Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Toledo, Spain

Toledo is one of the oldest cities in Spain. Protected by UNESCO, La Mancha's capital is situated on a hill overlooking the River Tagus, and is often referred to as the 'city of three cultures' because of the unique blend of Christian, Arabic and Jewish influences. The Roman's built a fortress on the site of the present day Alcázar, which can be seen on the brow of the hill in the picture above. The Visigoths made Toledo their capital in the 6th century AD and left behind several churches. In the Middle Ages, Toledo was a melting pot of Christian, Muslim and Jewish cultures, and it was during this period that the city's most outstanding monument - the cathedral - was built. In the 16th century the painter El Greco came to live in Toledo, and today the city is home to many of his works.
The Alcázar
Domenikos Theotocopoulos - El Greco - The Greek, born in Crete in 1541 came to Toledo in 1577. He was invited to paint the altarpiece for the convent of Santo Domingo el Antiguo, and was so enchanted by the city that he stayed until he died in 1614.
Portrait of El Greco seen in the painting below

The Burial of the Count of Orgaz - El Greco
It was a privilege to view this painting in Iglesia de Santo Tomé which has never been moved from the spot where El Greco painted it. Not only is the painting admired for its art but also because it is a gallery of portraits of the most eminent social figures of that time in Toledo. It is considered to be his greatest masterpiece.
The painting is clearly split into two zones - the celestial and the terrestrial. Saints Augustine and Stephen support the dead body of the count. The small boy at the left is El Greco's son, Jorge Manuel, and the artist himself can be recognised directly above the raised hand of one of the mourners - both El Greco and his son are the only people looking straight out of the painting.
The Madonna is a portrait of El Greco's wife - the clouds have parted to receive the Count of Orgaz into paradise, as Christ, clad in white, points to St. Peter who holds the keys to heaven.
Toledo Cathedral, once site of a Visigothic cathedral, and a mosque is one of the largest cathedrals in Christendom. The building of it spanned three centuries, which explains its mixture of styles; pure High Gothic complete with flying buttresses on the exterior and with Spanish decorative characteristics of the Mudéjar style in the interior. The cathedral is almost like an art gallery with a wealth of paintings by Titian, Velázquez, Anthony van Dyck, Goya, and 15 paintings by El Greco.
via wikipedia
In the Sacristy - El Greco's Denuding of Christ, situated above a marble altar, was painted especially for the cathedral.
The garden within the Cloister was made on what was once a Jewish market.
The High Altar Reredos - the polychrome reredos is one of the most beautiful in Spain and depicts scenes from Christ's life.
This is the altar piece in Santo Domingo el Antiguo Convent that initially brought El Greco to Toledo. The central picture of the Assumption of the Virgin is now in the Art Institute, Chicago, The Trinity at the top is in the Museo del Prado, Madrid, but the painting of St. John the Evangelist on the right and St. John the Baptist on the left are still the original works.
El Greco chose this convent to be his final resting place, and his tomb can be seen in the vaults. 
We bought these Yemas meaning yolks, which these marzipan sweets resemble in shape and colour. They were made by the nuns at the convent but we have yet to sample them. 

58 comments:

  1. A beautiful post ! You have been there ! You are so lucky , that you saw all these art paintings !This painting "The Burial of the Count of Orgaz" is a big painting 480X360 !I have readed about him and I saw the movie ! Thank you so much for sharing your lovely moments !Have a nice month !

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    1. Dear Olympia - so glad that you enjoyed seeing the painting of the Burial of the Count of Orgaz - it is a painting we wanted to see and was done, of course, by your Greek painter El Greco. As you mention it is a very large painting and only possible to see it in Toledo where he painted it.

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  2. Hi Rosemary, I like the way you talk about my country. Toledo is one of the most beautiful cities in Spain, I was there 20 years ago and I enjoyed a lot the trip. I hope you have also enjoyed it.

    Marina

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    1. Hello Marina - I am very pleased that you liked the way I presented the post on Toledo - a very beautiful city, and one where we only really scratched the surface. Our whole trip to Spain was pleasurable from beginning to end.

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  3. Welcome back, rosemary. The nature, grandeur of the cathedrals, details on the gates/doors, paintings... everything is so fascinating and marzipan sweets look the most tempting. Your photos made me feel like as if looking up at the ceiling or top of the architectures and feeling dazed.

    Yoko

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    1. Thank you Yoko - I was experimenting a little with my architectural shots in order to try and show the height and grandeur of the buildings - hope they did not make you feel too dazed - they made me feel vertiginous whilst taking them!!!

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  4. Hello Rosemary, Wonderful pictures of Toledo. I greatly admired the reredos; the white stone (or is that tile?) allows to be impressive without being overwhelming, which in the end makes it even more impressive.

    Those marzipan creations really do look like egg yolks!
    --Road to Parnassus

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    1. Dear Jim - it is white stone with the pointing gilded in gold. I understand that it was done when the reredos was restored recently, and there is a question mark hanging over whether or not it should have been done. Having only seen it looking this - I do like it.

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  5. So glad you had a great time. It looks wonderful and your photos are stunning. I love the history too. Have just spotted your other posts which I somehow missed over the last few days. Have a good week.
    Patricia x

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    1. Dear Patricia - hope all is going well for you with your essay writing. Toledo is a lovely ancient city and well worth a visit.

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  6. Hi Rosemary, thank you so much for the tour through Toledo. What a fascinating and beautiful city. I thought about visiting it when I was still living in Germany, but never got around to do it. What a pity! I am glad to catch some glimpses of it through your post. Oh, and the sweets look delicious. How did they taste?!
    Christina

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    1. Hello Christina - believe it or not but we have not yet indulged ourselves with the sweets - we are waiting to share them with the grandchildren along with some other specialties that we purchased.
      I am pleased that you have had a sight of Toledo, may be it partially makes up for not visiting when you were in Germany.

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  7. Holy Toledo, what a Cathedral! Dear Rosemary, your photographs have managed to convey the splendor of Toledo. A city I remember as being rich in history and visual beauty. xo. Gina

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    1. Dear Gina - I am pleased that this post has reminded you of your own visit to Toledo and as you mention a city so rich in history, art and architecture.

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  8. Your beautiful photos have brought back memories of a wonderful day I spent in Toledo several years ago. It was the first time Mark and I went anywhere without our then, young daughter.... a city break, actually to Madrid, leaving Jess with competent baby sitters for 3 or 4 days. We went by train to Toledo, and had an amazing day. The city is fabulous and I was completely overcome by the El Grecos. Thankyou so much for this wonderful wander through the city. Jx

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    1. How lovely that this has brought back your own memories of Toledo. It is quite an adventure the first time you go away without your child, but Madrid was a good destination to chose. We ended our trip in Madrid, so may be a few more memories will be coming your way when I get round to doing a post.

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  9. You give a wonderful impression of the glories of Toledo with your beautiful photos, Rosemary. I will admit to much preferring the cathedral to the convent, being not fond of Baroque, but loving Gothic. :-) Goya and El Greco in one post - lovely!

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    1. Dear Perpetua - the cathedral is a huge building and really required more time than we were able to give it. That is the difficulty when you have a limited period and there is so much that you want to see. You also begin to suffer from overload when you keep seeing so many treasures.

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  10. Great photos, Rosemary. I love your perspective on all of the architecture.

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    1. Thank Marie - I was trying to convey the height of the buildings which were surprisingly tall especially considering some of them were so old.

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  11. Wonderful post, Rosemary!! Toledo is a must see city! I visited it when I was a student and I will never forget the emotion I felt when I saw El Greco's paintings!
    Thank you for the beautiful photos!! (I only have two in black and white from 40 years ago!!!).

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    1. Dear Marie-Anne - I am happy that this brought back memories of your visit to Toledo - may be you could do a post on your trip so many years ago and scan your black and white photos - they would be very interesting to see. El Greco is, of course, one of your fellow countryman, of whom, I am sure you are rightly very proud.

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  12. I didn't realize that Toledo was so beautiful! I loved looking at your photos, especially the one of the courtyard garden.

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    1. I am so happy if I have introduced you to beautiful Toledo - that is one of the joys of blogging. There is so much out there that we can continually find out about from our blogging friends. Thank you, I am pleased that you enjoyed the photos.

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  13. Hello Rosemary,
    what an enchanting trip and wonderful photos! I find this part of Spanish history when the three cultures were mixed together, very interesting. I will confess to you, I still haven't been to Toledo - I definitely must go... Spanish churches and cathedrals are truly breathtaking. Thank you for this visual feast!
    Lala

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    1. Hello Lala - Spain is such a big country that it is only possible to see a little at a time. Our trip to the La Mancha region was very successful and we saw lots of interesting art, architecture and landscape. You must pay a visit to the area at some stage, I am sure that you would enjoy it.

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  14. Hi Rosemary. I missed going to Toledo whilst in Spain 2 years ago, so thank you for the tour. What a splendid city, it seems I really missed something.
    I love your photos of windows and door furniture x

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    1. It is always difficult to see everything when on a trip to another country and so often a further foray is required. There are so many lovely areas to visit within Spain but big distances are involved. We have visited several different areas but this was our first visit to the La Mancha area.

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  15. Hi Rosemary! I seem to have missed a few posts in a row so here are my comments on all of those ;-) First of all, congratulations on the beautiful book you received from Gina. I think I could spend hours just looking at the beautifully drawn flowers. Quite a difference with the hooded nazareno penitents in their cloaks. I think their 'costume' makes everyone think of the KKK even if it is a tradition from ages ago. I did learn something new though as I had never heard of this Spanish tradition. It must be a mixture of weird and special to experience this and be surrounded by these penitents walking the streets. I have never been in Spain but Toledo looks like a beautiful city. Looks like you had a wonderful time there.
    Marian

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    1. Dear Marian - I was really overwhelmed when I received the beautiful book, it is exactly what I like and enjoy.
      You have used the correct wording calling them nazareno penitents, and I suspect that KKK did in fact copy them even though as you mention the tradition goes back hundreds of years.
      There are some wonderful cities and places to visit in Spain, but it is such a big country that it requires several visits.

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  16. Wonderful photographs and such an interesting tour of Toledo!

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    1. Thanks Nilly - happy that you enjoyed the photos and the little tour of Toledo.

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  17. Dear Rosemary,

    Wow-- what a beautiful post and what a beautiful city! You've left me with a craving for El Greco, medieval metalwork and marzipan! I can see why you returned home tired: what a lot to cover on foot, one building more interesting than the last! That church interior is overwhelming and beautiful-- it must have been such an experience to be there in person...
    Warm regards,
    Erika

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    1. Dear Erika - somehow walking on paving and cobbles seems to be much more tiring than walking in the countryside. It is difficult to do a place like Toledo justice in one post, but I had to draw my horns in and bring it to a close. Next post another place, another time.

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  18. Hi Rosemary, your images are beautiful as are the paintings. I get to travel via your blog as I sit here at the yellow house. Thank you for taking me along, Olive

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    1. Hello Olive - I think at the end of the holiday that is perhaps all I was capable of - just sitting down and relaxing - both of us were suffering from too much walking and sightseeing, but you just have to make the most of the opportunities whilst they are there.

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  19. It must have been amazing to see both the buildings and the artwork in real life. The buildings seem larger than life (especially the High Altar Reredos) and the paintings jump from the screen from both, the colours used and the clarity of the composition.

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    1. I am always taken by surprise at how much diversity there is in Europe - literally a 2hour plane ride away from here - it could have been a million miles the difference was so great. In Britain we tend to forget that the north African countries are just across the water from Spain - Morocco, and Sicily - Tunisia.
      The buildings were incredibly high especially considering that so many of them were hundreds of years old.

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  20. This post brought back memories for me. My mother and I visited Toledo a few years back. We enjoyed visiting the churches, learning about El Greco and eating those yummy yemas. We enjoyed our long walk around town too.

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    1. I am glad that this post rekindled memories for you of your own visit. We have not tried the yemas yet as we are waiting to share them with the grandchildren along with one or two other treats that we purchased. Wandering all around Toledo is hard on the feet, up hill and down and with cobbled streets to negotiate.

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  21. For me, there are no words to express my love for the Cathedral of Toledo.
    It has an amazing history. Still holds Mozarab mass, I think probably the only church that still does.
    The History of Toledo.. having lots of similarities to the history of Lisbon' mainly the 'Alfama' area.. where, jews, arabs, and christians lived next to each other.
    Toledo left me with a rich sense of historical .changes within the above relegions.
    Toledo is for me a wonder.
    El Greco and his art.. so rich in culture and art..
    Only when one visits Toledo..will one get the sense of its great history.
    This is a wonderful post Rosemary.
    So much can be written about Toledo.
    I am sure that you came away feeling richer for having been there. I did.
    Maybe its time to pay another visit.

    It is not much mentioned.. but they have 'whispering walls'.. where the priests could whisper secrets to each other.
    Imagine what was said and transmitted through the tiny channels...

    Thank you Rosemary
    Val

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    1. As the crow flies I suppose that Toledo is not so very far from Lisbon, and I did recognise similarities between the two cultures. My understanding of the Mozarabic Mass is that it dates back to the 7th century and has something to do with the fact that Christians were living under Muslim rulers and that it actually predates the Visigothic period.
      I am so pleased that you enjoyed the post, we of course only scratched the surface of Toledo and could really have done with spending a couple more days there.
      The whispering walls are new to me, but our guide may have mentioned them, as I kept getting separated from her when my attention was attracted to other things.
      Glad you enjoyed it Val.

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  22. Breathtaking, exquisite paintings, landscapes and scenes from life in Spain! Love them all!

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    1. Thank you Merisi for your kind comment, so pleased that you enjoyed the post on Toledo.

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  23. Welcome back, Rosemary! I'm catching up on your posts on Spain. I've only been to Barcelona. Have you been? Would love to visit Toledo and Madrid together in the future. Maybe even Valencia?? I'm especially interested in visiting the cloister gardens and courtyards.
    Hope it is warming up for you all. We're expecting a glorious weekend with lots of sunshine ~
    Loi

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    1. Dear Loi - I have been to Barcelona, but only briefly so I would like to return as I would particularly like to see the Gaudi architecture. We went to Madrid but at the end of the trip so a post on that will be coming in due course. We have lots of sunshine, but the air is still cold.

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  24. Dear Rosemary - What a thrill to see so much handsome architecture! And I would love to see El Greco's work up close. How strange that the convent's altarpiece was broken up - I suppose they were in a financial bind at some point... What impresses me most about this posting (and pleases me, too) is to see how much the area around Toledo is undeveloped!

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    1. Dear Mark - the architecture in Toledo is tall and powerful especially considering how old most of the buildings are.
      It was a great treat to see the El Greco paintings all over the city, we must have seen at least 40 pieces of his work.
      I am glad you noticed the surroundings - I took those photos from within the city walls just outside the Alcázar which is at the top of the hill.

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  25. What great landscapes and paintings. Just top.

    Greetings,
    Filip

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    1. Thank you very much Filip and Kristel - what a very kind comment.

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  26. Great post with lots of culture, very interesting and your photos are beautiful !

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    1. It is a great city to visit - glad you enjoyed the photos, thank you.

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  27. Some absolutely gorgeous photos. I do have a little soft spot for Spain. Those sweeties look very tempting! x

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    1. Yes, you are right they do look tempting, but have yet to try them. Saving them for the grandchildren to share with us.

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  28. Interesting post and beautiful pictures, sounds like you had a great time in Spain hope the weather was nice too :-)

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    1. The weather was better, but not the temperatures you expect in Spain. It seems the whole of europe is suffering with the delayed spring.

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