Medieval Toledo – city of three faiths

photo of gray castle and bridge

I visited Toledo in 2010 and spent a lovely couple of days in this medieval city. Fascinating place because you really sense that it was once a city of Christians, Muslims and Jews.

After the collapse of the Roman Empire, it was a Christian Visigoth city up until the eighth century when it was invaded and taken by Muslim armies. For over 350 years it remained an Islamic run city until it was seized by the crusader Christian kingdom of Castile. And throughout all of this time, it had a large and thriving Jewish community.

The mix of the three faiths can be seen everywhere in the old medieval city. It’s a heady combination of the Abrahamic faiths. Because Toledo declined in important and so the medieval streets and places of worship survived. What is very noticeable is those buildings that began as Visigoth churches then became mosques and then reverted back to being churches after the crusader conquest.

When Toledo fell to the crusaders, scholars from all over Europe descended on the city to scour its formerly Muslim-run libraries. They were looking for ancient texts that the Islamic caliphate had translated and kept. Some of those texts going back to the ancient Greeks and Romans. But there was also the works of Muslim and Jewish scientists and philosophers.

I thoroughly recommend a visit to medieval Toledo. It’s often neglected in favour or Seville and Cordoba further south. But if you really want to experience what medieval Iberia was like – then go to Toledo. It was a surprising joy.

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