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  • Writer's pictureJay Hicks

Toledo’s Cathedrals, Synagogues, and Mosques

Known as Ciudad de las Tres Culturas (City of the Three Cultures), visiting Toledo's religious historical sites provide tremendous insight as to how Christianity, Judaism and Islam coexisted in one ancient city. There are so many wonderful sites in Toledo, but some of the best are ancient cathedrals, synagogues and mosques. Long before Christ, a confederation of Celtic tribes ruled the land. Then the Romans lived on this hill, followed by early Christians. Christianity flourished until the Moore's moved in late in the first millennium. Later, after the Christian Reconquest forced Spanish Muslims south, mosques and synagogues were converted for Catholic worship.

Cathedral of Saint Mary of Toledo

The Cathedral of Toledo is huge and impossible to understand how such a large structure could be sandwiched into this location. The Cathedral of Saint Mary of Toledo is considered to be the finest Gothic style cathedral in Spain. Construction began in 1226 under the rule of Ferdinans III and finished in 1483 during the time of the Catholic Monarchs Queen Isabella of Castile and king Ferdinand II of Aragon, whose marriage and joint rule marked the unification of Spain (1477–1504).

Synagogue Santa María la Blanca

Down the hill to the other side of the fantastic walls of Toledo, is the Jewish quarter.  Here you gain an understanding of how Christian’s, Jew’s and Muslims not only coexisted for, but thrived for hundreds of years. The oldest synagogue in Europe, built by Moorish architects with Muslim influences in 1180, was later acquired by the Catholic church. Today the building is known as the Santa María la Blanca, which is a museum and former synagogue.

Saint John of the Monarchs

A block away is the Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes or Monastery of Saint John of the Monarchs, built by Queen Isabella and king Ferdinand II. This beautiful cathedral and monastery mark the departure of the Moors from Spain. To this day, the chains warn by Christian prisoners under Moorish rule still hang from the exterior walls of the cathedral.

Chains Warn by Christian Prisoner’s under Moorish Rule

Today, the Mosque of Cristo de la Luz is a catholic chapel and former mosque in Toledo. It is the one of the ten mosques that existed in the city during the Moorish period. It is located near the city wall and the gate Puerto del Sol, in an area where wealthy Muslims used to live. In 1186, Alfonso VIII gave the building to the Knights of the Order of St John, who renamed the mosque to the Chapel of the Holy Cross (Ermita de la Santa Cruz).

Mosque from 999

There is a legand that states a shaft of light guided the king to a tatie of the crucified Christ, hidden for hundreds of years. The king left his shield at that location, with the inscription, "This is the shield which the King Alfonso VI left in this chapel when he conquered Toledo, and the first mass was held here."

Moorish Inscription

This chapel's architecture is from 999 during the Ummayed dynasty. The Arabic inscription in on the building states that Musa Ibn Ali built the mosque.

All of these sites are around €3 to enter, with the cathedral being around €10. All are well preserved, beautiful structures.

Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes

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