Holy Toledo is right!! There is no better expression to describe this ancient city. Like Madrid, I have also been to Toledo once before. It is even better the second time around.
Toledo, Spain has some of the most breathtaking views I have ever experienced in my life. I love the history behind the city and the feeling you get when walking around it. Toledo takes you back in time. It is one of the oldest cities in Europe, dating back to almost 4,000 years ago!!
Now since I enjoy history, I will share some information about the city with you throughout this post. Something that makes Toledo incredible is the years of peace between the Jews, Muslims and Christians. You may remember from a past history class that at one point, the Catholic monarchs of Spain expelled the Jews and Arabs while re-conquering their country. However, there was a time before this, in the city of Toledo, where Christians, Jews and Arabs lived in peace. In fact, there is a mosque, synagogue and cathedral…all within a 5 minute walk of each other. It is hard to find a place like that in Spain, let alone the world. Pretty interesting, right?
Now time for some pictures! The old part of the city has a wall around it. Toledo was once the capital of Spain. It was chosen for security and centrality to the country. The city sits high on a hill, with rivers protecting two sides of the city and a large wall on the other. Here is a picture (taken from the bus) of one of the entrances to the city from the side of the wall.
Then, our bus climbed a windy path to a place that overlooked the city. This has quite possibly one of the most stunning views EVER. In all honesty, my pictures don’t even come close to representing the beauty of this view, but here are the ones I snapped. (Again, some were taken in different modes/lighting of my camera to try to best represent the scene.)
We re-boarded the bus and headed to one of the bridges that enter the city. This bridge was built nearly 2,000 years ago as entrance to the city. (Mom, if you are reading this, we have an incredible picture of the two of us standing on this bridge 5 years ago!!!)
Here are some pictures of the old streets and sights as we walked around Toledo.
Our first stop was the Cathedral of San Juan de los Reyes (St. John of the Kings). This was built by Queen Isabella I as celebration after defeating Portugal in a battle and the birth of their son. It took nearly 200 years to build. This is the smaller cathedral (believe it or not) in Toledo.
On the outside there are 100’s of chain-shackles hanging on the wall. These shackles were from Christians who had been enslaved by the Arabs when they invaded Spain. When they won a huge battle in Granada (city in South of Spain) and freed many Christians, they brought their chains back here as a sort of war-trophy and remembrance.
Here are some pictures from inside the cathedral. There is also a walkway that goes around a garden in the middle. Very beautiful!!
Next, we headed up the street to a Synagogue. The name of the synagogue is Santa Maria la Blanca (St. Mary the white), which seems strange because it is a Jewish synagogue. Well, after the years of peace, when the Catholic monarchs sought to expel the Arabs and Jews, they turned the synagogue into a church by painting it all white and renaming it. It is now a synagogue again but still remains white with a Christian name.
Our last stop of the tour was to the Cathedral of Santa Maria (St. Mary). Words cannot describe how incredibly magnificent this cathedral is. My pictures do not do it justice in the slightest. The last time I visited the cathedral, we were not allowed to take any pictures. This time however, we were told we could take pictures without the flash. Although the pictures do look nice, I was disappointed when looking at them on my computer because they really do not capture the beauty of this place. This is the cathedral you can see from the scenic view of the city. This is the third largest gothic cathedral in the world (the first is in Seville!!)
Now for the inside!! (Pictures are kind of a little dark because we were not allowed to use flash)
Many Spanish cardinals are buried within this Cathedral. At the top of the second picture you can see the cardinals hat hanging over his grave.
This is a picture of the altar. There is a huge gate in front of it and a large crucifix hanging from the ceiling. I didn’t realize my camera was in a different mode when I took this picture so it is a little hard to see.
This is the artwork behind the altar. It tells the story of Jesus and was meant to teach those who could not read the bible.
These were the seats where the men of the congregation could sit.
This is what you find on the other side of the altar. (The altar was in a middle area of the cathedral.) See where the light is coming in from the circle at the top of this picture. This is when you zoom in…
The light shines in through here, and onto this…
Again, these pictures do not do these sculptures justice.
This is their sacristy…where Priests and altar servers put on their robes for Mass. The ceiling was painted by one of Michelangelo’s students, which is why it looks similar to the way the Sistine Chapel in Rome is painted.
This painting was by El Greco, and is of Jesus right before he is undressed and nailed to the cross. Very famous painting!
These are also in the sacristy, and they represent the four continents of: Europe, America, Asia and Africa.
Of course I had to take a picture of the one representing America! They all had different animals carrying the globe and ours were alligators!
Finally our touring was over (long, but exciting day) and we were able to have lunch in downtown Toledo! Then we headed to the hotel to settle in and relax before our meeting. Here are some pictures of the hotel! Our view was incredible. If you look closely, in the distance you can see the cathedral and the views of Old Toledo!!
Beautiful pool area, but still a little too cold to go swimming!!
I know this was a long post, but our day in Toledo was also long! It was filled with incredible sights, amazing cathedrals and a great history lesson! My legs were very tired from trying to walk on all the old cobblestone streets!! Hope you enjoyed this little trip back in time!!
Stay tuned for posts on my homestay, Seville and my school!! xoxo