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Toledo: Sightseeing

Toledo, having been declared National Monument by the Spanish state, seems to be one large museum. Hardly another town is so well conserved in its historical style.
The best way to explore Toledo certainly is to have a long walk through it and look at the buildings of various epochs:
The Epoch of Romans
Titus Livius described the Roman "Toletum" as a small fortificated settlement. But already then it had great strategical importance. The Amphitheater and an aqueductus are conserved of that time.
The Epoch of Goths
When the Goths conquered Spain in 6th century, they made Toledo capital of their empire. A remind of this epoch is the Fortress of San Servando.
The Epoch of Moors
Tolaitola, as the Moors called Toledo, was one of the most important northern-spanish towns. There are two Mosques and three town-gates left.
The Mosque Mezquita del Cristo de la Luz, of 10th century, is extraordinarily well-conserved. Its construction, with nine cupolas raising over four Gothic colums, certainly shows influences of the great Mosque of Cordoba.
The town-gate Vieja Puerta de la Bisagra, built during 12th and 13th century, is the most impressive rest of the Moorish fortifications
Spaniards had religious freedom during the Moorish occupation, so also Christians (Mozarabes) built their churches: San Sebastián and Santa Eulalia were made during that time, though both were modified lateron.
The Epoch of the Reconquest
After conquering Toledo in 1085, Alfons VI made the town capital of his empire. As a consequence the importance of the town was growing rapidly and arrivede to its climax in late 15th and early 16th century. The Escuela de Traductores de Toledo (School of Translators of Toledo) cultivated as well classical as oriental knowledge and exported it from here to the occidental world.
During the Moorish dominance the Christians had developed an architectonic style of their own, though clearly influenced by Arabian aesthetics. In this so-called Mudejar-style they built now several churches that are well worth a visit: Santiago del Arrabal, Cristo de la Vega, San Vicente, San Miguel, San Román and Santo Tomé. (In the latter is exposed one of El Greco's most famous paintings, "The Funeral of Count Orgaz".)
The two synagogues conserved in Toledo, Sinagoga de Santa Maria la Blanca Photo and Sinagoga de El Tránsito, are in Mudejar style as well. The latter, built by Samuel Ha Leví, became a temple of Christian Alcantara Order after the banishing of Jews in late 15th century.
The Cathedral Photo, built between 1226 and 1492, with massive lines and decorations in Mudejar style is certainly the most interesting gothic building in town. You may visit its fantastic collection of paintings, including works of El Greco, Goya and Van Dyck in its vestry, and the treasury with the famous 16th century monstrance of Juan de Arfe, which is part and parcel of the Corpus Christi procession.
The mighty Bridge of Saint Martin Photo, over Tajo river, with a tower at each end, is of gothic style as well.
The church Iglesia de San Juan de los Reyes and its Monastery were built in 15th century for the Spanish kings to be buried there. The claustrum is of extraordinary beauty.
After 15th Century
In 1560, under the government of King Philip II, Madrid replaced Toledo as capital of Spain. The town anyhow remained important, specially for the Catholic Church which held there no fewer than 18 counciles.
The old Hospital of Santa Cruz, founded in late 16th century by Cardenal Mendoza, serves today as Museum of Arts and Archaeology. Outstanding from the architectonical point of view are the staircase of Covarrubias, the Plateresque facade and the courtyard.
Important Renaissance buildings are the churches Santo Domingo el Antiguo and San José, and the town-gate Puerta Nueva de la Bisagra.
Of Baroque epoch are the church San Juan de los Jesuitas and, of course, the works of Toledo's most famous painter, El Greco: many of them are exposed in the house where he was living, Casa y Museo del Greco.
Finally, behind the Arco de la Sangre, an arch well known to all who read Cervantes' Don Quijote, we find the town's landmark, the Alcazar Photo.

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