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 second itinerary starts at the Plaza de Zocodover, from where we go down the Calle del Comercio and then Calle del Hombre de Palo, in the old quarter of the city where the guilds once
thrived, arriving at the Plaza del Ayuntamiento where the Cathedral8
stands majestically. (Calle Area de Palacio. Tel: 925 222241. Fax: 925 253400.
Open: 10:30a.m. to 1p.m. and 3:30 to 6p.m. Summer until 7p.m.)
It is the Cathedral Primate of Spain and one of the most extraordinary monuments in Spain and the world. The visit is divided into two parts: the church proper, and the sacristy and chapel of San Juan which are part of the Cathedral museum.
It was built on top of a Muslim mosque, and before that it had been a church in
the sixth century during the reign of the Visigoth King Recaredo. King San
Fernando and the archbishop began building the new church in 1226, although the Cathedral was not finished until the end of the 15th century, undergoing numerous changes and additions after the completion of the building. As a result, although essentially Gothic in style, the Cathedral is an extraordinary structure where many different architectural styles and exceptional artists converge; artists such as Master Martin, Petrus Petri, Enrique Egas, Berruguete, Pedro and Juan Guas, Narciso Tome, Rodrigo Aleman, Villalpando and many others.
The building has a basilica ground plan with a central nave and
double aisles. Although there are numerous outstanding elements, we will only name a few.
All the exterior doors are handsome, but the most notable is the main doorway.
On its main facade the outstanding feature is the doorway,
made up of three doors: Infierno (Hell), Perdón (Pardon) and Juicio (Judgement).
Above the main door is a sculptural group depicting the Last Supper. Two towers
add the finishing touches to the facade, one topped by a Flamboyant-Gothic spire
and the other by a Gothic-Renaissance dome. In the interior we find the choir,
set in the center of the main nave with magnificent carved choir stalls; the
main chapel and the splendid Late Gothic high altar; the ambulatory, a model for
other churches; the spectacular Baroque Transparente sculpture behind the high
altar; and numerous smaller chapels, such as the Corpus Christi chapel, where
they still celebrate mass according to ancient Mozarab rites; the chapels of San
Iidefonso, Santiago and Reyes Nuevos, to mention a few. The Cathedral museum
houses various paintings by Raphael, Rubens, Velazquez, Goya, Titian and others,
in addition to one of the greatest paintings by EI Greco, EI Expolio (The
Disrobing of Christ), as well as other works by the artist. Visitors can also
see a collection of inimitable miniature codices, clerical vestments, and the
Cathedral treasure which includes the famous processional monstrance by Arfe,
a huge piece of precious metalwork decorated with 260 images
and made of silver bathed in gold by Enrique de Arfe between 1517 and 1524. The
treasure, at 2.5 metres high and weighing more than 160 kilos, takes the leading
role in the procession of the Most Holy Corpus Christi, a
festival declared of International Tourist Interest.
Leaving the Cathedral, we find ourselves in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento, and almost directly in front, we see the Archbishop's palace, an austere Renaissance building. To the left is the
Ayuntamiento9 or Town Hall, also Renaissance in style, begun by Herrera
in 1575 and finished off by Jorge Manuel Theotocopoulos, son of EI Greco, with two corner towers with Baroque spires.
Towards our left is Calle Santa Isabel which takes us to
Santa Isabel de los Reyes10, a cloistered convent founded in
1477 by Doña María Suárez de Toledo. The church is usually open all year round, making it convenient to visit and to admire the main altarpiece.
The convent also includes the Church of San Antolin and the palaces of Toledo and Ayala which preserve an interesting Gothic
Mudejar doorway with Caliphal influences from the era of the Cartholic Monarchs,
1500. Next to the convent, we find the palace of the king Don Pedro, a private home with huge wooden doors incrusted with wrought iron spheres, as well as the palace of Suer Tellez of Meneses, now a seminary.
In the nearby Plaza de San Andres is the
Church of San Andres11, one of the most interesting structures in Toledo,
since it brings together elements from different periods. Its main body, from the 12th or 13th century, is Mudejar and the sanctuary is Late Gothic. It has both Visigothic and Moorish elements, as well as a lovely altarpiece. It is microcosm of the diversity in the city.
Retracing our steps towards the apse of the Church of Santa Isabel, we now descend by the steep Calle Sola until we reach the Carrera de San Sebastian where the Church of San Sebastian stands. Although presently closed, it preserves the architectural structure of the mosque it once was.
Proceeding a little
further, we detour on the Paseo de la Incurnia and come to the banks of the
river Tajo. Going upstream, we can stroll along a path where we occasionally spot a fisherman.
Straight ahead is the Casa del Diamantista (Diamond Merchant's House), one of the most typical houses in Toledo, now a School of Arts and Crafts. We now go right up the Calle Bajada del Barco until we reach the Carrera de San Sebastian again, opposite the Late Gothic convent of San Pablo.
Proceeding on the same street of Carrera de San Sebastian for a short while, we come to
San Lucas12, a group of buildings of uncertain age, but it is
considered to be the oldest Mozarabic parish church in Toledo, although today it
offers a combination of styles from different periods. Its great plasticity and beauty, the graceful Mudejar tower, and various Gothic paintings merit our attention.
Going up Calle de San Lucas and Calle de San Juan de la Penitencia while enjoying a view of the city, we come to an ancient Franciscan convent. A little further along on the left, we can see the doorway of the school for poor young maidens of San Juan de la Penitencia, the only vestige remaining of the original Isabelline Gothic building, presently used as the headquarters of the Ortega and Gasset Foundation. A little further ahead on the same street and then to the left, we come out at the Plaza de San Justo and the Church of San Justo. Mainly Baroque in style, the church was originally Mudejar, the style preserved by the apse and the lovely chapel of Corpus Christi.
Through the plaza we continue on the Calle Sixto Ramon Parro until we reach the walls of the Cathedral and, to the right, we find ourselves before the
Posada de la Hermandad13 (Calle Hermandad. 6. Tel:925 214150.
Exhibit room open: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to S p.m. Closed Sunday and Monday). The building was constructed during the reign of the Catholic Monarchs, whose matrimony produced the union of Castile and Aragon and the birth of the kingdom of Spain at the end of the 15th century.
The posada or inn served as both a prison and the headquarters of the Santa
Hermandad (Holy Brotherhood), a medieval association of cattle-breeders
organised to protect themselves against thieves and bandits roaming the country. The jails, courtyards and meeting room have been preserved. It presently houses the City museum.
Continuing on up the same street and crossing the Plaza Mayor, with the Rojas Theater to our right, we arrive at Calle de
las Tornerias, anda little further on the left, we find the mezquita de las Tornerías14
(Calle de las Tornerías. 21. Tel: 925 253254. Open: 10a.m. to 2p.m. and 5
to 8p.m). The ground floor displays part of a Roman castellum aquae, an ancient
water supply system, and the upper floor, the remains of a mosque. Four
centrally placed columns separate and support the nine small vaults. It is
uncertain whether it was built prior to the conquest of the city by Alfonso VI.
Presently, it is used as the Promotional Center for Handicrafts from Castilla-La
Mancha, a place where monographic exhibits are held.
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