On our last full day in Spain we went on a tour of Toledo, which is a short bus ride from Madrid. Our tour included almost all the travelers (~dozen) who were also on the Viking extension with us in Madrid. An early stop was at a scenic overlook of the old city, located on a hill that’s partially encircled by the Tagus river. We would also see this river during the next two days as the Tagus flows into the Atlantic at Lisbon.
During our walking tour of the city, our guide frequently pointed out the Moorish influences on the architecture and design of the city’s walls, buildings, and some of the churches:
One of the notable buildings was an ancient former synagogue. Ferdinand and Isabel expelled the Jews from Spain during their reign, and synagogues were often repurposed as churches (if they weren’t destroyed). There is Aramaic writing that can still be seen along the top edge of the building, lingering centuries after the building was last used for Jewish worship.
Toledo has been famous for its metal working since 500 BCE, including providing weapons for Roman legions and the creation of intricate Damascene works. Part of our tour included a stop at a metal working shop where the company’s products were for sale and we could see some of their craftsmen at work:
Toledo Cathedral is the amazing centerpiece of the city. The archbishop of Toledo also serves as Primate of Spain, the head of the church in Spain. Toledo is also the center of religious education in a country that only disestablished Catholicism as the state religion in 1978. This is the front entrance of the Cathedral, which is only opened for special ceremonies and events:
One thing that became clear in a visit to this cathedral is that the Counter Reformation’s giving permission to more elaborate works of art was fully embraced, and that the flood of gold and silver from Spain’s American colonies flowed freely to the churches as well.
We had to be careful to avoid neck strain when looking up at all the ceiling paintings in the cathedral and the many, many side chapels:
The cathedral is rich with the paintings of well-known artists including Bellini, Carravagio, and hometown artist El Greco:
One of the side chapels is the Chapel of the new Monarchs, which could be a destination in its own right, but is just another minor stop on this eye-popping tour:
I think that this video might help to convey the scale and grandeur of the cathedral’s interior:
One of the most impressive side chapels is The Chapterhouse with its gilded, coffered ceiling, its frescoes wrapped around the entire room, and the portraits of all the archbishops from Saint Eugene to the present. (The more recent portraits look more like photographs!)
There was more to our tour of Toledo than I’ve shared above, including shops and bakeries featuring local almonds and marzipan, beautiful ancient bridges, gorgeous synagogues that have returned to Toledo, the El Greco museum, and even more treasures within the Cathedral.
I’ll leave you with this Instagram-worthy framing of the Cathedral’s spire:
Next up: On to Lisbon!