Declared a World Heritage Site in 1986, Toledo is a dynamic, cultural city. Combining Christian, Jewish and Arabic influences, Toledo is home to beautiful art, buildings, and atmosphere. Together, the three cultures lived in harmony during the middle-ages and each left a distinct print on this historic city. A mere hour drive from Madrid, it also serves a part in Cervantes “Don Quijote”, a national point of pride for the Spanish. There are five “doors” leading into the city used in the middle ages when the wall that encompasses city was used for protection that still stand. Being a Monday, and a holiday of some kind (the Spanish love their holidays) many things were closed, but we began to explore.
We headed first to the Jewish sector of the city and visited Santa Maria la Blanca Synagogue. This was built somewhere around the 11th century, and in the 15th century it was converted into a church, as all other religions were expelled from Spain. I’ve personally never entered a synagogue, so that was a new experience in itself. The synagogue now holds many paintings.
Continuing on, we found ourselves at the San Juan de los Reyes Monastery, which is a completely magnificent gothic style building. It has a garden in the center with many sculptures of saints, all different, around the hall surrounding the garden. Inside the church area is an incredible alter and ornate decoration.
Perhaps my favorite part was the painting “El Entierro Del Senor de Orgaz” by El Greco at the Iglesia de Santo Tomé. Completed in 1586, this is widely considered his best work, and I can understand why. I was completely mesmerized by this painting. It depicts a funeral. Two men hold the deceased, and other men watch. Above them are angels and heavenly things. Somehow the earthly and the heavenly beings are brought together, and it is beautiful. I’ve never been moved by a painting or a work of art before, but this impacted me deeply. I wanted to cry and smile and pray all at the same time, but mostly I wanted to look at it for hours.
We finished with the Santa Cruz Museum, which held works of art from century VIII before Christ. It had many beautiful paintings, sculptures, tapestries and a large exhibition of Spanish tiles from the 15th century, showing the different styles from the different regions of Spain and Portugal.
Overall, my afternoon in Toledo was my favorite day thusfar in my travels. The quaint town and relaxed atmosphere was exactly what I was hoping to find, and what I expected to find in Spain. I really hope that I will be able to return this semester. There are so many things that I still want to do, so many nooks and crannies of this medieval city that I still need to explore!