Toledo’s Catedral Primada
The cathedral of Toledo (often referred to as Catedral Primada) is considered one of the Top 10 Cathedrals in Spain. It is also, along with the whole historic city of Toledo, a UNESCO world heritage site*.
*Burgos Cathedral and León Cathedral are two other cathedrals built around the same time (in the 13th century in a style referred to as “High Gothic”). Both are also UNESCO World Heritage Sites and are also considered among the Top 10 Cathedrals in Spain.
There’s an interesting story behind the building of the Cathedral. When the Spanish conquered Toledo from the Muslims in 1085, Alfonso VI (the King of León and Castile) had promised the Muslim authorities that he would conserve the mosque that stood here. Shortly after, leaving Toledo for other affairs, his wife and the archbishop of Toledo colluded to seize the mosque by force. They built an altar and hung a bell in the minaret. Their actions almost provoked an uprising among the Muslim population.
Upon his return Alfonso VI was incensed and had some of the participants behind the action executed. In order to maintain peace, the story is that Muslim authorities decided to accept the conversion of the mosque to a church. In gratitude, a homage to the chief Muslim negotiator would later be built on one of the pillars in the main chapel.
Built starting in 1226, Catedral Primada was modeled after the cathedral in Bourges (France). It is a huge, airy Cathedral (120 meters in length, 59 meters wide, 44.5 meters high) made from white limestone. It has all the characteristics of a High Gothic Cathedral (flying buttresses, ribbed vaults and pointed arches) and has magnificent stained-glass windows. Catedral Primada also has works from Spain’s greatest artists including Velázquez, Goya and El Greco (Toledo’s most famous painter).
Catedral Primada also has one of the most interesting characteristics I’ve seen in a Cathedral: El Transparente, which almost looks like a cave in the dome of the building.
Add to the above an incredible altar (el Capilla Mayor), a magnificent choir, and some fantastic chapels (9 of them behind the altar) and this might be the most beautiful cathedral we’ve seen anywhere.
I’ve previously written about what to see in Toledo – just make sure to see the Catedral Primada, it’s the most impressive highlight in Toledo.
Tip: It’s free between 8 am – and 9:30. We had the place almost all to ourselves. Otherwise it’ll cost 10 Euros when it officially opens at 10 am.
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