Our next destination was Granada, and we decided to stop at Toledo on the way down.  As it was to be a short visit, we headed straight for the cathedral after parking the car.

Toledo Cathedral-3144

We navigated typically narrow Spanish streets, and a lot of stairs until we arrived at our destination, which is near the top of the hillside town.

Toledo Cathedral-3143

I was amused to find this display of cats-and-dogs-as-nobility cushions in a shop en route.

Toledo Cathedral -3149

Toledo Cathedral -3145

The Primate Cathedral of Saint Mary of Toledo is unabashedly Gothic. It was built between 1226 and 1493, and rests upon the site of a mosque, which in turn had been built upon a Visigothic church.  We purchased the audioguide with our entrance ticket, and it was superb – one of the best we’ve heard; detailed enough to keep your interest without being overwhelming and the information was really well presented.

Toledo Cathedral -3154

We entered through portal doors leading to the aisle between the High Altar on the right and the Quire on the left. These face the clock portal doors directly. Apparently both set of doors used to remain open throughout the day and the aisle served as a passageway through the cathedral into the town beyond, acting as a street, such was the central nature of the cathedral to the townspeople.

Toledo Cathedral-3239

The main doorway through which we came.

Toledo Cathedral-3168

The door through which we came

Toledo Cathedral-3169

The panel directly above the door

Toledo Cathedral-3235

The clock above the clock portal doors.


We were immediately struck with the richness of the interior decor, yet noted how light the interior was, despite all the heavily gilded decoration. I’ve visited many, many  cathedrals in my travels, and have never seen such an elaborate level of detail. It was absolutely stunning.


Toledo Cathedral-3180

The high altar and retable are behind an enormous, elaborately cast bronze screen with gold detail.

To get pictures of the retable and high altar, we did our best with pushing the camera lens through the gaps in the grill, but it wasn’t ideal. It’s hard to hold the right angle and simultaneously hold the camera steady enough to get the detail. But we persisted!

Toledo Cathedral-3199

Toledo Cathedral-3232

Toledo Cathedral-3193

We then walked toward the curved ambulatory featuring El Transparente, marvellous windows high in the walls, illuminating the frescoes and flooding light down to the tabernacle

It’s hard to know where to look first. Gorgeous detail greets the eye wherever it lands.

One of the most striking features of gothic cathedrals is the use of light as an architectural feature, a direct result of the discovery of the “Y” arch, which distributes the stress from the massive weight of the stone down through the columns of the aisles, allowing the walls in between to be opened up for windows. We watched a short video on the subject during our tour of the cathedral. I hadn’t realized the builders used wooden frames to hold the stones in place until the mortar between the stones and the keystones was dry. 

Toledo Cathedral-3214

The octagonal Chapel of Saint Ildephonsus is in the centre of the ambulatory, and continues the theme of Mary’s gift of the chasuble, which is referred to many times throughout the cathedral.


Toledo Cathedral-3209

The Chapter House is completely covered with frescoes and pictures of bishops of the Cathedral.

Toledo Cathedral-3218

The sacristy, where the bishops and priests don their garments before mass, has a beautiful mural on the ceiling, and a painting of Christ by El Greco.


Toledo Cathedral-3229

There are many side chapels throughout the cathedral.

From this point we went out into the cloisters and to the chapel of St. Blaise before returning to the cathedral to visit the quire and the Monstrance. Stay tuned! There are too many pictures to put into one blog, so I’ll do the rest in Toledo Cathedral – Part II.

I’m sharing this post with Between Naps On The Porch.