Cathedral Wenjie, Zhang | A Certain...On the east side of the Plaza del Ayuntamiento stands the Cathedral, Toledo's principal landmark and the Catedral Primada of Spain. Spain's finest Gothic cathedral after that of Burgos, it was built between 1227 and 1493 on the site of the Moorish Great Mosque, which itself had replaced an earlier Visigothic church. In the 90m/295ft high north tower (1380-1440), from which there are fine views, is the famous bell known as the Campana Gorda, cast in 1753 and weighing 17 tons. The south tower, which was left unfinished, has a Baroque dome.
Official site: www.architoledo.org
Address: Cardenal Cisneros 1, E-45002 Toledo, Spain
Cathedral - Doorways
On the west front of the Toledo Cathedral are three handsome Gothic doorways (1418-50), richly decorated with sculpture and reliefs. On the central doorway, the Puerta del Perdón, is a carving by Juan Alemán depicting the Virgin handing a vestment to San Ildefonso. Of the beautiful side doorways the most notable is the richly decorated Gothic Puerta de los Leones (1458-66) at the end of the south transept. On the north side of the church, between the cloister and the sacristy, is the oldest of the doorways, the 13th century Puerta de la Chapinería. From the cloister the Puerta de Santa Catalina leads into the church.
Cathedral - Interior
The Cathedral in Toledo is entered by the Puerta de Mollete (mollete = "muffin"), at which food was distributed to the poor. The interior (110m/360ft long without the Capilla de San Ildefonso), with its 88 richly articulated clustered columns, is of impressive effect. The beautiful stained glass windows are 16th century.
Cathedral - Choir
The Choir, screened by a Plateresque reja of 1548, has choir-stalls of walnutwood which are masterpieces of Renaissance carving. The stalls in the lower tier (sillería baja; by Rodrigo Alemán, 1495) are carved with 54 historical reliefs of scenes from the conquest of Granada. The upper tier (sillería alta), completed in 1543, has Biblical scenes by Alonso Berruguete and an alabaster "Transfiguration" in the left-hand section and carving by Felipe Vigarny on the right. On the free-standing altar in the choir can be seen a Romanesque stone figure of the Virgen Blanca (c. 1500).
The richly gilded Capilla Mayor has a finely decorated Plateresque reja of 1548. The huge retablo of gilded and painted larchwood (1504) has four tiers of New Testament scenes with life- size figures; in the center is a magnificent pyramidal monstrance. On either side of the high altar are royal tombs (sepulcros reales) - on the left Alfonso VII, on the right Sancho II and his son. Farther left is the tomb of Cardinal González de Mendoza. Behind the high altar, the sides of which are decorated with numerous reliefs and figures of saints, are the tomb of Cardinal Diego de Astorga and the Transparente, a huge marble altar in Churrigueresque style dedicated to the Virgin, surmounted by a painted openwork dome (1722).
Cathedral - Ambulatory
The chapels round the ambulatory all contain finely carved tombs. In the central chapel, the Capilla de San Ildefonso, is the tomb of Cardinal Albornoz.
Capilla de Santiago
To the left of the Ambulatory is the richly decorated Gothic Capilla de Santiago, which contains the magnificent Gothic marble monuments of Condestable Álvaro de Luna and his wife (1488).
Capilla de Reyes Nuevos
Immediately to the left of the Capilla de Santiago is a doorway giving access to the Capilla de Reyes Nuevos, splendidly decorated in Plateresque style, which contains the tomb of Henry II of Trastamara.
Cathedral - Chapterhouse
From the ambulatory a magnificent doorway gives access to the Chapterhouse of 1512, which has a beautiful artesonado ceiling. The thirteen wall paintings with portraits of archbishops of Toledo are mostly the work of Juan de Borgoña; two are by Goya.
Cathedral - Sacristy
To the left of the ambulatory is the entrance to the Sacristy (1592-1616), which is now a small picture gallery. On the altar is El Greco's "Disrobing of Christ" ("El Spolio", 1579); to the right of the altar is Goya's "Arrest of Christ" (1788); and on the walls are a cycle of 16 Apostles by El Greco. There are also pictures by Morales, van Dyck, Raphael, Titian and Mengs and a sculpture of St Francis by Pedro de Mena. The collection extends into the adjoining Vestry (Vestuario) and the Salas Nuevas, recently incorporated in the Cathedral Museum.
On the west side of the Sacristy lies the Ochavo, an octagonal chamber with a high dome (ceiling paintings by F. Ricci and J. Carreño) which contains some 400 relics. The adjoining Capilla de la Virgen del Sagrario has a much venerated image of the Virgin enthroned (c. 1200), clad in costly garments.
Cathedral - Treasury
The Cathedral Treasury is in the Capilla de San Juan, under the north tower. Its principal treasure is the famous monstrance by Juan de Arfe (1524), which is almost 3m/10ft high and weighs 172 kg/380lb, with 260 silver gilt statuettes.Vestments of high quality are some of the principal pieces of the collection.
Immediately on the right of the Cathedral's main entrance, in the south tower, is the Mozarabic Chapel (1504), in which mass is celebrated every morning at about 9:45 according to the Visigothic (Mozarabic) rite. In the south aisle can be seen the inside of the Puerta de los Leones, decorated with fine 16th century wood reliefs. Above it is the "Imperial Organ" of 1594, with a stone sounding-board.
Cathedral - Cloister
On the north side of the Cathedral is the Cloister (begun 1389). On the south and east sides of the lower cloister (claustro bajo) are frescoes by Francisco Bayeu and Mariano Maella (1776). At the northeast corner is the Capilla de San Blas (not open to the public), with Florentine ceiling paintings of the early 15th century. In a room off the upper cloister (claustro alto), entered from Calle Hombre de Palo, are the gigantones, the huge figures some 6m/20ft high, clad in 18th century costume, which are carried in procession in the town's fiestas.
Around the Cathedral
Plaza del Ayuntamiento
Outside the main front of the Cathedral in Toledo is the Plaza del Ayuntamiento, on the northwest side of which is the Palacio Arzobispal (Archbishop's Palace). On the southwest side stands the Ayuntamiento (Town Hall; 1618), with two handsome corner towers and a beautiful tiled frieze (1595) by El Greco's son Jorge Manuel Theotocopouli in the chapterhouse.
Northwest of the Cathedral in Toledo are a number of fine churches. Calle del Nuncio Viejo leads into Calle Alfonso X. In a square on the left-hand side of this street is the imposing Baroque facade of the twin-towered church of San Ildefonso, which contains two works by El Greco.
A little to the west of San Ildefonso can be seen the Moorish tower of the 13th century church of San Román, now occupied by the Museo de los Concilios y de Cultura Visigoda, with a collection of Visigothic antiquities, including crowns, sculpture and jewelry in addition to the frescoes which form part of the decoration of the church.
Address: Calle de San Román, E-45002 Toledo, Spain
Santo Domingo el Antiguo
Farther northwest of the Cathedral is the monastery of Santo Domingo el Antiguo where El Greco is buried in the church.
Address: Plaza de Santo Domingo el Antiguo, E-45002 Toledo, Spain