerro del - Emperador, s/n 925 22 18 50

The hotel on the hilly slopes across the city opened in 1965 and from a distance, offers breathtaking views of the city. The building has 2 extended floors, in Toledo style with porches and floors typical of the region in tune with the popular houses in the area called cigarrales.

The traditional garden and fruit orchard of the cigarrales have been replaced here by a modern set of terraces and swimming pool.

The Parador is a 4 star out of the city with breathtaking views for an afternoon cocktail. Not luxury - more rustic . As much as the views are worth a visit to the hotel, staying at the old town's center and not needing a car to get around, is much more preferable when visiting Toledo.

Another monumental 16c Florentine Renaissance palace structure of two columned courtyards, a church and a palace-museum (part of the old hospital). which was built by order of the Cardinal Tavera and was dedicated to John the Baptist and also served as pantheon for its patron, Cardinal Tavera.

Currently the building serves as a Museo Fundación Lerma, which houses part of the artistic collections of this lineage, as well as the Section of the Nobility of the National Historic Archive.

Toledo's 150 years old Bull -Ring arena is located just next to the Tavera Hospital

What more to see (more here)