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.
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
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.
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.