Toledo, Spain: the desire to experience its unique soul

Toledo Spain panoramic view
Imperial Toledo, the city of the three cultures

Toledo, Spain, Anniqua speaks into her phone as she taps the screen.

We don’t need Google maps, I tell her. I can find my way around here with a blindfold.

Our luxurious high speed train, AVE, glides into Toledo station built in a Moorish looking, Neo-Mudejar style. The main entrance with its multicolored glass panes is like the magical doorway that will lead us to a chapter in Spain’s glorious past. A moment in time when followers of all three Abrahamic religions had figured out how to co-exist in peace.

Toledo Spain Train Station

We walk out of the train station and straight towards the historic city. We pass through two more magical gates: the Puerta del Sol and the Puerta de Valmadrón (or باب المردوم Bab al Mardum in Arabic).

Puerta de Valmadrón leads right to the Mezquita del Cristo de la Luz – Mosque of the Christ of Light. No longer a place of worship, the mosque/church gives you a minute glimpse into the life of Toledans in the Middle Ages – right after the Visigothic rulers were ousted by the Moors.


Who were the Visigoths? And what were they doing in Toledo?

First, tell me what you know about the Visigoths, while we walk to Rome. Anniqua looks up at me from the huge slab of stone she is standing on. These flat stones are what’s left of a Roman road adjacent to the mosque. The Visigoths, a Germanic tribe, took over Iberia when the Roman Empire was on its way out.

What I know will barely cover a walk to the end of these remains. I say, being quite ignorant of the people that ruled this land before the Moors arrived.

Okay, then we’ll check out the mosque —save Visigoths for another day. Anniqua steps back up to the mosque, but not before I’ve taken a few photos for her digital memories.

Repurposed capitals

If you look here, I say with an exaggerated flourish of my hand, you will notice that the capitals on the pillars are somewhat different from the traditional Moorish style.

I’m not paying you for your services as a guide, Anniqua warns me with a “look”. I can ask Google for free you know.

I continue despite her interruption, These were repurposed from existing Visigothic structures. You wanted to know about the Visigoths. This is all I know.

Visigothic capitals Toledo Spain
Visigothic Capitals

When we visited the mosque of Cordoba earlier, we discovered that the pillars used in the initial phase of its construction were of Roman origin. So, the Visigothic pillars in this tiny mosque in Toledo come as no surprise.


Mosques, Churches, and Synagogues in Toledo, Spain

Look at the façade on the longer side of the mosque, I tell Anniqua, completely taking on the persona of a tour guide. It’s almost impossible to detect the subtle change in the part where the Christians expanded the mosque once they had defeated the Moors and taken over the city. The materials they used were exactly the same and they stuck closely to the original architectural style of the building.

It’s such a pretty mosque. I’m not surprised they decided to leave it standing. Anniqua replies. People have destroyed so much beauty in the name of religion.

I’m happy that Anniqua likes my little mosque.

Those people were clearly not the people of Toledo, I say, wishing that they had been. After this, I’ll take you to a synagogue built by Muslim architects and craftsmen.


Click here to read more about the ancient history of Spain by Selma: Never a Jezebel: In the footsteps of Phoenicians

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