Me encanta Toledo! What an amazing city. The whole place is carved into the landscape and looks stuck in time with its simple but beautiful architecture that hasn’t been affected by modernity and grey steel. The trip was just an over an hour from Madrid and was the absolute opposite from the hustle and bustle of the capital. It was serene and breathtaking and I think I said that I would be honeymooning there maybe 50 times that day… at least (shout out future husband: we’re going to Spain!!!) This picture is the first thing we saw in Toledo and I mean, what a GORGEOUS view of the city! That’s me standing there with the entire city as the backdrop. Pretty sweet 🙂
The whole city is cobblestone and very steep so my boots took a beating but it was so worth it. Our tour guide for this trip was Patricia, the art history teacher at school, who is just as wonderful and knowledgeable as Paco. Our first stop was the “Mesquita del Christo de la Luz”, which was built in the eighth century by the Moors who had control of the region in Spain before the Spanish Reconquest. The mosque was just as cool on the inside as the outside. The horseshoe arches designed into the mosque are signatures of the Moorish buildings. But the mosque was not just a mosque; it had been transformed into a church when the Christians regained control of the region so the other half of the mosque was filled with paintings (now faded) of biblical scenes and saints looking down from high up on the walls. When looking at the mosque from the outside, you can see the divide in thru building, with the Moorish side rectangular and the church part extended and rounded. Patricia also led us through the garden next to the mosque. Gardens are a concept from the Muslims and without mosques, Europe would never have been introduced to the idea of them!
This trip was pretty religious but not slanted at all towards one particular religion. In fact, Toledo was famous for being one of the only cities to ever have all 3 religions coexist peacefully. After that, we walked down some winding roads learning more history until we got to the most amazing cathedral I have ever seen. I know I’ve used amazing a bunch of times this post, but I almost cried in this cathedral, it was that beautiful. It too 100 years for the cathedral to be built and it is the most famous attraction in all of Toledo. It is also the tallest building in the city (see picture above for reference) Thor is unbelievable detail within the church from the main alter to where the choir and clergymen sat nd even to the tombs of the bishops. Yes, there are bishops buried in the church and their original red bishop hats are hanging above their tombs. Also, a miracle happened at this cathedral in which the patron saint of Toledo, San Ildefonso, was given the bishop garment by the Virgin Mary. The rock where this happened is available for touching and I really felt spiritually connected after that moment. Other cool things about the cathedral are the back of the alter and the room of bishops in which every bishop since the first one ever for the cathedral has their portrait painted on the wall. Fun fact: cathra means throne, aka where the bishop sits! So a cathedral is the place where the bishop sits! For all of you who are still reading, look how much history you’re learning!
After that, we went to a synagogue that was built by the Muslims for the Jews and we learned a lot about Jewish history and the areas in which this religion was predominant. This synagogue was more of a museum than a functioning place of worship but it was still really cool! Though I am not Jewish, I am a member of a historically Jewish sorority and I was proud of how the women who founded my sorority stood by their faith and created their own organization that believed in religious tolerance and really connected with the museum through that channel. (shout out Sigma Delta Tau)
Finally, after a much needed lunch break and shopping excursion, we arrived at the last place on our itinerary: San Juan de los Reyes. This building is not only a Catholic church but also a monastery and is dedicated to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. You know them right? The ones who allowed Columbus to stumble upon America… yeah they also united Spain and founded Grenada. They’re kind of awesome 😊 Los Reyes was supposed to be their burial ground with the monastery attached in order to pray for their souls (but they were actually buried in Grenada because the founded it). The King and Queen’s crest can be found all over the place and has a lot of significance in terms of equality of power regardless of gender roles. Queen Izzy didn’t take no for an answer and Ferdinand treated her as an equal, which was basically unheard of them back then. Their crest has 2 lions bowing in submission to their power, a yoke to symbolize Isabella and a Fletcher’s set of arrows to represent Ferdinand. The monastery was equally amazing with huge plants and an open courtyard.
All in all, Toledo was amazing and I could have stayed there forever. Every minute on the bus I missed the city. I may just have to go back…