Thursday, June 14, 2012

Background on Toledo from Luke

Toledo Spain has been home to some form of human civilization since around the Bronze Age. However, the city did not come into power and influence until the time of the Roman occupation of the Iberian Peninsula. The Romans realized its importance based upon its easy to defend natural location and the location of the town relative to the rest of the Iberian peninsula being roughly situated 70 km south of Madrid. This places Toledo almost directly in the middle of the peninsula. During the Roman Empire, Toledo served as a commercial and a head base of operations of sorts for the Roman province of Tarraconens. After the fall of the Roman Empire, Toledo (then known as Leovigild) became the capitol city of Visigothic Spain. It would remain the capitol until the Moors took control of the majority of Iberian Peninsula.

This brings us to the period of history where Toledo was under the control of the Moors and influenced by their culture. During this period Toledo was known as Tulaytulah. During this occupation, Toledo would became a constant starting ground for insurrections against the conquering Moors. This was widely encouraged by the Christians who dearly wanted to drive the Moor’s out. With Toledo’s central location in Spain, it became very important in the constant Muslim and Christian power struggle that would continue until the end of Moorish occupation of Spain. Alfonso VI of Castile eventually conquered Toledo back from the Moors on May 25, 1085. Toledo was the first major city in Iberia to be reclaimed by the Christians. This would prove to be the tipping point in the struggle for control against the Moors leading to their eventual departure from the Peninsula.

Once the new Spanish state was restored, Toledo would once again serve as the capitol of Castile and would do so all the way till the Spanish court would be moved to Valladolid and then later to Madrid. Pryor to the moving of the Spanish court however Toledo’s cultural and Economic impact was massive on the province of Castile. Toledo would serve as a haven for Spanish, Jewish and Arab scholar’s who busily translated the extensive libraries located in Toledo into their respective languages. This would lead Toledo to be known as a great source of culture and learning.

Once the Court had moved out of Toledo however; its cultural and economic influence dwindled severely until about the Twentieth century. The population of the modern city is 82,489 according to the last count in 2010. The Modern City of Toledo has an immense tourist business being one of Spain’s great travel destinations due in part to its rich history. Toledo is also known for its Alcazar, a famous military academy. In recent times at the beginning of the Spanish civil war Alcazar was well known for being besieged by Republican forces in 1936.

Toledo’s Economy has always been very well known and dependent on its amazing metalworking. Toledo is especially known for its weapon manufacturing such as swords and knifes. The quality of such weapons made in Toledo would become world renown. This world recognition of fine weapon making would make Toledo a powerful and precious resource in the seemingly never-ending power struggles of the medieval time period. The production of swords in the City goes all the way back to roman times. It would also prove to play a large part in the conquest to take back Spain from the control of the moors. During the Medieval Ages weapons from Toledo were often regarded as being the best in Europe and often times what was known as the modern world.

In the later part of the 18th century however weapon manufacturing began to rapidly decline. Realizing the need for Toledo to keep producing the valuable weapons, King Carlos III directed the Royal Factory to be built in Toledo. The Royal factory brought each of the sword making guilds together into one place. This would allow them to work together for a single goal and purpose. The Royal factory was constructed in 1761 and would later be expanded in 1777. The Royal Factory produced weapons for the Spanish military all the way up to the 1980’s where it would eventually be shut down and then converted into housing for the Technological University of Castilla-La Mancha in Toledo.

The culture of Toledo is directly reflected upon the magnificent location of the old city, which is located on a mountaintop with a 150-degree view. This Mountaintop is flanked on three sides by a bend in the Tagus River. The old city contains many of the cultural attractions of Toledo including the Alcazar, the Cathedral and the Zocodover (central marketplace). Toledo has a significant Christian background that dates all the way back to sometime around the fall of the Roman Empire. The rise of Christianity and the influential role it would play on the Culture of Toledo and Spain itself. Has helped to shape the Modern day Toledo. Toledo has always been known for its religious tolerance of both Muslims and Jews; the aforementioned groups having significant populations in Toledo following the Spanish conquest of Toledo from Moorish hands. This well known tolerance was unusual for that period of time and would eventually come to an end. The end however would not come until the Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492 followed by the Muslims in 1502.

The City in Modern times still contains reminders of these groups of people and their cultural influence on the city of Toledo. There remains the Synagogue of Santa Maria la Blanca, the Synagogue of El Transito, the Mosque of Cristo de la Luz and the church of San Sebastian. All of which predate the expulsion of both the Muslims and the Jews from Spain. The Cathedral of Toledo was constructed between 1226 and 1493 and is a shining example of the rich and diverse cultural heritage seen in Toledo. The Structure is modeled after the Bourges Cathedral with a touch of Mudejar design giving it a unique glimpse into Toledo’s diverse past.

Toledo also has two very famous bridges granting access to Toledo spanning the Tajo. These are the Alcantara Bridge and the slightly newer bridge San Martin. Toledo also was the home of El Greco for the later part of his life. He painted some of his most famous paintings in Toledo such as the popular “ The Burial of the Count of Orgaz” painting. The old City has unfortunately never been the same since the Court of Spain was removed in the year 1561.

The food in Toledo derives directly from their fast cultural history. The food is generally set on the tradition of hunting and grazing. There are also a lot of Moorish and Christian influences seen in the foods they consume. Some of the more well-known and famous foods found in Toledo include lam roast, lamb stew, cochifrito, alubias con perdiz (beans with partridge), perdiz estofoda (partridge stew), carcamusa, migas, gachas manchegas, and last but not least tortilla a la magra. Toledo is very well known for its Manchego cheese as well as its marzipan.

The places to see and things to do while in Toledo are numerous. Popular tourist attractions are the alcantrara Bridge (Roman bridge across the Tagus), Galiana Palace (13 century), Tornerias Mosque (11th century), Alcazar (located in the highest part of town it overlooks the city and contains a collection of historical items from armies long past), Puerta Bab al-Mardum (the oldest city gate in Toledo), Puerta del Sol (mudejar style and built in the 14th century), El Cristo de la luz (a small mosque-oratory build in the year 999), Castillo de San Servando (Medieval castle build near the banks of the Tagus river and was later converted into the famous military academy of Toledo), Cathedral (built in the 13th century), Museo de El Greco ( The house of El Greco which was rebuilt as a museum to house El Greco’s paintings). These are just a few of the great attractions that the town of Toledo has to offer. If I were to list off all of the historical and ancient buildings in Toledo I would be rattling about most of the old town. I believe that with Toledo, as with every great historical place, it can never be fully described to someone who has not seen such an amazing place with his or her own eyes. Pictures can never do justice to anything worth the time to travel and see.,_Spain

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