Tantalizing Toledo: Of Drizzles and Squalls, Churches, and Synagogues, Legends and Obras Maestras

Toledo in Spain, also known as the City of Three Cultures, boasts of its magnificent Catholic, Muslim, and Jewish inspirations.

It was a day of many firsts. It was our first time exploring in the rain, for whenever we think of Spain, sunny days come to mind. It was our first time with no tour guide, for we are no strangers to the city. It is likewise our first time to intentionally skip all the familiar major sites – we were only going to concentrate on never-visited venues such as the Sinagoga de Santa Maria La Blanca and Museo del Greco.

Our destination for the day was Toledo, known as the City of Three Cultures due to its Catholic, Muslim and Jewish inspirations, just an hour or so away from the capital city of Madrid. With borrowed umbrellas in hand, we began our amble through the San Martin Bridge – not the usual drop-off point – a medieval link that stretched across the Tagus River. This aqueduct, fortified by towers on both sides, contained five arches, of which the middle spanned 40 meters, an engineering achievement that was rare in those days.

We crossed through the grandest of gateways and on the next step, we were in the town proper.¡Bienvenidos!

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Monasterio de San Juan de los Reyes facade.

Due to the pouring rain, our refuge and first unplanned stopover was the Monasterio de San Juan de Los Reyes, founded by King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile, staunch Catholic Monarchs.

The monastery was constructed in the shape of a Latin cross. A sight to behold was the elongated nave, flanked by numerous side chapels. The ground floor had several statues of saints. A particular one I remembered on previous tours was the Humiliation of Christ by the Capilla de San Francisco, dedicated to Saint Francis of Assisi, the founder of the Order of Friars of Franciscan Minors.

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El Entierro del Conde de Orgaz — El Greco’s masterpiece.

The other main target of our established itinerary was the never-been-before Museo del Greco. Born Domenikos Theotokopoulos in the hideaway rural hamlet of Fodele in Greece, he spent the majority of his life in Toledo and became one of the most-known painters in his era.

The showroom served as a haven for the maestro’s obras maestras. One of the most popular collections was the Apostalado, 13 portraits created with a larger picture in mind – Christ in the middle, looking straight ahead, flanked by six disciples on each side, except Judas, was replaced by Saint Paul.

Feeling the urge to see for ourselves more of El Greco’s works, we made an unscheduled detour to the Iglesia de Santo Tome – to beholden our eyes once again on his best-known magnum opus. We entered a separate chapel and before we knew it, we stood in front of El Entierro del Conde de Orgaz – The Burial of the Count of Orgaz – a Renaissance showpiece that illustrated a popular fable.

Read the full travel story written by Edu Jarque in Lifestyle Asia November 2020 edition titled, “Rising Together.”

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