Toledo, Spain

Toledo is a two hour drive from Madrid and a welcome day trip. It was once the capital of Spain, and Madrid was built in order to provide protection on its flank. The old city can be seen behind us above … It was protected by the Tagus River and a wall that encircled the hilltop.

Toledo also hails itself as the City of Three Civilizations, due to the Jewish, Muslim, and Christian influences on the city. I found this to be a tad ironic, as the Jews and Muslims were forced to leave in the late 15th Century.

But back to our visit … We walked up and down the very narrow streets, and spent a lot of time touring the city’s cathedral.

The local drivers are excellent at starting on inclines with manual transmissions. They avoid the hordes of tourists who share the streets. Only about 1800 people live in the old city, and it requires constant hill walking, and carrying everything up one hill or another to your apartment. I didn’t see a single garage.

Eventually, all paths lead to the Cathedral.

There was an original church built on this spot in 650 AD. When the Muslims advanced into Spain, this church was replaced with a mosque. When Christians retook the city a few hundred years later, an agreement was reached for Toledo to be handed over without bloodshed, and for the Muslim places of worship to remain. The current king agreed to this treaty, but when he left on regal duties, his wife and church officials took the mosque by force and converted it to a Christian place of worship. Over the next century, the plans for the current Cathedral were formulated. Work began in the 14th Century. I recall someone mentioning that we walked through “a new part of the Church,” which was built in the 1400s.

The most impressive aspect of the Cathedral was the ceiling painting by Luca Giordano, an Italian who accepted an appointment to the Spanish Court during the last decade of the 16th Century. He spent two of those years painting the sacristy of the Toledo Cathedral:

While Luca is not Michelangelo, and this is not the Sistine Chapel, it was a complete surprise to find and it’s damn good !! And as mentioned earlier, this ceiling took two years to paint…

After this discovery, everything else was anti-climatic. We walked down a bunch more narrow lanes, went into an old mosque complex, and got in the car for the ride back to Madrid. I would venture to say that any trip to Madrid should include a side trip to see Toledo !!

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