Challenge of Toledo
IT has been said that anyone who has only one day to spend in Spain should spend it in Toledo. However. that is not to say that travellers in Castile should limit themselves to a single day in the Imperial City. They should make it their holiday centre from which they can visit surrounding places of interest.
Not that there will ever come a time when the visitor can safely compliment himself on having "done" Toledo, and seen everything: Toledo never bores. I spent a month there last August, never leaving the confines of the city—yet I know that there are monuments and historical buildings (a single one of which would be the crowning glory of most cities) which I did not sec.
How sorry I feel for the thoughtless thousands I saw every day swarming off the bus from Madrid, rushing to the cathedral. the Alcazar and back again to Madrid.
It is very doubtful whether the atmosphere of Toledo's ancient streets and friendly inhabitants rubbed off onto them at all. For this to happen, one should spend a minimum of a week, and preferably longer, actually living in the city— meeting the Toledanos, exploring the narrow covered alleys ("cobertizos") in the moonlight, taking a leisurely glass of r " ngria" (a refreshing mixture o lemonade, wine and fruits) iithe bars, Which are almost as numerous as the churches. (Toledo is a paradise for Catholics who also happen to be historically onientated!) Toledo was the capital of Spain until Philip II became tired of feeling surrounded by so many powerful denies and Moved his court to Madrid. So many buildings of historic importance to the nation are contained within its walls that the whole city has been declared a National Monument, No new buildings over a certain height or otherwise likely to adversely affect the character of the city are permitted. and for all motor cars that squeeze through Toledo's tor tuous streets, and other signs of 20th century progress, the city still retains a certain silence, and often appears as it must have when Cervantes was writing in his house near the Plaza de Zocodover. It is situated on a rock and bounded on all but the north side by the River Tagus. This excellent natural defence was the reason the Romans thought it so important to their conquest of Spain.
They captured what they called "Toletum" in the year 193 B.C. In the middle of the sixth century King Leovigild made it the capital of Spain. The Moors took the city in 712 A.D. and ruled it until, their counsels divided and the Jews rising against oppression, Alfonso VI found capturing the city an easy task in 1085.
For a century and a half there was "hbertad de cultos" when Christians, Jews and Arabs were allowed to intermarry and live in peaceful harmony. However this was altered in 1226, when Saint Ferdinand pulled down the Mosque and began the building of the finest of Spain's cathednals in French Gothic style.
The construction was destined to go on for nearly three centuries. A very interesting Mass according to the Mozarabic Rite is said in the sidechapel daily at ten o'clock. The "Miisa Mozarabe" is said only in this cathedral and dates from the times when the Arabs ruled Toledo, but permitted the Christians their rituals.
After the 15th century, the political importance of the city declined, although the Alcazar (fortress) has been sacked many a time by Toledo's conquerors.
During the civil war, the nationalist forces and most of the inhabitants took refuge inside the Alcizar and withstood a 70-day siege. During the siege, the commander of the republican militia telephoned General MoscardO (how typically Spanish for the telephone wire to be intact while most of the building lay in ruins) to inform him that if he did not surrender, his son, Luis, would be shot.
To make the threat more actual, Luis was brought to the telephone to speak with his father. "You must prepare yourself to die, son," said the General. Luis replied: "Yes, father, I will." Then he was taken and shot.
This heroic sacrifice aroused much sympathy and General Franco, instead of marching on to Madrid—which he would have almost certainly captured immediately — decided instead to relieve Toledo. The Alcazar is still in the process of reconstruction as a monument to the dead in the civil war.
No one could write about Toledo without at least touching on El Greco, the famous painter who elected to uproot himself from his native Crete and spend his life in the city where most of his paintings are retained.
In fact, in Toledo, the work of Domenico TheotocOpuli (his real name), seems to pervade everywhere: in the cathedral, the Hospital de Tavera, in various of the 103 churches, and not least in the "Casa del Greco."
Just as Spain has been a mixing-bowl for the civilizations of the East, Africa and Europe, so Toledo reflects the principal elements in the country's diverse history,