Toledo is a beautiful city perched on a bluff above two rivers. It has been settled since pre-Roman times. It is a great city to defend if you are of a military mind and has been besieged three times in its history. The last time was during the Spanish civil war in 1936.
Today it bills itself as the city of three cultures because during the early middle ages it was a multi-cultural city with thriving Christian, Moslem, and Jewish populations. This lasted a couple of hundred years until the Inquisition came along and the non-Christians either converted or moved on.
Today one of the mosques and two of the synagogues have been restored and are available to tour. So today we hit full tourist mode visiting seven historical sites and the cathedral. The only problem with our plan is that it involved a whole lot of walking and in Toledo the walking is either straight up hill or straight down hill. My Fitbit told us at the end of the day we had climbed the equivalent of 86 staircases and covered over 11 miles, so we are both a little sluggish as we prepare the entry for today.
Our first stop for the day was a converted mosque. It was interesting because it was a neighborhood mosque dedicated to serve the population surrounding it and not the great mosque of the city. It was relatively small and for us an interesting contrast to all of the great mosques and cathedrals we tend to visit.
Ton really wanted to visit the Alcazar for the city so unusually for us we sprung for the entrance fee. A castle has been on the site since Roman times as it is the highest point in the city and commands the countryside for miles. In recent history it has been an armory for production of artillery, and the infantry school for the Spanish army. Today it is a museum dedicated to the history of the Spanish army going back to the late 1600’s. For me it was pretty fascinating, but after a while I even became a little overwhelmed looking at the arms and uniforms of Spain for the past 400 years.
It turns out the building was extensively destroyed during the civil war, when the local Nationalist forces (Franco’s army) held the building against the Republican forces for a couple of months until they were finally relieved by Franco in one of the first victories of the civil war. The most interesting exhibit was one that showed the office of the commander partly destroyed and with stray bullet holes. My guess is that it is more of a dramatic recreation than an accurate representation, but portrayed the extent of the damage the building received.
After a slow menu of the day lunch to recuperate from the morning walk. We set off to finish our tour of the city stopping first at a city church that played the same role as the mosque we had visited earlier, not a grand building but a neighborhood church. It was pretty inside.
We than visited the Jesuit church in town, and the Church of Santo Tome, which had an archeological dig going on in the back. The next stop was the prettiest of the afternoon. It was a Franciscan monastery that also had royal rooms in it. The church was ok, but the monastery and gardens were very beautiful.
Our last stop in the afternoon was at the restored Sinagogue of Santa Maria la Blanca. It started as a synagogue paid for by the Christian King of Castille around 1180. He commissioned Moslem architects to build it, so it has the feel of a mosque. In 1391 during the inquisition it was converted to a Christian church. Today it is owned by the Catholic church which explains why a synagogue is named after a catholic saint. Of the buildings we visited the synagogue while simple had an elegance that we both appreciated.
At that point we had one more building we could visit with our wrist band, but it was 350 meters (yards for our American friends) uphill from where we were, and if we walked the other way we could walk down hill to the bridge we needed to take to go back to the campground. When I presented Ton with the options, she did not hesitate to pick the bridge to the campground so our day in Toledo ended.