In central Spain, about 70 kilometers south of the capital city of Madrid, you can find the city of Toledo. It is the capital of the province and autonomous region (community) of Castile-La Mancha (even though the city of Albacete located in the same region is considerably larger).
If the name of this city is familiar to you, you’re right. Yes, right here came Don Quixote de la Mancha, the famous hero of the novel from an equally famous writer Miguel Cervantes.
Toledo is a cultural and historical gem and one of the sites registered in the UNESCO World Heritage Site, since 1986. It is said that anyone who would have just one day for visiting Spain, should spend it in Toledo.
The first mention of the city, located 529 meters above sea level, comes from Roman times. Titus Livius Patavinus (59 BC – AD 17) describes it as a small fortified town Toletum, which means “growing up”. It was so named probably due to hilly terrain. Romans built the first defensive wall around the town, together with temples, theatres, amphitheatre and aqueduct.
The last two mentioned monuments have been preserved until now. After the Romans came the Visigoths, who made Toledo their capital city. At the beginning of the eighth century came the Muslims, renamed the town to Toleitola and stayed here for over 350 years. They left here the labyrinth of narrow and twisting streets, but also a number of beautiful buildings.
Cambrón Gate, Toledo, Spain
The city was conquered in 1085 by King Alfonso VI., and during his reign Toledo became popular as a center of cultural and religious tolerance. There were together living in peace Muslims, Jews and Christians, so in the local mosque you can see a fresco of Jesus and in the synagogue you can find Arabic lettering.
Scholars and scientists of all these religions worked together, and such produced many notable works of art and monuments. Thanks to Arab translators, for example, across Europe began to spread important knowledge of philosophy, mathematics, literature, astronomy and medicine.
Finally, however, prevailed Christians and Toledo became and still is the home to headquarters of the Church in Spain. The local cathedral is probably the most important and most visible local landmark. Five-aisle building has a huge area of 140 x 130 m2 and stands on the former church and mosque. Its construction began in 1226, but was completed in 1493, after 267 years!
Toledo at night, Spain
In the 16th century, during the heyday, Toledo was even declared the capital of the Spanish Kingdom and remained its capital until 1561. Since then, the importance of the city declined as well as the city’s development, but probably thanks to this decline the city preserved its medieval character and charm until today.
Toledo was known by yet another interesting phenomenon. It was a center of production of high quality steel and especially of swords. The local swordsmith were declared champions, their weapons were among the most valued and had excellent reputation. The reputation of Toledo steel eventually survived until today, so here you can still buy swords or knives of the local companies.
In today’s fast-paced and technological world Toledo is a “open-air” museum of medieval times, a place with a great history and one of the most beautiful travel destinations in Europe.