Toledo (city, Spain)

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Toledo (city, Spain)

Toledo, city (1990 pop. 60,671), capital of Toledo province, central Spain, in Castile–La Mancha, on a granite hill surrounded on three sides by a gorge of the Tagus River. Historically and culturally it is one of the most important cities of Spain. Tourism is its most important industry, and armaments and engraved metalwork are manufactured.

Landmarks and Institutions

The city's general aspect has changed little since El Greco painted his famous View of Toledo. Its chief landmark, the alcázar (fortified palace), was originally a Moorish structure, restored in the 13th cent. and transformed (1535, 1576) to serve as residence for Charles V and Philip II. It was largely destroyed (1936) in the Spanish civil war, when the Nationalists, with their women and children, shut themselves up inside and withstood a Loyalist siege for two months, until relieved by Franco's forces. After the war the fortress was again restored.

Toledo is surrounded by partly Moorish, partly Gothic walls and gates. Of Moorish origin also is the Alcántara bridge. The Gothic cathedral, begun in 1226, is one of the finest in Spain and houses El Greco's Espolio and other paintings by him in its lovely baroque chapels. Among the other many famous buildings are the Church of Santo Tomé, with El Greco's Burial of the Conde de Orgaz; the Church of Santa María la Blanca (12th–13th cent.; formerly a synagogue); the Convent of San Juan de los Reyes (15th cent.), with five Gothic cloisters; the Hospital of San Juan Bautista (15th–16th cent.), which has some paintings by El Greco; the former Tránsito synagogue, in Mudéjar style; and the Greco Museum.

History

Toledo is of pre-Roman origin; known in ancient times as Toletum, it fell to the Romans in 193 BC The city became an early archiepiscopal see; its archbishops are the primates of Spain. In the 6th cent. Toledo prospered as a capital of the Visigothic kingdom, and it was the scene of several important church councils. Its greatest prosperity began under Moorish rule (712–1085), first as the seat of an emir and after 1031 as the capital of an independent kingdom. Under the Moors and later under the kings of Castile, who made it their chief residence, Toledo was a center of the Moorish, Spanish, and Jewish cultures and thus a great center for translation (its School of Translators was revived in 1995). Toledo sword blades were famous for their strength, elasticity, and craftsmanship; the art was introduced by Moorish artisans, and it is still carried on. Other important products were silk and wool textiles.

In the 15th cent. Valladolid superseded Toledo as chief royal residence, but Emperor Charles V resided in Toledo during much of his reign (1516–56). Its decline began in the 16th cent., but at the same time Toledo gained importance as Spain's spiritual capital. The seat of the Grand Inquisitors, it was also the center of the mysticism symbolized by El Greco, whose name has become inseparable from that of Toledo.

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