History of Toledo

Historia de Toledo

Of all the places in the world that preserve a valuable heritage, possibly the city of Toledo is the one that gathers in its walls one of the greatest legacies of history, comparable to cities like Rome or Jerusalem. Do you dare to take a trip through the history of Spain? We invite you to join us and you will see how in every corner, appears the living witness of our past.

The Carpetan villages

On a mound called “El Cerro del Bú”, more than 2,000 years ago, at the end of the Bronze Age, the first stable population settled in our city. Those were the first Toledans, those who in pre-Roman times, inhabited our lands and crossed for the first time the Tagus River, border and sense of our city.

cerro del bú toledo

The civilization of the Empire

The Roman people settled on our soil after the victory against the Celtiberian leader Hilerno, in the year 192 B.C. They took the square and called this population Toletum, “parva urbs sed loco munitia”, a small but well fortified place. It was in the spirit of the Romans to make our city a reproduction of everything that possessed the great Rome, and an era with great and lavish engineering works with roads, aqueduct, circus, baths, theater, amphitheater and everything that could possess a city of Hispania Citerior or Tarraconensis is undertaken.

acueducto romano toledo

The “Dark Centuries”: The barbarians are coming!

Suevi, Vandals, Alans, Visigoths, Ostrogoths; all of them arrive with the purpose of taking advantage of the weakness of the Great Empire. These peoples swoop down in droves and spread with their army a stain of fire and blood that spreads over half of Europe.

Toledo is not characterized at this time (from the VI-VIII centuries) by a great advance in public works as a city, but by concentrating the greatest political, religious and territorial power of the ancient Roman Hispania, being now the capital of the Visigothic kingdom (regnum gothorum), where the famous Toledo councils will be held, the basis of the legislation and the creed that will be applied for several centuries.

barbaros llegan a toledo

Waves on the battlements the crescent moon

In the year 712 the Muslims arrived in our land, calling it Tulaytula, the beautiful city. It is a moment that will give Toledo a special imprint, the Arabic language is established and is in common use for all citizens, whether or not Mohammedan. The Mozarabic community or Christians under Islamic rule was created. In Tulaytula one of the governments with more scientific advances is forged as a Taifa kingdom as it will be that of Al Mamun, it is the time of the astrologer Azarquiel, and of his wonderful inventions such as the clepsydra or water and moon clock, and of the first translations of texts of wisdom and magic in the city. Seed of the future School of Translators.

El Islam en Toledo

The forgotten Sephardim

While all this is happening, the Jewish community has been established in Toledo since Roman times, being one of the most deeply rooted populations. The Sephardim have their neighborhoods or Jewish quarters, their meeting places and places of worship, places of study, synagogues and schools, are integrated into society as part of the social and economic fabric, occupy part of the social elite, and all this makes the Jews influence in the decisive moments of the evolution of the city.

Reconquest, miracles and homeland.

In the year 1085, Alfonso VI reconquers for Christianity the city of Toledo, his horse breaks its foot on a cobblestone of the first mosque of the city and taking it as a sign, they enter the building, observing with surprise that from the other side of a wall a beam of light filters through. They break down the wall and with astonishment they discover an illuminated Christ. Yes, illuminated during the entire Muslim domination, for almost four hundred years.

Reconquista de Toledo
Reconquista de Toledo. Plaza de España de Sevilla.

In this period of Christian splendor, legends, miracles, relics and all the customs that will build a new city culturally where the personalities of kings such as Fernando III the Saint, one of the promoters of the beginning of the construction of the Cathedral; Alfonso X the Wise, who gave an extraordinary boost to knowledge with the consolidation of the School of Translators of Toledo or the Catholic Monarchs, who end the long Reconquest, uniting the kingdoms and initiating a new time with the arrival in America.

16th century, from splendor to decadence

And the time came when our protagonist was the seat of a great empire under the rule of Charles V, after defeating the insurrection of the Comuneros, where Toledo also had its own names, Juan de Padilla and Maria Pacheco. After this period, Felipe II, will take until the present day the capital to Madrid in the year 1561. It begins what is known as the conventual period, since many of the now abandoned palaces will become places of worship.

decadencia toledo El Greco
Vista y plano de Toledo. Museo del Greco. Toledo.

But these were also the times in which Toledo inspired within its walls distinguished figures of the arts and literature such as El Greco, Garcilaso de la Vega, Miguel de Cervantes, Lope de Vega, St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Jesus, Calderon la Barca. Toledo also lived its Golden Age, of which Cervantes said: “blessed is he who was born Spanish and Toledan”.

Romantic Toledo

In the 19th century, and after the destructive War of Independence against the French army, Toledo rose from the ashes in the memory of some romantics such as Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer, or even in a book by Benito Pérez Galdós.

Magic, eternal companion

And always throughout this historical process, there has remained a Hidden Toledo, of mysteries, legends and magic. Of pagan traditions, ancestral beliefs and esotericism. Of arcane symbology in unnoticed places of the city, of its churches, cathedral and streets. A Toledo that as a hidden and secret soul of the city remains underground but present, waiting at nightfall to manifest itself to those who know how to look for it. A Toledo that is the origin of this place and its destiny, of which we will not say more here, but that in our nocturnal stroll through the streets of this city, is always present for those who want to listen.