El Greco and Toledo

Left the small town on Consuegra in bright sunshine and with empty highways. After a tour of the town walls that we did not want to take, my navigator located our hotel. We were there early and the room was not ready. Stored our bags and placed the car in its concrete bunker for the next two nights. We then set out to explore Toledo

As an easily fortified hill on the bend in a river, it has been important to whom ever controlled Spain be it Roman, Visigoth, Moor or Christian. It was the royal center of Spain until the time of Philipp II who relocated to Madrid leaving Toledo to slumber until rediscovered by 19th Century Romantics at the same time as Granada. It took almost another century to rediscover its greatest painter, El Greco.

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We are entering the city through the Bisagra Gate. You get the picture. We then proceeded to climb the hill to Zocodover Plaza where the city temporarily levels out. Peggy finally got her marzipan but I refused to buy the marzipan recreation of a museum.

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Down from the marzipan monument lies an old orphanage, the Santa Cruz Museum. Besides the medieval collection, the big star is the local guy. Well not quite local. El Greco came from Crete via Italy looking to make his fame and fortune as a painter for Philipp II who had lots of barren walls to fill in El Escorial. He did one and was through. Far too innovative for the arch conservative. In reality, he was around three hundred years ahead of his time.

In art history we usually give him short shrift as an extension of Michelangelo and Mannerism. While his work with the exaggerated human dimensions certainly qualify him, he is far more. If he and Picasso are in heaven right now, I Imagine that the two of them are best buds. His work packs more emotive force and creativity that a pack of Baroque hacks.

Enough opinion. We refrained from taking pictures. They were great and don’t need any damage from our flash. Quite a few are missing being on tour in Osaka and Tokyo right now. All will be home in 2014 when the 400th anniversary of his death is remembered. Still, what we found here was enough to get us started.

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Found our way to a local bar for a bocatillo and small beer. People are very expressive in very loud voices. It was fun to observe. Could barely finish our sandwiches.

Moved on to Santo Tome church where this guy, Count Orgaz, is buried under El Greco’s masterpiece, The Buriel Of Count Orgaz. Since the Count had passed on 2 1/2 centuries before, El Greco pulled out all of the stops to recreate the scene. You will have to Google it but trust me, no electronic image will compare with the real thing.

Down into the Jewish Quarter we trod. These quarters have been free of Hebrews since 1500 but some of the structures remain. The best surviving synagogue in Spain is found in Toledo. It was constructed largely by Mudejar or Moorish craftsmen who had decided to stay in Spain under Christian rulers. The place had the royal OK and flourished until the pograms of the late 14th century and the Jewish total exile by 1500. Today it serves as the Spanish national Jewish museum.

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The Old Jewish Quarter lies on the lower edge of town where I am standing. Another picture is taken looking back uptown towards the Christian section of town. Located in this vicinity is the Greco Museo in a building like the one where El Greco had his home and studio.

Despite not making the king happy, El Greco found plenty of work painting primarily for religious orders and creating noble portraits. He was considered too sketchy by most churches. In this little museum is a wonderful collection of his portraits of Jesus and the Apostles. The best I have ever seen. There too we found gaps with the little sign saying Sayonara until 2014.

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These pictures were from the museum and the area. We had planned to tackle the blockbuster cathedral late in the day, but we were pooped. Had a gelato and hoofed it over Toledo one more time. Made it to the hotel and crashed. Now it is almost 8 and we will soon head out for a bite to eat on our Spanish eating schedule.

The cathedral is the main event tomorrow with a little window shopping. Tomorrow will be our last full day in Spain before returning on foot in a month or so. It has been great.

5 thoughts on “El Greco and Toledo

  1. Have enjoyed my time in Spain with you! Will you still be able to send messages when you start on the trail? Just got a call from Jenifer and she is coming up on the 19th for the weekend. It will be good to see her and have some one other then just the cat to talk to!

  2. Your wanderings in Spain have been very interesting for this vicarious traveler. Thanks so much for taking the time to do this!

  3. ….and twenty years from now look back in awe….”Mark, did we really traipse all through Spain?”

    Catching up today. Would you believe there are still places in remote Australia where one can’t find internet service.

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