Window Seat | Mrinal Chatterjee | 21.7.19

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Toledo

With a history stretching back to the Bronze Age, Toledo is one of Spain’s most diverse and engaging cities. It has a reputation as a centre of culture, learning and ethnicity. Before Madrid became the capital of Spain, Toledo was the most important city in Spain.

At its peak in the 11th century, the city was a haven of tolerance where Christians, Jews and Muslims all coexisted and shared their knowledge. This rich ethnic integration shaped the history of Toledo into the rich mosaic of Moorish, Jewish and Spanish heritage enjoyed today.

As the city’s power and influence faded into obscurity over the next two centuries, the city was very much left to its own devices. Fortunately, the magnificent architecture was not destroyed even when the Alcazar emerged as a symbol of fascist resistance during the Spanish Civil War.

Artists such as El Greco rediscovered Toledo’s beauty and helped it to rightfully return to the cultural map. In the mid-1980s, UNESCO decreed that the entire city had gained the title of World Heritage Site due to its wealth of preserved sites representing the diverse heritage that Toledo has experienced throughout its long history.

Toledo is now considered most representative of Spanish culture, and its historic centre was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1986. Its rocky site is traversed by narrow, winding streets, with steep gradients and rough surfaces, centring on the Plaza del Zocodover. Two bridges cross the Tagus: in the northeast is the bridge of Alcántara, at the foot of the medieval castle of San Servando, parts of which date from Roman and Moorish times; in the northwest is the bridge of San Martín, dating from the late 13th century. Parts of the walls of Toledo are of Visigothic origin, although most are Moorish or Christian. There are well-preserved gateways from various periods, including the Puerta Vieja de Bisagra (10th century), traditionally used by Alfonso VI in 1085.

Important buildings showing Islamic influence include the former mosques of Bib-al-Mardom (Cristo de la Luz; 10th century), with interesting cross vaulting, and of Las Toernerías; the synagogues of Santa María la Blanca (12th century) and El Tránsito (14th century; housing the Sephardic museum); and the Mudéjar churches of San Román, of Cristo de la Vega, of Santiago del Arrabal, and of Santo Tomé. The last has a fine tower and a chapel containing the painting Burial of the Conde de Orgaz by El Greco.

 

El Greco Museum

At Toledo we stayed at Hotel San Juan De Los Reyes, which is located opposite the Museum showcasing El Greco’s works, known as Museo del Greco and a stone’s throw away from the Cathedral. Established in 1924, the hotel was cosy and the staff very friendly.

We walked to the Museum and got free tickets as in Spain almost all museums offer free tickets to teachers on production of valid ID cards. This was the house from which El Greco worked, which had been converted into a museum. El Greco (1541-1614) was a Greek painter, sculptor and architect of the Spanish renaissance. His well-known paintings were there. So were other artifacts. The souvenir shop (almost all museums have them) was selling books on El Greco and stationaries with El Greco’s paintings. I bought a small mirror, which had a portion of his painting for my wife.  The cost: 4 euro, almost 240 in Indian rupee. I could have bought it in less than 50 rupee in Delhi’s Sarojini Market. But then, it would not have El Greco’s painting and the snob value of being purchased from the Museum itself.

 

Swords of Toledo

In Toledo almost all Souvenir Shops have plenty of swords and knives on display. I was intrigued by this and asked one shopkeeper. He smiled and said in broken English that it had been their tradition. I looked up in Encyclopedia Britannica. It says: Toledan steel and particularly swords have long been famous, being mentioned as early as the 1st century BCE in the Cynegetica of Grattius “Faliscus.” There is an important National Factory of Arms and workshops for damask and engraving, which produce metalwork decorated in the Mudéjar tradition.

Though the swords and knives on display looked kind of elegant, they were far too costly than my pocket could afford.

 

 

Tailpiece: New term added to English language

Word: “To be New Zealanded”

 

Example:

 

Father : What happened to your results?

 

Son: I have been NEWZEALANDED.

 

Father: What?!!!! What do you mean?

 

Son: Dad, Myself and another boy both scored exactly same marks. But, he was given 1st Rank, while I got 2nd.

 

Father: This is ridiculous. If marks are equal, then both should have been declared Joint 1st Rank Holders na? By the way, how come he got 1st Rank? On what basis?

 

Son: I checked that too. Principal said it was decided based on how many additional sheets were taken by us while writing the exams.  He had taken more than me. So…..

 

Father is still clueless and speechless.

(Courtesy: Social Media)

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