The Toledo Cathedral is with no doubt a highlight and must see in Toledo. In this post we try to answer to doubst and questions to help you plan your visit. IN this post we will cover the most interesting things to consider when you are planning your visit to Toledo´s cathedral. This is for sure Toledo´s number 1 attraction and a must-do in any tour to Toledo.
Guide to Toledo Cathedral
We recommend 2 hours to get a complete visit of the Cathedral and its treasures. It can be visited in 1 hour with less atention being paid to each of the areas mentioned below. You may also find interestnig this post with the top attractions in Toledo.
This is a very personal question and which depends a lot on your interests. We would recommend to visit the cathedral, that is for sure. You can visit the cathedral on your own, get an audio guide and also with a private tour. We believe the audio guide option offers a great compromise. You can also purchase the Toledo card, which provides good value for money.
The audio-guide offers a good option for a self-guided tour. We do include audio-guides in our Toledo tour from Madrid. We find this is a good option for our tour since it covers much more than just the Cathedral. You can find more information on this day tour
If you are really interested in art or architecture it may make sense to join a specialised tour. Not all guides can however offer such a specific tour so we recommend you check first is the guide is speclised in architecture for instance. We always find specially interesting to be able to put a monument into its historical and local context, which means that more than facts and figures are needed for these tours.
The foundation stone of the Cathedral in Toledo was laid under the rule of Ferdinand III, the Holy, and Rodrigo Ximénez de Rada, Archbishop of Toledo, in 1226. The first architect in charge of the project was Master Martín who was succeeded by Petrus Petri.
The cathedral took two centuries to build and was not completed until 1493.
The Cathedral was built in pure Gothic in its structure, with Mudéjar elements that can be found here and there. The main façade has three Gothic portals. Puerta del Perdón, Puerta del Infierno (left) and Puerta del Juicio (right), all lavishly decorated with figures. In the tympanum is a relief of the Virgin giving St.Ildefonso a chasuble, with the Last Supper above it.
The tower is 300 feet or 91 meters. It was built in pure Gothic style between 1380 and 1440 by Rodrigo Alfonso and Alvar Gómez. In the top storey of the lower part hang the bells and the famous campana gorda.
The campana Gorda is the biggest bell in the Cathedral which weighs 17 tons. It dates back to 1751. The upper part is octagonal and ends in a spire with 3 crowns.
The South façade has two portals, the Puerta Llana, built in classical style in the 18C, and. the Puerta de los Leones, by Joaquín Egas with a row of columns at the entrance, adorned with lions.
On the north side is the Puerta del Reloj, also called Puerta de la Chapinería. This portal is lavishly adorned with Gothic pointed arches and ornaments from the early 14C, including figures of angels and scenes from the New Testament.
Leading to the cloister are the Puerta de Santa Catalina, which is Gothic with Mudéjar influence and the Puerta de la Presentación, which opens from inside the church. The cathedral has a large nave, four aisles (r.340 ft. long, 200 ft. wide, nave height of 100 feet and 15 chapels.
The late Gothic high altar.
The altar has scenes from the Life of the Saviour and the Virgin Mary. It is the work of various artists; Diego Copin de Holanda, Sebastián de Almonacid and others who worked on the beautiful carving to drawings. Reliefs, statues, niches and coats-of-arms adorn the walls. A special note is needed to the tomb of Cardinal Mendoza by Alonso de Covarrubias.
The recumbent figure of the Cardinal is by Andrea the Florentine. On both sides of the altar are the tombs of the kings Alfonso VII, Sancho III and Sancho IV of Castile.
What is the Transparente?
Another Masterpiece in the Cathedral is the Transparente. Located behind the Capilla Mayor, this is an altar in Churrigueresque style (1732) by the architect Narciso Tomé. The vault above it was broken through to allow daylight to fall on the altar.
The Capilla de Santiago
The capilla de Santiago was built in late Gothic style in the 15C for its founder, Alvaro de Luna. The tomb of the Constable and his wife Juana Pimentel was made by Pablo Ortiz.
Another remarkable tomb is that of Cardinal Albornoz which lies in the middle of the Capilla de San Ildefonso. In addition, the Renaissance tomb of Iñigo Lopez Carrillo de Mendoza and the Gothic one of Juan de Contreras stand by the walls of the chapel.
Capilla de los Reres Nuevos (16C) This plateresue capilla is next to the sacristy and it is the work of Alonso de Covarrubias. It was built for the burial of Henry II and contains statues and splendid tombs of kings. The altars, desgined by Ventura Rodriguez have paintings by Mariano Maella (Virgin Mary and St Ildefonso)
The Capilla Mozarabe
This capilla was built by Enrique Egas under Cardinal Cisneros in 1504. Mass is held here daily using the old liturgy of the Christians living under Arabs. Above the altar there is a remarkable fresco by Juan de Borgoña of the Madonna and the Child.
This is a very interesting sala, octagonal in form, it was begun at the start of 16C under Cardinal Cisneros with late Gothic, plateresque and mudejar decoration. The wall frescos were painted by Juan de Borgoña. Beneath them there is a long series of portraits with all the bishops of Toledo.
The Coro displays several styles. The elegant iron grille, which faces the main chapel, dates from 1547 and is the work of Doming de Cespedes. The lower choir stalls were carved by Rodrigo Alemán in 1495. They depict the Conquest of Granada (1492). The middle and top level on the epistle side are by Alonso Berruguete. His work, which depicts scenes from the old and New Testament, is one of the most beautiful master pieces of Castilian carving. Behind the archbishop´s throne is an alabaster Transfiguration of Christ. The tow enormous iron and bronze reading desks are by Nicolas de Vergara and display altorelievo of the Creation, David, Saul and Noah´s ark with the procession of animals.
This was built 1593-1616 by Nicolas de Vergara and contains paintings by famous masters. The ceiling fresco was painted by Lucas Jordan. On the altar is the painting El Expolio (The stripping of Christ) and the Apostole cycle by El Greco. The arrest of Christ by Goya and the Holy Family by Anthony van Dyck are also to be seen.
Other fantastic paintings on the vestuario on the right include: a fresco by Claudio Coello and paintings by Giovanni Bellini (burial of Christ) Peter Paul Rubens (the Mystic Marriage of St Catherine) Anthony van Dyck (Pope Clemente VII) Diego Velazquez (Cardinal Borja) Titian (Pope Paul II) Raphael (Baptism of Christ) to name but a few.
Preserved in the adjoining rooms are tapestries and vestments, but above all the 13C Bible of Saint Louis.
The Cathedral treasure.
The treasure of the Cathedral of Toledo is kept right next to the Puerta de la Presentacion. Apart from numerous gold and silver chalices and crucifixes and sculptures it includes Spain´s most valuable monstrance.
Built under Archbishop Tenorio, the lower part dates back from 1389 whilst the upper was added by Cardinal Cisneros. The sculpted decorations date almost exclusively from the 14C and were completed in the 15C. The frescos of the lower storey are by Francisco Bayeu and Maella. By the door leading to the upper storey is the capilla de San Blas with Gothic sculptures and 14C frescos. Housed in the norh gallery of the upper storey is the library with numerous manuscripts.
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