The Cathedral, Toledo, Spain

Category: Toledo

If you plan to visit the city of Toledo, Spain, the capital of the Autonomous Community of Castile-La Mancha, one of the sites you should definitely check out while you’re there is the Catedral Primada Santa Maria de Toledo (the Primate Cathedral of Saint Mary of Toledo), commonly referred to as merely “the Cathedral.”  Located on one of Toledo’s highest points, the Cathedral of Saint Mary is a church of Roman Catholic persuasion, belonging to the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Toledo.  It is one of three 13th century High Gothic cathedrals in Spain and is considered, at least by those in authority, to be the most magnificent of the three.

Construction of the Cathedral began in 1226 under the rule of Ferdinand III, and the final Gothic contributions were made in the late 15th century when, in the year 1493, the vaults of the central nave were completed during the time of the Catholic Monarchs, the joint title used in history to describe Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon.  It was modeled after the Bourges Cathedral, a Roman Catholic cathedral, dedicated to Saint Stephen, located in Bourges, France, although its design, with five naves, resulted from the constructor’s desire to cover all of the sacred space of the former city mosque, which once stood at this location, with the cathedral, and to cover the former sahn (the mosque’s courtyard of Islamic architecture) with the cathedral’s cloister.

Although primarily constructed in the Gothic style of architecture, the Cathedral does combine some characteristics of the Mudejar style, mainly in the cloister, and with the presence of multi-foiled arches in the triforium.  It is built almost exclusively with white limestone from the quarries of Olihuelas, near Toledo, and boasts a length of 390 feet (120 meters), a width of 194 feet (59 meters) and a maximum height of 146 feet (44.5 meters).  Among its many impressive aspects, the spectacular incorporation of light and the structural achievements of the ambulatory vaults are commonly considered most remarkable.

As you make your way in to the Cathedral through one of its many portals, you are sure to notice the Main Chapel, a sanctuary covered with carved and chiseled mythological figures of all sizes.  On the pulpit side are beautifully decorated sepulchers of Alfonso VII and Doña Berenguela, while on the lectern side are the tombs of Sancho III of Castile (Sancho the Desired) and Sancho IV (The Brave), with all the monarchs having been carved in wood by the artist Copin de Holanda and polychromed by Francisco de Amberes.

In addition to the main chapel there are also several other chapels located throughout the large Cathedral, including the Chapel of the Sepulchre, Chapel of Saint James, the Mozarabic Chapel and the Chapel of the New Monarchs, among others, each with their own unique and beautifully detailed features.

Finally, there are the breathtaking stained glass windows, which together represent a very beautiful and important collection of artworks.  They were produced between the 14th and 17th centuries and are some of the best-preserved medieval stained glass windows in all of Spain.  The oldest, and also the most appreciated for the beauty of their stained glass, are those of the Rose Window, over the Portal of the Clock, one of the many entrance points to the cathedral, and those on the north-facing wall of the main chapel.