Note: Please refer to the map of this itinerary, where
all numbered monuments below may be found. Click any of the images for a larger view in a new window.
Our first walk starts at the Hospital of Tavera1 (Calle
Duque de Lerma. 2. Tel: 925 220451. Open: 10:30a.m. to 1:30p.m. and 3:30p.m. to
6p.m.), which, rising beyond the walls of the city, is a grand Renaissance edifice erected by the architects Bustamante, Covarrubias, and Berruguete; the latter being responsible for the magnificent doorway and the tomb of Cardinal Tavera, founder of the hospital.
Presently a museum, it recreates the ambience of the period and also houses paintings by EI Greco, Ribera and Zurbaran, among others. Of particular interest are the courtyard, the aforementioned tomb, and the pharmacy, which maintains its original appearance.
After visiting the museum, we continue walking towards the ramparts, and after passing the Tourist Office on our right, we come to the
Puerta de Bisagra2, the Bisagra gate, which
forms the main access to the city within the walls. This noble gate, of Muslim
origin, consists of two round structures with a central courtyard and was
altered during the reign of Carlos I (Emperor Carlos V) when the great coat of
arms, depicting the huge two-headed eagle with the imperial shield, was placed over the arch,
a privilege granted Toledo by the emperor.
Straight ahead is the Calle Real del Arrabal street and almost immediately to
the right is the Church of Santiago del Arrabal3, one of
the best examples of the mudejar style in the city, which has led to this church
also being known as the Mudejar Cathedral. The origin of its construction is
uncertain, although it was probably in the time of King Alfonso VI when the
church was built, taking advantage of an old mosque. One of the outstanding
features of the early structure is a tower reminiscent of a Muslim minaret.
As we continue up the same street veering to the left, we come to the
Puerta del Sol4, one of the most spectacular gates in Toledo,
built in the 13th century in Mudejar style by the
Hospitaler Knights and containing
the remains of a paleochristian sarcophagus and a small classical bust.
After passing beneath the arch, further ahead on the Calle Carretas, we come to
another more simple gate called Puerta de los Alarcones, whose arch and lower
section have undergone extensive repair. The upper section houses the
outbuildings of a nearby convent. Through the gateway and crossing Calle
Venancio Gonzalez, we arrive at the paseo del Miradero. From here, we have a
magnificent view of the fertile plain in the distance.
Continuing up Calle Venancio Gonzalez, we come to the Plaza de Zocodover5.
In the Moorish period, this central space housed an important
market, and festivals and all kinds of social events were held here. Nowadays
the square, surrounded by buildings with porches, is still a vital center
of city life. It is a busy triangular-shaped plaza,
originally called Suk-aldawad or "market of the beasts" and is partially framed
with arcaded buildings.
At the other side of the plaza is the Cuesta de Carlos V which leads to the
Alcazar6 (Cuesta del Alcazar. Tel: 925 223038. Open: 10a.m. to
1:30p.m. and 4 to 5:30 p.m. Summer until 6:30p.m. Closed Monday), a fortress
that once was the imperial residence and later became a military museum and
houses one of the largest public libraries in Spain. Its imposing image presides
over the city form the highest point, once site of the Roman Praetorium, and
later the abode of the Visigothic kings, and then the Al-Qasr fortress during
the period of Muslim domination. This is the place where all the forts have been
built since the Roman era. The present citadel is a reconstruction of the
original building designed by the architects Covarrubias and Herrera for Charles
V which was nearly destroyed by various fires and practically demolished during
the Spanish Civil War of 1936. Of particular interest are the north facade, the
large central courtyard, and the imperial staircase or staircase of honor.
Extending from the eastern facade of the Alcazar, the oldest one with remains of
the original castle, a terrace lookout allows us to see over the walls and
offers a splendid view of the narrow valley the river Tajo forms while
encircling the city. Down and to the left, we have the Alcantara bridge and the
San Servando castle; opposite are the remains of the Artificio Juanelo, a
curious 16th century device invented to bring water from the river to the
fortress, and to the right, the bases of the pillars used to support an ancient
Roman aqueduct long ago.
At the foot of the south facade of the Alcazar, and in one of the most
labyrinthian corners of the city on the Calle San Miguel, is the Church of San
Miguel, a Baroque church with 3 naves. Some of the construction dates from the
13th century, the rest was built at a later date. The Mudejar tower is of
interest. Continuing with our tour, we skirt around the Alcazar through the
lookout area until we arrive at the Calle Alfereces Provisionales. We then
proceed along this street until we reach some steps going down to the right
which lead to a small square preceding the intersection of Calle Cervantes and
Calle de la Concepcion.
Here we find the group of buildings forming the Hospital of Santa
Cruz7, the Convent of Santa Fe and the Franciscan Convent of the
Concepcion, constructed over what were once the Moorish palaces of Aliana which
no longer exist. The Franciscan convent of La Concepcion is an institution
devoted to religious seclusion. The Convent of Santa Fe forms a unit with the
Hospital Museum of Santa Cruz, housing in some of its buildings the library and
the archives of the Autonomous Community of Castilla-La Mancha. It contains the
famous 11 th century Caliphal-style Belen chapel, and the tomb of Fernan Perez,
adorned with 13th century Moorish stalactite plasterwork. The Hospital of Santa
Cruz, now a museum (Calle Cervantes 3. Tel: 925 221036. Fax 925 225862. Open:
10a.m. to 6:30p.m. Sunday 10a.m. to 2p.m. Closed Monday from 2 to 4p.m.), dates
from the early 19th century. It was founded by Cardinal Mendoza as a hospital
with a view to centralising the assistance to the city’s orphaned and abandoned
children under the patronage of Queen Isabella. Construction was begun by the
Egas brothers and finished by Covarrubias in 1524, achieving one of the most
brilliant examples of the Plateresque style and is the artist's masterpiece.
Particularly notable are the splendid main doorway, the three doorways of the
vestibule, the noble cloister, and the imposing staircase connecting the two
stories of the building. The museum is divided into three sections: the fine
arts area with paintings by EI Greco and others, the archeological section with
Roman mosaics and other pieces, and a third devoted to decorative arts.
After leaving the museum, to our right we find the Arco de la Sangre or Arch
of Blood, a Moorish gate rebuilt after the Spanish Civil War. Upon passing
through it, we find ourselves once again at the Plaza de Zocodover, the end of
this first walking tour.
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