Castillo de San Servando, Toledo, Spain

Category: Toledo

Nestled along the banks of the meandering Tagus River, in the heart of the Iberian Peninsula, the beautiful city of Toledo, Spain promises a wealth of fun and interesting sightseeing opportunities.  Toledo, which is situated about an hour’s drive from the capital city of Madrid, boasts a long and storied history.  It initially served as one of the most commercially important regions during the Roman Empire, and during the Visigoth era it prospered further as the capital city of the Empire, earning it the title of Imperial City—a term still used today to describe the city.  Toledo continued to gain in significance during the Muslim era, serving as a model of cultural and religious tolerance, and following the Christian conquest in the early 11th century it briefly acted as the nation’s capital until the monarchy was ultimately moved to the up and coming city of Madrid.

Fortunately, for tourists, the extensive and impressive history of Toledo as a commercial, cultural and political hot-spot is still reflected in the many structures, museums and commemorative landmarks that remain from the various eras of its existence.  One such structure is the Castille de San Servando, or Castle of San Servando, an exemplary model of medieval architecture.  Below we will discuss this castle in a bit more detail, including some information regarding its history, architectural style and the manner in which the building is used today.

Castille de San Servando:  Overview

History

The Castille or Castle of San Servando is a stunning and very ornate medieval castle in Toledo, Spain, close to the Tagus River.  It was built in the eleventh century, in 1088, just three years after the city was conquered by the Christian army of King Alfonso VI of Castile—an event that ousted the Moorish leadership that had previously controlled the town.  Although the castle was originally built as a monastery, it was later converted into a defensive fortress to protect the nearby Puente de Alcantara (Alcantara Bridge) against a possible Muslim attack.  Fortunately, the Muslim threat was short-lived, but with the absence of any real threat, the Castillo de San Servando gradually waned in importance, was neglected, and fell into disrepair.

Architecture

The Castille de San Servando is one of the finest examples of medieval military architecture of early Christian Spain.  It was used at various times to defend the confluence of roads and the aforementioned bridge spanning the Tagus River.  As a result, it was an object of perpetual destruction and renovation.  Today, however, the castle has been perfectly restored to its original quality and has become one of the most popular landmarks in modern Toledo.

The castle is constructed of raised masonry and brick.  Its design is basically square, with crenellated walls on each of the four exterior sides.  It features hollow cylindrical towers on three of corners and buckets on the façade, and the north tower, which features a horseshoe-shaped arch, is artfully adorned with medallions. The doors are a grand example of the Mudejar or Moorish style of architecture.

Uses Today

Today the Castillo de San Servando serves as a Youth Hostel and dormitory, catering to both local teens and the hundreds of foreign youth that come to the city to study and see the sights.  The castle was named a national monument in 1874 and has been the subject of many renowned artistic works, including El Greco’s Vision of Toledo.