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Link to More Photos of Toledo Cathedral


The West Front of Toledo Cathedral - seat of the Catholic Church in Spain.  Other sorts of seats, in the choir, have interesting misericords including several showing male / female juxtapositions.  Then there are all the el Grecos etc that we were not allowed to photograph (actually the rule is that you cannot photograph anything anywhere, and the cathedral staff energetically enforce this).






Toledo was the Visigoth capital of Spain from 589 to the Muslim conquest in 711, and then remained an important centre in Muslim Spain.  In  the early decades of the second millennium, as two centuries of Crusades got underway, it was the major Jewish  city of Europe, its population swelled by financial (tax) pressures which eventually led to the expulsions of Jews from France (1181) and England (1290).   


Link to Al-Andalus Chronology  711 - c1232 - 1492


Link to Scholarship and Discovery in Medieval Spain


King Alfonso VI conquered Toledo in 1085, and for the next two hundred years it became the intellectual capital of Christian Europe.


The Toledo School of Translators, brought together by a Christian Jew who was the Archdeacon of Segovia,  got stuck into everything it could lay its hands on .... from Aristotle to the huge body of scientific, medical, geographic, engineering, and other knowledge built up by Arab and other Muslim scholars.  Works were translated into understandable Euro-speak, Arabic and Hebrew by multicultural teams of Arab, Christian and Jewish scholars working together.  The importance of these endeavours for Western Europe cannot be underestimated and is difficult to comprehend in this age of information availability - it was indeed the first medieval time that most of the works had been available to anyone at all outside the Muslim world.


The 4th Lateran Council (12th Ecumenical Council) in 1215, the most important Church Council of the Middle Ages and Innocent III's swan song, inter alia set down a mandatory code of dress / badges for Jews and Moslems (to ensure that there was no "damnable mixing") - a rule which the Spanish refused to implement despite direct orders from successive Popes.   As Chris Lowney writes in his excellent book "A Vanished World", " (King) Fernando's (Fernando III - "The Saint") motives for refusing to adorn the Jews with humiliating badges were plainly self serving.  No lofty human rights rhetoric elevates his correspondence with Papal authorities, nor does he protest that stigmatized dress would fundamentally demean the Jews.  The monarch's brand of religious tolerance features no paean to cultural diversity and issues no idyllic appeal for interfaith dialogue.  Indeed, one senses that he might willingly enough have subjected Jews to the humiliation had he been certain of preserving their tax revenues and commercial savvy."


It was also in Toledo that Fernando's son King Alfonso X ("el Sabio") (1221 - 1252 - 1284 (63)) got the top 50 leading lights of astronomy together to produce the Alfonsine tables.  These were a revision and improvement of the ancient Ptolemaic tables tabulating the positions and movements of the planets.  The work was completed c.1252 but not printed (in Venice) until 1483.


Sadly and depressingly predictably, religious prejudice and tensions eventually brought these bright sources of multicultural light to an end as Jews and Muslims were eventually expelled and killed.


Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes


The Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes, flamboyant gothic masterpiece founded by the Christian Monarchs Isabella and Ferdinand ("Los Reyes Cathólicos") to commemorate the battle of Toro in 1476, which consolidated their power.  This was where they planned on being buried before they captured Granada in January 1492 and got a better tomb idea.


More photos of the Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes




More Photos of the prayer hall of the Sinagoga del Tránsito


La Sinagoga del Tránsito, Toledan Mudéjar masterpiece completed in the 1360s.  Nowadays the main destination for the "Jewish leg" of the day trips from Madrid, though Santa Maria la Blanca (right) is a much more attractive and less touristed place.


More Photos of Santa Maria la Blanca


Now called Santa Maria la Blanca, this was probably the main Toledo Synagogue in this, the biggest Jewish City of Europe.  The space also belonged to the all too short lived age of sharing, when it would be used for Muslim services on Friday, Jewish ones on Saturday and Christian ones on Sunday.


Mudéjar Church of San Roman


Horseshoe arches in the church of San Roman, an outstandingly beautiful Mudéjar nave space which doubles as a museum of Visigothic stuff, and is right off the "race round Toledo in half a day" coach trip circuit from Madrid.  It's not generally appreciated that the horseshoe arch, now synonymous with Islamic architecture, was actually an invention of the Visigoths in Spain some time before the Berbers and Arabs arrived in 711.



The hospital of Santa Cruz, now a museum




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