Toledo survives on tourism. It certainly has the reasons for a tourist to visit. The streets are clean and folks are friendly. The sights are amazing. It summarizes 2000 years of Spanish history for the visitor in compelling and real experiences. It also shares the gimmickry we try to unsuccessfully avoid when traveling.
I will deal with the silly first before dealing with the sublime.
Toledo is famous for its marzipan and its steel. Other than the displays of marzipan monuments, the many venders were under control. The steel merchants sell an amazing assortment of knives, swords, hatchets, suits of armoire, etc. that could only be matched by one city in our experience, Gatlinburg Tennessee. Until our visit to Toledo, I had never seen so many implements of mayhem in one place. Of course in one way Gatlinburg out did Toledo. Only in Gatlinburg can you find t-shirts with Jesus carrying an AR-15 emblazoned with “What Gun Would Jesus Use?”
On these pictures I rest my case that excessive tackiness is not restricted to Americans?
OK, got that out of my system. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy has been also big for business.
Waiting for the Cathedral to open, we had the chance to explore a few more places like an excavated Roman bath. I am sure that any digging in Toledo reveals a Roman foundation. Saw no backhoes.
In a tiny corner of my memory is the story of the Visigothic invasion of Spain. Little did I realize that these guys were conquered by the Moors but never left. With Papal permission, they still perform the Visigoth mass in the Cathedral. Also surviving as a museum is a church with Visigoth roots. It has been modified by Muslims and later Catholics but its origins are clear. It also had a thousand year old bell tower. Peggy was happy.
The main event for the day was a visit to the Toledo Cathedral. I need to preface this with a comment. Peggy and I have been in a bunch of cathedrals, churches, basilicas all over Europe. They are almost always interesting and usually feature one or two unique elements. The Toledo Cathedral entertains, inspires and overwhelms with all the elements of artistic and religious expression in one sublime container.
The exterior, jammed into the crowded area of medieval Toledo is tough to grasp. It has the requisite gothic statuary and spires. The magic is inside.
The church not only reflects Spanish Christian heritage, it manages to illustrate the last 800 years or so of Spanish history. The high altar is massive and covered in gold. I found the choir far more interesting.
The carved seat backs document the Reconquista with Illustrations of the taking of Moorish cities one by one with Granada as the last. The cute and profane carvings are from the tiny seats that allow you to rest your backside while standing during a long service. They could be humorous since the sacred was never covered with a rear end.
The chapter house, where the staff met, contains elaborate decorations and a wonderful Last Judgement that details the sins of the losers on judgement day.
In the 18th Century, they decided to open a hole in the ceiling to let in more light for Mass. The result was extraordinary. I have marveled at Bernini’s Agony of St. Teresa. This almost matches it. Our camera tried but really could not capture much. At least the baby cherub holding up the heavens and the archangel holding the fish were pretty close.
El Greco was there and I managed to get a few of the Apostle portraits I saw at close range yesterday. Unfortunately, the Sacristy was closed for renovation.
Since we are a couple days away from the start of our pilgrimage, it was nice to see St. James in his full Santiago, the Moorslayer pose. Notice the scallop shells.
Managed to find a great Grad Night prop. Do not think it would fit in the airplane overhead?
The treasury includes a 450 pound monstrance made of gold and silver. Magnificent but a tiny bit in excess through my Protestant eyes. Also admired the gift from Marshall Petain, the French Benedict Arnold, to a Cardinal and the modest glass gift from Toledo, Ohio.
Oh yes, five hundred year old stained glass is in abundance.
If I was to recommend spending time in one historic cathedral, this would be it. We enjoyed ourselves for two hours and could have spent more time if the legs could have handled it.
Tomorrow is a travel day. We will be back I’m Spain in a month or so.