Holy Toledo!

What a view!

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Toledo is located about an hour’s drive south of Madrid.  The city is situated on a hill, surrounded on three sides by the Tajo River, and a long rampart on the fourth.  It’s widely acknowledged as Spain’s religious capital due to its cultural diversity and (partial) history of tolerance between people of different faiths – some consider it a second Jerusalem, or a “Jerusalem of the west” – hence, “Holy Toledo.”  Over its history, the city changed hands many times; nevertheless, it remained home to Jewish, Muslim, and Christian populations, and served as the capital of Spain until the middle of the 16th century.

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The whole gang!

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13537678_10206891481540672_1540973142407139147_nThe cathedral was both enormous and full of detail.  It took over 250 years to build (for some perspective, that’s longer than the United States has existed), so you can imagine the complications of hiring a single contractor.  As a result, the architecture is a mix of styles, primarily Gothic.  The photo below shows seats in the choir, which have chronological carvings depicting the Christian Reconquista, as the towns around Granada were reconquered. “Holy war” is a bit of a contradiction, but they didn’t ask for my opinion, so you’ll just have to read it here.

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13528761_10206891486620799_526828932368968075_nThe synagoga de Santa María Blanca has an interesting blend of cultures.  The Moorish architecture makes it look like a mosque, but it never was.  Originally, it was a Jewish synagogue; after the onset of the Inquisition, it was converted to a church (notice the Latin cross above the main arch).  Nearby the synagoga we found Santo Tomé, a chapel containing The Burial of the Count of Orgaz, one of El Greco’s masterpieces.  “The Greek” was a painter who lived and worked in Toledo for many years, so named because people had difficulty pronouncing his full name, Doménikos Theotokópoulos (can’t really blame ’em).  The subject of the painting, Count Don Gonzalo Ruiz, is buried beneath the chapel.

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