The pomp of this cathedral is reflected in its numerous chapels an altars, as well as in its Sacristy, the Choir and the Chapter House.
Chronology of the Cathedral
587: The King Recaredo commissions a Basilica dedicated to Saint Mary.
707- 1085: The Basilica is converted and used as a Mosque during the Muslim rule of Toledo (then called Tulaytula).
1085: Toledo is reconquest by Alfonso VI, Toledo, the old capital of the Visigothic kingdom, is Christian again.
1086: The principal mosque is consecrated as the Cathedral of Toledo. Muslims are allowed to stay in Toledo, but they’ll have to use other minor mosques.
1227-1493: Construction of the Gothic Cathedral, unlike the rest of the new constructions that where made at this time in Toledo, the Cathedral doesn’t show the Mudejar style, instead, is built in Gothic style. This shows a big rupture with the Arabic culture that still remains in the population.
16th century: New chapels are added to the Cathedral, commissioned by Cardinal Cisneros.
18th century: Construction of the ‘Transparente’.
Outside the Cathedral
With its 90m, this tower is seen from most of the city. The eight windows enclose the eight bells. And on the top, the pinnacles.
Facades and Gates
- Puerta del Perdón (Gate of Forgiveness): The twelve Apostols and the Saviour.
- Puerta del Infierno (Gate of Hell): with the depiction of hell carved in the pediment.
- Puerta del Juicio (Gate of the Judgement): depiction of the Final Judgement
- Puerta del Mollete (Gate of the Bread): This gates goes to the cloister and it was used to provide bread to the poor who call this door.
- Puerta Llana (Flat Gate): made in th XIX century to have easy access for processions.
- Puerta de los Leones: With six lions in the six columns.
- Puerta del Reloj (Gate of the clock): The oldest gate of the Cathedral.
Interior of the Cathedral of Saint Mary of Toledo
The first sight that you get when you cross the gates, is the forest of columns and the spaciousness of the temple. 50m tall, 5 naves with 88 columns… The only thing that block our view is the Choir, in the middle.
We can see the characteristics of a Gothic Cathedral, like the clustered columns, ribbed vaults and stained glass windows.
Stained Glasses and Rose Windows
750 pieces of stained glass decorate the cathedral and illuminate the interior.
The Descension Chapel
Believed to be the location of the Main Altar of the original Cathedral (from the 6th century).
Saint Ildephonsus was Bishop in the 7th century and, according to the tradition, Virgin Mary came down to Earth to offer him a gift, as a gratitude for his treatises about her purity. This Miracle is known as the Imposition of the Chasuble on Saint Ildephonsus, and it has a large popularity and devotion in Spain. Many people go to this chapel and touch the stone, still preserved, where Mary stood.
8 artists worked together in this altarpiece from 1498 to 1504. It is made in wood, gilded and painted.
In the main nave, in front of the main Altar, a richly decorated choir was added in the 15th century. The choir is the place where the clergy (Archbishop, canons, and choir priests) attends the Solemn Mass.
Treasure room and the Monstrance
The ‘Treasure room’ is the place in a Cathedral where the most precious objects are keep. In this case there is only one object, but it is imposing.
The Custodia of Toledo (also called Monstrance) is a work of art made in two parts from different centuries. The smaller is made out of gold, with precious stones, and was property of Isabel the Catholic (15th century). After Isabel died the Cardinal Cisneros bought it, and made a bigger one to hold it. That one is made in gold and silver. In total it weighs 370Kg (816 Pounds).
This is where the Eucharistic host is displayed during Corpus Christi Festivities. Every year, 60 days after Resurrection Sunday, the enormous Monstrance is carried around in the city of Toledo in procession.
Chapel of Saint Blaise
In the ambulatory of the Cathedral we found something remarkable and different from the rest of the construction. Between 1720 and 1732 a big woork took place, in order to illuminate the Holly Sacrament, that is behind that wall. A hole was made in the dome, and a window in the wall. Now this Baroque work of art allows the natural light to the Tabernacle. All the decoration is an Exaltation of the Eucharist.
The Chapter House is the place where the council of canons (priests) takes place. The room was commissioned by Cardenal Cisneros and added to the cathedral in the 16th century. It has an impressive coffered ceiling with a mix of Gothic and Mudejar style.
The sacristy of the temple is now use as a museum, with paintings of El Greco, like the masterpiece The Disrobing of Christ. It also has a breathtaking fresco, by Luca Giordano, that depicts the miracle of the Imposition of the Chasuble on Saint Ildephonsus.
Bibliography and more information about Toledo’s Cathedral
- Revista Catedral de Toledo: free copy of the magazine is available inside the temple, it contains a Cathedral’s Guide. It is also available in pdf here.
- Historia de Toledo: Edad Media – Ricardo Izquierdo Benito
- Cathedral’s website
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