One of the most impressive structures in all of Spain, this is a must-see on any visit to the city. The elaborate structure owes its impressive Mozarabic chapel, with an elongated dome crowning the west facade, to Jorge Manuel Theotokópoulos. The rest of the facade, however, is mainly early 15th century; it features a depiction of Mary presenting her robe to Ildefonsus, Toledo's patron saint, a Visigoth who was archbishop of the city in the 7th century. Chartres and other
Gothic cathedrals in France inspired the cathedral's 13th-century architecture, but the squat proportions give it a Spanish feel, as do the weight of the furnishings and the elaborate choir in the center of the nave. Immediately to your right as you enter the building is a beautifully carved plateresque doorway by Covarrubias, marking the entrance to the Treasury. The latter houses a small Crucifixion by the Italian painter Cimabue and an extraordinarily intricate late-15th-century monstrance by Juan del Arfe, a silversmith of German descent; the ceiling is an excellent example of Mudejar (11th- to 16th-century Moorish-influenced) workmanship.
From here, walk around to the ambulatory; off to the right side is a chapter house with a strange mixture of Italianate frescoes by Juan de Borgoña. In the middle of the ambulatory is an exemplary baroque illusionism by Narciso Tomé known as the Transparente, a blend of painting, stucco, and sculpture. Finally, off the northern end of the ambulatory, you'll come to the exquisite sacristy and several El Grecos, including one version of El Espolio (Christ Being Stripped of His Raiment), the first recorded instance of the painter in Spain. Before leaving the sacristy, look up at the colorful and spirited late-baroque ceiling painting by the Italian Luca Giordano.
Feb 6, 2008
Except for Chartres, arguably the best cathedral I've seen in Europe. Stunningly ornate and detailed workmanship in choir area, main altar, transparente, and several side chapels. The sacristy has a wonderful treasure trove of paintings and a gigantic El Greco ceiling fresco. If you see nothing else in Toledo, make it this church.