Last stage on our homebound trip was Toledo. The photos have to start with the cathedral. All on the outside :-(, as there are too many plain-clothes busybodies inside enforcing the ban on photography


No Entry!

Closed Door

More promising, but still closed!

Closed too

You can't get in from the Plaza Mayor, either

North Facade

Everywhere you go in the City (here, near the Alcázar), the spire looms.

Narrow Alley

Even here, from the tower of the Jesuit church (San Ildefonso).



The Mezquita del Cristo de la Luz was a Visigothic church, then a Mosque, then a Church again. The Nave is authentic Arab.


The apse (some consider it the earliest example of Mudéjar art) was added after the Reconquista arrived in 1085.



This is the back of the Puerta del Sol, seen from the Mosque. In the background, you can see the Puerta Nueva del Bisagra.

Puerta del Sol 1

Here is is the inside face of the new Bisagra gate (enlarged by Carlos V, who else?), and the apse of Santiago del Arrabal.

Bisagra 1

And here the business end of the gate, somewhat less fearsome because of the traffic friendly gaps in the ramparts on each side.

Bisagra 2
And here, coming back from the Hospital de Tavera, is the front face of the Puerta del Sol.
Puerta del Sol 2

Lastly, here is the New Bisagra, as seen from the blacony of our hotel room. The church on the right hand side of the two green towers is Santiago again.

Bisagra Zoom


Speaking of hotel, here is the entrance. It looks like a small house, as it probably originally was. Cigarrales were little country gentilhommières on the far side of the Tagus, to which the Toledo grandees could retreat to hide from the summer heat.

Hotel Entrance

This is what it looked like from the city. It is the pinky-red building in the centre.

Hotel Zoom

Hospital de Santa Cruz

This museum was recommended by our guidebook as having some superb El Grecos, though after the cathedral I was feeling slightly overfed. It does have a beautiful patio, and a staircase by Covarrubias.

Hospital de Santa Cruz, Covarrubias Staircase

Here is the patio, seen from the first floor arcade.

Hospital de Santa Cruz, Patio

And here is the obligatory mudéjar plaster work.

Hospital de Santa Cruz, Plaster

Hospital de Tavera

This hospital, now only operating as a museum, contains a fantastic double patio, designed by Covarrubias.

Hospital de Tavera 1

It's so good I took two shots.
Hospital de Tavera 2

It contains many interesting paintings, including the compulsory El Grecos. But no photos allowed inside :-(.

Santiago del Arrabal

This church is one of the high points of mudéjar art in the whole of Spain. There is a theory that the church, commissioned by king Sancho II of Portugal in the XIIIth Century, stands on the same ground as a former mosque. The bell-tower is free-standing, as is so common in Italian Romanesque churches, and this first shot shows how similar the whole building is to its contemporaries in France and Italy; and at the same time, how arches and windows have a different style of ornamentation.

Santiago 1

This shot shows the Western facade, where the mudéjar decoration is most remarkable.

Santiago 2

The interior is most definitely untypical for Spain. It is very plain. I liked it enormously, and was annoyed that there was the usual ban on cameras.

San Juan de los Reyes

This was the first church we saw when we entered Toledo. On the outside walls hang chains, which some say were worn by Christian prisoners in Granada prior to the surrender in 1492. It was originally a Francisan house, and has some impressive mudéjar ceilings in its cloister:

San Juan 1

Although the style of ceiling décor is mudéjar, the propaganda is bang up to date. The house's founders were Ferdinand and Isabella, and their arms are united in the patterns here. Also their motto "Tanto monta, monta tanto", one half of which is carved into each side of the arches on this level. The complex was designed by a Breton architect, Juan Guas, born in San Pol de Léon. This is the ornate cloister, seen from the upper storey. You can see that it was raining quite hard from the waterfalls in the right foreground:

San Juan 2

Here the ornate stonework around the top of the cloister:

San Juan 3

Even here, in this temple of Isabelline Gothic, a leftover piece of mudéjar ceramic

San Juan Ceramic

The body of the church was pure flamboyant
San Juan Altar

Here are the combined arms of Ferdinand and Isabella, who had been expecting to be buried here until the capture of Granada.

San Juan Arms

And here a detail of the capitals at the intersection of the nave and transepts.

San Juan Capital


This was my opportunity to do with a camera what El Greco had done with a paintbrush, and I wasn't going to miss out.

Here the Toledo skyline from our hotel window, much as EG would have seen it, apart from the cranes.

Toledo from hotel

The church floodlit in the right foreground - I took this shot down by St Martin's bridge - is San Juan de los Reyes. The building to the left, above the statue, is the seat of the Provincial government.

Toledo from roadside

This is the St Martin bridge, with what I hope are suitably Grecoesque limelight and threatening sky

Toledo St Martin Bridge

We drove up into the hills near the Parador - there was a compulsory detour - to get this picture, with St Luke floodlit in the centre foreground, the cathedral and the Alcázar in the middle ground.

Toledo from Parador

The Alcántara bridge has been here since Roman times.
Toledo Alcántara Bridge
The castle here is now an hotel - Castillo San Servando
Toledo San Servando
Lastly, here is an early morning view of the city from our room
Toledo from hotel 2

San Lucas

A pleasant Romanesque church, down by the ramparts.

Toledo S Luke

Santa María La Blanca

This an oddly named synagogue! The history is that it was built, in the Almohad style, as the Ibn Shushan Synagogue. It became a church in the early 15th Century. It is therefore one of the three remaining medieval synagogues from the time of mutual tolerance. Outside, it is nothing much to look at. Inside the horseshoe arches have capitals showing pine cones and other strange fruit.

Toledo - Pine Capitals
As Islamic as the decoration looks, there are still specifically Judaic motifs, such as the star of David in this moulding
S Maria LA Blanca 2

Street Scenes

The first half-timbered house we had seen in Spain. The bust is that of Marañon, whose essays I for some reason remember from school.
Half-timbered house
This is the facade of St Leocadia's church. I had heard of people being called Leocadie in France, but only in novels. Apparently, Saint Leocadia was a local girl, martyred under Diocletian, at the beginning of the 4th Century. As early as the beginning of the Seventh century, she had a church in Toledo.
S Leocadia
Many of the streets in the centre of Toledo are too narrow and too stepped for any but pedestrian traffic.
Street with steps
Even the ones wide enough for cars often have no pavement. Quite difficult to walk safely along the Calle Nuñez de Arce which was once lined with grand houses.
Houses that have seen better days; here beside what I think - the rain washed my street map of Toledo to pieces - is Saint Nicholas' church
. Mansion
This was the prison of the Highway Patrol, back under Ferdinand and Isabella. When this organisation was abolished in the 18th Century, the building became the kind of inn where you could stay.
The town hall (no doubt restored after the civil war) is much more modern
Plaza Mayor

El Tránsito (Spanish for the Dormition of the Virgin)

This is the third of the medieval synagogues still existing in Spain. It was built around the middle of the 14th century by Pedro the Cruel's treasurer. That was a dangerous job - after "losing favour" with the king, he died in prison. Probably fell down the steps. After the expulsion, the building became a religious hospital, then a church. It became a national monument in 1877, and is now the museum of Sephardic Culture. The roof is beautiful polychrome woodwork:
Transito 1
The walls are covered with Nasrid style plaster work. You have to look hard to tell whether you are in a church, a mosque, or a synagogue.
Transito 2

Visigothic Museum

Amid all the hoop-la about the Moors, the Jews, and the reconqistadores, the Visigoths are rather marginalised by Spanish museums. This is less the case in Toledo, where the 13th century mudéjar church of San Román houses an exhibition of grave goods from the 6th to 8th centuries
Visigoth treasures from the Carpio de Tajo necropolis, 1
Visigoth treasures from the Carpio de Tajo necropolis, 2
Visigoth treasures from the Carpio de Tajo necropolis, 3
The quality of the metalwork seems less fine that the contemporary Lombard treasures at Cividale di Friuli, except perhaps for these (replica) crowns from the Guarrazar treasure.
Replica crown from Guarrazar
There is a cast of a Visigothic sarcophagus, too:
Visigoth sarcophagus
The church itself has many vestiges of its origins. The horseshoe arches
Toledo, San Roman, Horseshoe Arches
and frescoes, like this picture of the dead rising for the last judgement:
Last judgement
Always with the distinctly arabic shapes
Visigoth sarcophagus