At the foot of the Alcázar, Zocodover Square remains the real Toledan navel, although the Government of Castilla-La Mancha has settled in the Fuensalida Palace, next to Santo Tomé. From Zocodover depart all roads to explore Toledo: towards the Hospital de Santa Cruz and the inns that suffered the drunkenness of Cervantes, Quevedo, Rojas and other classics of the Golden Age; towards the Miradero, the balcony par excellence usurped now by the Palace of Congresses, the Museum CORPO of modern art and, God be praised, by a parking; towards the Cathedral, the bridge of Sú Tomé and the Jewish quarter; or towards the upper part, where secret convents and passageways star some of the most sought after routes and night rounds.
The packaging of this unique city is as precious as it is. This natural environment includes «the homeland, celebrated and rich Tagus» (Garcilaso), with the Vega on its bank, and the rugged cliffs of Los Cigarrales, which became fashionable Tirso de Molina, no less. A couple of leagues south, Toledo has an avatar: a replica not of cardboard stone, but of stone and brick, solid, huge and ambitious: the first branch that the award-winning historical park Puy du Fou has opened outside France. Many of the myths and legends we have just evoked are allied there with an unlikely magic. The great night show is called, by the way, The Toledo Dream.
The ruined, dark and dusty city that the romantic travellers traced has been hooked to the cart of modernity. He has restored temples and palaces, intervened with bold architecture in its museums, or created new ones, such as the recent Center for Modern and Contemporary Art CORPO. It has inaugurated a Congress Palace signed by Rafael Moneo, although reviled by some purists. He has fought his exhausting terrain with escalators, in the Paseo de Recaredo first, then in the anteroom of Safont. It has brought the AVE to the old railway station, next to the mythical Palaces of Galiana, Arab almunia now destined for restoration.
IT ALL STARTED WITH HERCULES
The legend reaches in this city muscle quality because it coils to the spine of history, and sometimes merges or confused with it. Such is the moment when we look at its origins.
Legend has it that the city was founded by Hercules. And one of the last claims open to the public are precisely the so-called Caves of Hercules. An important chapter within the hermetic and occult tradition that have dragged the underground toledanos, fed fiercely by medieval alchemists. It turns out that the aforementioned caves, which can now be visited, are possible remains of a Roman reservoir, which would contain the water brought through an aqueduct. Because Toledo had a Roman aqueduct, represented in ancient engravings. And a circus, still visible in the Vega. Remains of hot springs have surfaced in several points (Tenerías, Baños del Ángel, del Cenizal) and some Roman mosaics can be seen in the Museum of Santa Cruz.
However, there are many inlaid fragments, stems or transport capitals used by the Visigoths, heirs of Roman civilization. This can be seen for example in the church of San Salvador, recently incorporated into the tourist circuit, or in another discreet church near the river, that of Saint Sebastian, with columns taking advantage that bring me the excited memory of basilicas and churches of Rome amassed with pagan stones.
A CHURCH TO COMMEMORATE THE VISIGOTH PERIOD
After renouncing paganism, the Visigoth monarchs became champions of Christianity. Eighteen councils were held in the basilica of Santa Leocadia, in the Vega toledana.
There is a Museum of the Councils and the Visigoth Culture in the small church of San Román, in the upper part, which is an essential visit. Wrapped in Romanesque frescoes, the showcases display delicate objects and reliefs, gates, sculpted pilasters. And a faithful reproduction of the votive crowns found in Guarrazar, south of Toledo, whose originals are star piece of the National Archaeological Museum in Madrid.
One of the legends (or not) of the Toledan chronicle has to do with the end of the Visigoth monarchy; it is the legend of Florinda la Caba, the daughter of Count Julián. When the young girl was forced by the last Gothic king, Don Rodrigo, the count would have crossed the pass to the Saracen hosts in Gibraltar, thus beginning the Arab invasion of the Peninsula. The so-called Baño de la Cava is the backwater of the Tagus, next to the bridge of San Martin, where the offense was committed. This legend was echoed by the Marquis de Sade in the story entitled Rodrigo or the enchanted tower.
THE LEGACY OF AL ANDALUS
The Arab footprints in Toledo invade everything. Together with the Jewish heritage they form a kind of atmosphere that permeates what we might call the seduction of the East. Apart from gates and walls, there is a mosque that is a jewel of the Caliph period: the Christ of Light. A small oratory, next to the gates of the Christ and the Sun, covered with nine Caliph domes, that is, without their nerves crossing in the center, and all different, as a sample book. The tradition says that, when the Christians entered Toledo, the horse of Alfonso VI bent his knees at the point now indicated with a white cobblestone; the king ordered to tear down the wall and there appeared, walled in the mosque, the Christ of Light, with a spark plug miraculously lit.
Another legend, that of the Peña del Moro, refers to the attempts of Prince Abu-Walid to reconquer the city fallen into Christian hands; he failed and his head can be turned into a rock in Los Cigarrales, eternally contemplating the beloved and lost city. The so-called Taller del Moro, reopened again to visitors, is actually a palace or noble family house of the fourteenth century and Mudejar style, in which the Arabic atauriques and graphics are emulsified with Castilian shields and motifs.
Curiously, less ethereal or diffuse than the Arab presence is the Jewish heritage. Still today the entire West Quarter is known as the Jewish quarter. There rise two of the most beautiful ancient synagogues in Europe, the Transit and Santa Maria la Blanca. The first houses the Museum of Sephardic Culture, a living space that serves as a stage for concerts and cultural meetings, such as the annual Chamber Music Cycle, which recalls those glorious Dozens of Musicals from years ago. …