Monday, December 24, 2012

My New View on Toledo

I've never paid Toledo sufficient attention, I suddenly realize, now that I've just read Geoffrey Gray's description of the city in his recent travel article, "In Toledo, Layers of Spanish History" (New York Times, December 21, 2012), for the city's layered histories, apparently, have all survived, rendering it a mysterious aspect:
The city itself sat on the hill like a medieval Oz, the river wrapped around it like a moat. There were two layers of castle walls, festooned with gargoyles, eagles and crests. On top of the bluff was the Alcázar, which looked out over the city's patchwork of Manchegan red clay tile roofs and the spires and belltowers of churches. The bells started to peal, eventually crescendoing to an explosion of noise that sounded like the finale of a fireworks show. It was still very early in the morning
Sounds like my kind of morning! But based on Gray's title, his description, and the above photo by Carlos Luján, I ask myself, how did this city get to be this way?
Some cities have old quarters. But the whole of Toledo is a historic district, indeed a Unesco World Heritage site, remaining largely intact throughout the many violent takeovers of Spain . . . . Because Toledo was considered the holiest city in Spain in the Catholic faith, its invaders were careful not to destroy hallowed ground. So it survived the Moors, Visigoths, the Spanish Civil War.
Enemies spared the city because it was so sacred for Catholics? I'm doubtful about this reasoning. Holier sites have seen utter destruction. Genghis Khan and his descendants had no qualms about razing entire civilizations, and the Mongols would have obliterated Mecca, had not a great Khan died, bringing about a military withdrawal from the Middle East. The Romans destroyed the city Carthage and later the sacred Temple in Jerusalem. Muslim armies destroyed other cities, so why not Toledo?

I don't know, but I suspect that it's not due to the city's Catholic sanctity . . .

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