Toledo is a unique open-air
museum of Spanish history. The eastern slope of this oriental-looking city
is crowned by the Alcazar, the citadel. To the left the cathedral's
tower rises up out of a sea of medieval houses. A wreath of Moorish Gothic
fortifications encircles the city like a diadem, and at the foot of the
impressive granite outcropping, the River Tagus cuts through a magnificent
The city of Toledo has seen glorious times. Yet disaster
loomed on more than one occasion, for the first time in 192 ВС when the
city, which is one of Spain's most ancient, was conquered by the Romans.
Nearly 700 years later, at the time of the Great Migrations, the West
Goths subdued Toledo and made it the residence of their kings. Although
the city was still brilliant, the West Gothic kingdom was tottering into
decline. When the Arabs appeared on the Iberian peninsula, members of the
Jewish community in Toledo opened the gates of the city to them on 11
November 711. This was their revenge for the hardship they had been made
to endure by their fellow Toledans. Losing its status as a major city,
Toledo was degraded to that of one of the five district capitals of
Pacified with great difficulty, Toledo eventually
flowered into a centre of science and the arts, where a fruitful dialogue
between Jewish, Christian and Islamic cultures took place. From 1085 the
city was again governed by Christians. Not only did Toledo become
Catalan's capital, it was noted for its policy of religious tolerance
towards Jews and Arabs. As early as the twelfth century, an Arab scholar
praised Toledo as being "the centre of Europe".
However, palace revolts, civil wars and excesses
committed by the Church ensued, shaking the city. Its star was on the
wane. The Inquisition moved in and Jews and Arabs were expelled. The royal
residence was transferred to Madrid, and a century of troubles broke over
who settled in Toledo in 1577, wish to highlight the tragic side of his
new home when he painted his View of Toledo (Storm over Toledo)?
Born at Fodele on Crete, he went to Venice at the age of twenty-four
to become a pupil of Titian. After long sojourns in Parma and Rome,
moved to Toledo, a city that had lost its political importance. However,
perhaps for this very reason it was able to focus on the role it had
retained as the country's leading centre of Church activity. El Greco was
a mystic and he may have found Toledo, where the opponents of the
Reformation were more ardent than elsewhere, a bastion of the "true"
belief, a place the painter saw as threatened by the very forces that were
shaking the foundations of the old order.