Toledo, Spain

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This article is about the city in Spain named Toledo. For the most populous city in the United States named Toledo, see Toledo, Ohio. For other uses, see Toledo (disambiguation).

The façade of Toledo cathedral
The façade of Toledo cathedral

Toledo is a city located in central Spain, the capital of the province of Toledo and of the autonomous community of Castile-La Mancha. As of 1991, Toledo, Spain has a population of 63,561.


Toledo was originally a Roman Empire outpost under the name Toletum. It later served as the capital city of Visigothic Spain, beginning with Liuvigild (Leovigild), and was the capital until the Moors conquered Iberia in the 8th century. Under the Caliphate of Cordoba, Toledo enjoyed a golden age. Under Arab rule, Toledo was called Tolah itelah (Arabic طليطلة, academically transliterated Ṭulayṭulah).

On May 25, 1085 Alfonso VI of Castile took Toledo and established direct personal control over the Moorish city from which he had been exacting tribute. This was the first concrete step taken by the combined kingdom of Leon-Castile in the Reconquista by Christian forces.

Toledo was famed for its production of steel and especially of swords and the city is still a center for the manufacture of knives and other steel implements. When Philip II moved the royal court from Toledo to Madrid in 1561, the old city went into a slow decline from which it never recovered.

Arts and culture

Cervantes described Toledo as a "rocky gravity, glory of Spain, and light of her cities." The old city is located on a mountaintop, surrounded on three sides by a bend in the Tagus River, and contains many historical sites, including the Alcázar, the cathedral (the primate church of Spain), and the Zocodover, a central marketplace.

From the 5th century to the 16th century about thirty synods were held at Toledo. The earliest, directed against Priscillian, assembled in 400. At the synod of 589 the Visigoth King Reccared declared his conversion from Arianism; the synod of 633, guided by the encyclopedist Isidore of Seville, decreed uniformity of liturgy throughout the Visigothic kingdom and took stringent measures against baptized Jews who had relapsed into their former faith. The council of 681 assured to the archbishop of Toledo the primacy of Spain.

As nearly one hundred early canons of Toledo found a place in the Decretum Gratiani, they exerted an important influence on the development of ecclesiastical law. The synod of 15651566 concerned itself with the execution of the decrees of the Council of Trent; and the last council held at Toledo, 15821583, was guided in detail by Philip II.

Toledo was famed for religious tolerance and had large communities of Jews and Muslims until they were expelled from Spain in 1492; the city therefore has important religious monuments like the Synagogue of Santa Maria la Blanca, the Synagogue of El Transito, and the Mosque of Cristo de la Luz.

In the 13th century Toledo was a major cultural center under the guidance of Alphonso X, called "El Sabio" ("the Wise") for his love of learning. The Toledo school of translators rendered available great academic and philosophical works in Arabic and Hebrew by translating them into Latin, bringing vast stores of knowledge to Europe for the first time.

The cathedral of Toledo (Catedral de Toledo) was modeled after the Bourges Cathedral though it also combines some characteristics of the Mudéjar style. It is remarkable for its incorporation of light and features the Baroque altar called El Transparente, several stories high, with fantastic figures of stucco, painting, bronze castings, and multiple colors of marble, a masterpiece of medieval mixed media by Narciso Tomei topped by the daily effect for just a few minutes of a shaft of sunlight striking it through a similarly ornamented hole in the roof. The effect gives the impression that the whole altar is rising to heaven. It is from the play of light that this feature of the cathedral derives its name.

Toledo was home to El Greco for the latter part of his life, and is the subject of some of his most famous paintings, including The Burial of the Count of Orgaz, exhibited in the Church of Santo Tomé.

Additionally, the city was renowned throughout the middle ages and into the present day as an important center for the production of swords and other bladed instruments.

See also: Spain, Iberian Peninsula

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