Friday, December 15, 2023

The Cathedral of Toledo, Spain (Part 1)

For the octave of Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception, here are some pictures of one of the most impressive churches in the world dedicated to Her, the cathedral of Toledo, courtesy of a friend. (I recently included a few of his pictures in a post about the Mozarabic liturgy, which is still celebrated daily in a chapel built within the cathedral in the early 16th century to save it from extinction.) There will be two follow-ups, one of the cloister and chapter house, and another of the sacristy, but I think it would require something like ten posts to do full justice to this magnificent church.

The cathedral was built on the site which the principal mosque of Toledo had stood during the Islamic occupation, which itself had replaced a much earlier Visigothic structure. The current building was begun in 1226, and completed in 1493. The façade is part of the original design, begun in 1418, but  restorations done in the later 18th century, necessitated by deterioration of the stonework, altered its appearance considerably. The belltower is contemporary to it; on the right is the Mozarabic chapel, officially “the chapel of Corpus Christ”, built in the 1500. 
The entrance to the Mozarabic chapel.
The main choir seen from towards the back of the main nave. In many Spanish cathedrals, including Toledo, the choir is set within part of the columns of the main nave, but the main sanctuary is separate from it, and the space between them is left open.   
Unlike Italy, Spain did not reject the inheritance of the Gothic period during the 15th century, since Gothic was the style which prevailed during the glorious period of the Reconquista, then drawing to its final success. The Spanish did not use the pejorative term “Gothic”, taken from the Germanic tribe that had once sacked Rome, and seen by the Italians as its destroyers; what we call Gothic art and architecture, they called “estilo moderno”, and what we call the style of Renaissance, they called “estilo romano.” This is why we find this huge (about 50 feet high) and fantastically complex Gothic altarpiece over the main altar commissioned so late as 1497, when the Italian Renaissance was much closer to its end than its beginning; it was completed in 1504, the work of a large crew of builders, painters and sculptors. The major panels depict 20 scenes from the life of Christ and the Virgin, surrounded by countless other figures.
The gate which separate the main sanctuary from the rest of the nave. As noted above, the space between this gate and the choir is open, such that one can walk through it from one side of the cathedral to the other.
A monumental tomb on the side of the main sanctuary, made for Card. Pedro González de Mendoza, archbishop of Toledo from 1482-95 (the predecessor of Card. Cisneros, the savior of the Mozarabic Rite.) 
Here the photographer is standing towards the back of the right nave (near the door of the Mozarabic chapel), looking at the exterior wall of the choir. The part of that wall which faces the counter-façade is itself a chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary... 
with a very impressive reredos of its own. (There are two other chapels on the exterior wall of the choir, one dedicated to the Crucifixion, and the other to St Catherine of Alexandria.) 
Various views of the interior of the choir, constructed between 1495-98...
with a total of 140 stalls.
The entrance to the chapter house (more properly, the chapter room, since it is not an independent building.)
The chapel of the Descent, said to mark the spot where the Virgin Mary came down from heaven and appeared to St Ildephonse (born ca. 607; archbishop of Toledo from 657-67), and gave him a chasuble as a reward for having defended the doctrine of Her perpetual virginity. This is one of the few surviving examples of a chantry chapel which preserves its gate.  
The entrance to the treasury room...
which contains this amazing monstrance, commissioned by Card. Cisneros in 1517, and completed in 1524.
The chapel of St Ildephonse, decorated with the galeros of two of his successors in the primatial see of Spain. 
The doors in the façade.

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