Architecture in Toledo, Spain

Category: Toledo

Toledo, Spain is a historic city, one that dates back at least as far as Roman times, when records show it was an important urban center. It is also a city renowned for its ethic and religious diversity, a place where large communities of Christians, Jews and Muslims converged and intermingled to forge a great society. If you’re planning to take a trip to the beautiful city of Toledo, one aspect that is sure to strike you is the brilliance of its architecture, which reflects the various periods of its history and the cultures that converged there.

Examples of architecture from the Roman and Visigoth periods of Toledo’s history are limited. From the Roman era, there remain vestiges of the circus, the aqueduct and the sewer, and from the Visigoth period, there are ruins of the walls of King Wamba and a variety of artifacts preserved in the Santa Cruz Museum.

Following the Islamic conquest of Toledo in 712 AD, the Emirate of Cordoba built a number of Islamic monuments, including the piers of the now destroyed Bano de la Cava Bridge, the Puerta Vieja de Bisagra (the Old Bisagra Bridge), Las Tornerias Mosque, Bib Mardum Mosque (a private oratory completed in 999 AD), the hammans in the Calle de Angel, and the Calle Pozo Amargo, among other structures.

After the city was retaken in 1085 by the Christians under Alfonso VI, a number of Jewish religious monuments, such as the Santa Maria la Blanca Synagogue (1180) and El Transito Synagogue (1366), were constructed at the same time as churches, sometimes at the same location of earlier foundations. One of Toledo’s most important and prominent structures from this period is the Cathedral, formally known as the Catedral Primada Santa Maria de Toledo (the Primate Cathedral of Saint Mary of Toledo). It was constructed beginning in 1226, with contributions made in the late 15th and early 16th centuries. It is built mostly in the Gothic style of architecture, but it also demonstrates characteristics from the Mudejar style, mainly in the cloister, and with the presence of multi-foiled arches in the triforium. Toledo also boasts a number of other structures from the medieval period, including the walls and fortified buildings of the city, such as San Servando Castle, bridges and houses.

The 15th and 16th century structures in Toledo, which collectively reflect the Spanish Golden Age, include the church of San Juan de los Reyes, the San Juan Bautista and Santa Cruz hospitals, and the Puerta Nueva de Bisagra (New Bisagra Bridge). Additionally, Toledo saw the emergence, beginning in the Middle Ages, of a Mudejar style of architecture, which blended the structural and decorative elements of Visigoth and Muslim art, adapting them into successive styles. Buildings that reflect these styles include the Santiago del Arrabal (13th century), the Taller del Moro and Puerta del Sol (14th century), the wainscot of Santa Cruz hospital and the chapter house of the Cathedral (15th and 16th centuries).

No architectural discussion of Toledo would be complete without mentioning the Alcazar, an impressive building located on Toledo’s highest point. During Roman times, it was initially used as a palace. The Christians rebuilt it during the reign of King Alfonso VI; and King Alfonso X, known as “the Wise,” continued with the construction, which is how it got its square floor plan and the protection towers at each of its corners. The Alcazar was twice the victim of fire, once in 1170 and again in 1867, but it has since been rebuilt and is now home to Toledo’s Army Museum.