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by Mollie Aplet
Toledo is a beautiful city surrounded on three sides by the Rio Tajo (Tagus River). In the course of its history, it has belonged to Carthage, Rome, the Visigoths, the Moors, and is now in the Kingdom of Spain. Toledo was once the capital of Spain, and was the Isabel (Isabelle) and Fernando's (Ferdinand) capital when they sent Christopher Columbus on his voyage to discover the "New World."
In Toledo, they tell a story of a pair of young lovers who were forced apart by their parents. In desperation, the young woman became a rock, and the young man became a river to surround and protect his love. The city of Toledo was built upon this rock.
Its position surrounded by the river has made Toledo a valuable military target, and has been occupied by one force or another since before the Roman Empire flourished. The entire city is a fortress, and has stood solid through the ages.
Toledo has become a center for the arts in Spain. Numerous artisans and craftsmen have made Toledo their home. The city was once famous for the metalwork, particularly swords, produced by its craftsmen, but the Spanish Inquisition succeeded in driving out the most talented artisans, none of whom seemed to be Catholic.
One of Toledo's many claims to fame is that it was home to Domenikos Thetopoulos, more commonly known as "El Greco" (The Greek), one of the greatest artists of the Renaissance. Many of his paintings are on display throughout the city.
The sacristy of the Toledo Cathedral contains a painting of each apostle, and the very large Spoliation of Christ at the end of the hall. His work is also displayed in the Church of San Tomé, the room where the Duke of Orgaz, a town near Toledo, died and was entombed. The Burial of Duke Orgaz shows the legend that the Duke was carried to Heaven by two Saints. The painting used to be directly over the Duke's coffin in the wall, but has been moved so that the public can view it more easily.
One of the more culturally confusing sights in Toledo is la Sinagoga de Santa María la Blanca, or the Synagogue of Saint Mary the White. This Synagogue was designed and built by Moorish architects for the Jewish community of Toledo (who were lucky that Jerusalem and Makkah are the same direction from Toledo). This explains the obviously Islamic architecture in the building. After the Spanish Inquisition, however, there were no more Jews to worship in the temple, and no one to protest its conversion to a Catholic Church. The government of Toledo has promised that if the former Judaic population resettles the city, the Synagogue will be returned.
There are now actually two Toledos in Spain, the historic city surrounded by its high walls, and a more modern, and much larger city just in sight of the ancient capital. If you ever have a chance to visit Spain, you should definitely stop in Toledo.
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