Toledo Heritage

History is recorded in fire on stone, like culture is recorded on paper. About this, the culture of different peoples, we will speak later, but now we will restrict ourselves to History (in capitals), that which the passing of the centuries has passed on to the city and that which every monument, every narrow street, every arch over every door that crosses the city walls reflect in each of their stones. 


Thanks to archaeology, it has been known for several years that there was a farm and cattle raising town during the Bronze Age, located in Cerro del Bu, on the other side of the river Tajo. Recent research has discovered remains of livestock housing in different parts of the historic quarter. 

The Roman Age (Toletvm) 

The first written record of Toledo dates from 192 B.C. when Titus Livius wrote concisely "Parva urbs, sed loco munitia" - a small city, but well fortified. An uninhabited city. It was a very important place, where the Roman paved road that united Caesar Augusta (Zaragoza) with Emerita Augusta (Mérida), joined the flow of the river Tajo towards Hispalis and Bética, which encouraged its flourishing in Imperial times. Remains of the temples, theaters, and amphitheaters can still be seen today, along with roads, bridges, and a hydraulic water supply and disposal system. According to the area of the Roman Circus, around 13,000 spectators, a significant number in the I Century A.D. could attend the carriage races. 

Capital of the Visigoth Kingdom.

The disappearance of the Roma Empire and the growth of the French Kingdom ended in the moving of its capital to Barcino (Barcelona) first and then to Seville, later to be definitively established in Toledo. The population was mainly Hispano-Roman of catholic faith, while the Visigoths were Arian Christians. 

In Toledo Concilios (Councils) were held, a type of Council of State to settle the most important questions of the Kingdom, including the participation of bishops, the State being united with the Church. Between 400 and 711, 17 councils took place in Toledo. The third, in 579, represented a radical change, as with the appointment of king Recaredo Catholicism became the official religion. 

The Arab occupation (Tolaytola).

With the conversion to Catholicism began the persecutions of the Jews, leading to the sentencing of their expulsion and slavery. The Visigoth monarchs were elected from among the highest nobility and military chiefs, which limited the power of the king and often caused direct threats to his life. 

Several of the latter kings, the same as the olden Roman emperors, were murdered by rivals. In the final war against the king elect Rodrigo, the descendants of his predecessor, Witiza, requested help in 711 from the Muslims, who were expanding strongly through northern Africa. The help became the occupation of nearly the whole Iberian Peninsular for centuries.

Toledo ceased to be the capital, depending on the emirate of Cordoba, later converted to a caliphate. However, it was always a rebellious city, critical and belligerent to the distant centre of power. A succession of civil wars at the beginning of the XI Century led to the breaking up of the caliphate and the creation of the so-called uncoordinated groups, that of Toleytola being one of the most prosperous under the government of Al Mamun (1043-1075). This was when some of the greatest historians, doctors, mathematicians and astronomers lived, among them being Abu Isaac Ibrahim, Azarquiel, author of the so-called "Tablas Toledanas" (based on his astronomical observations) that set the meridian in Toledo. Alfonso VI was given shelter in his court before succeeding his brother to the throne of Castile.

Toledo had a dozen mosques, several spas, and markets. If we take into account that the main mosque, located on the site of the present cathedral, had to hold all the male inhabitants of a city, we can easily imagine that the Muslim population of Toledo was very large. The Jewish and Christian, called mozarabic, communities also lived in the city, faithful to their religions but adopting Arabic daily ways of life. There were, therefore, churches and synagogues.

That age also decided forever the general features of urban Toledo, having narrow, winding, dead-end fortress walls and houses opening onto their beautiful interior patios, true centres of family and social life.

A City of Three Cultures and Tolerance

In 1085 Alfonso VI reconquered Toledo and converted it to the "City of Three Cultures" and cradle of tolerance, as Christians, Muslims and Jews lived together and maintained their customs, although not always without an occasional outbreak of violence.

During the reign of Alfonso X The Wise (the XIII Century) "The School of Translators" was established. The translation of Arabic and Jewish texts, at the same time as translations of Greek works, made Toledo an intellectual centre in Europe. From these translated works, the rest of Europe was able to acquire knowledge about Muslim and Hebrew culture and their beliefs and rediscover the teachings of Greek classics.

The calm that existed between the three cultures during the XIV Century was disintegrating. The persecution of Jews and the wish for conversion to Christianity resulted in the beginning of the Inquisition. Interrogators punished all those who did not live by the Christian faith, using cruel methods. In 1492 the Catholic Monarchs expelled the Jewish community that had been installed in Toledo in the Visigoth age, and would then only admit them into the Jewish area if they paid a tax.

Imperial Toledo

The court was installed in Toledo several times as required and, Turing the reign of Carlos I of Spain (alter the defeat of the "Comuneros" who rejected imperial rule) the city became the seat of the empire. This was a magnificent age until Felipe II finally changed the location of the capital of the court to Madrid in 1563; it was then that Toledo lost its political power and its privileges from the monarchy.

The city began to decline, epidemics and crises took the city, industry collapsed, and palaces were made the property of different religious orders. During the XVII Century the city had won the title of prosperity, attributable to its learning. The economy was able to recover slowly thanks to the installation of factories and shops. Cardinal Lorenzana taught the offices of the poor, which also helped aid the recovery. The following Century was not so kind to Toledo, and the "War of Succession" and the "War of Independence" left their marks of destruction on the city.

Industrial development and modernisation

During the XIX Century Toledo experienced rapid growth with the addition of railways and with the installation of electrical power plants over the river Tajo.

After the civil war, the city began to grow outsider of its walls and a new period of vital energy in its history unfolded. It is today the capital of Castile-La Mancha and was declared a "World Heritage City" by UNESCO in 1986.

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