The place it occupies is not the result of chance, since previously the Visigoths built here their basilica of Santa María la Mayor, while the Muslims did the same with their Great Mosque. The Cathedral we see today is not a work of a few years, but centuries in which the best artists have contributed the best of his work. The estimated time of its construction, aiming at the closing of its last vault, is 266 years (1226-1492), but until several centuries later it has continued to enrich the majestic temple.
As we have indicated, the first stone was placed in 1226, occupying the throne Fernando III and being archbishop of Toledo Rodrigo Jiménez de Rada. One such teacher Martin, of whom we know little or nothing, was the first to direct the works. Soon Pedro Perez relieved him, who until recently was considered the architect of the first project, according to a tombstone preserved in the temple itself.
Before entering the temple, let’s take a look at the Lions Gate, without it being necessary to give an explanation of the reason for this name. It was designed in the middle of the XV by Hanequin of Brussels, and in her they intervened artists of the stature of Juan Guas and Juan Alemán among others. The representation of the Ascension of the Virgin was added during the reform made in the eighteenth century.
Then we entered the temple by the Llana Gate, well known for being the only one that lacks steps and was originally called Carretones as it was used for the passage of wagons carrying materials during construction. It is the door destined today for access to the public, and important, above all, because it is the place where the Custody of Arfe on the day of Corpus Christi goes in procession. Once inside the temple we will continue the tour in the clockwise direction, where we will find progressively with:
- Chapel of the Immaculate Conception: Foundation of Juan Salcedo in the sixteenth century, whose remains are buried here.
- Chapel of the Epiphany: Foundation of Pedro Fernandez de Burgos and doña María Fernández, his wife, at the same time as the previous one. It would suffer a later restoration by Luis Daza. Both founders and restorers are buried on both sides.
- Mozárabe Chapel: Founding of Cardinal Cisneros that supposed the revitalization of the Mozarabic rite in Toledo. The architect Enrique Egas designed the chapel at the beginning of the 16th century, taking advantage of the space where, possibly, the second tower of the Cathedral would have risen.
- Treasure Chapel: Formerly known as San Juan, or Torre, being located right at the base of it. It was originally used as a sacristy of the Chapel of New Kings, which was later transferred to its current location. In 1536 Cardinal Tavera restored the chapel with the intention of turning it into his mausoleum, intention discarded when his grave was later installed in his great foundation known as the Hospital of Tavera. This small chapel is destined today for the exhibition of different liturgical objects of great value, among which the Custody of the silversmith Enrique de Arfe stands out.
- Chapel of Descent: According to tradition, the Virgin, when she appeared to San Ildefonso, put his feet on a rock that is located in the back. In honor to such event this chapel dedicated to the Descent of the Virgin was erected. Although its origin probably is older than the one of the Cathedral, the present chapel is due to the reconstructions realized by Archbishops Fonseca and Sandoval (centuries XVI and XVIII respectively). The altarpiece is the work of Covarrubias and Burgundy, and reflects the imposition of the chasuble to the Santo patron of Toledo, made in 666.
- Dona Teresa de Haro Chapel: Teresa de Haro Foundation to be used as her own mausoleum and her husband, the Marshal of Castile Diego López de Padilla.
- Chapel of Our Lady of Antigua: Founded at the time of the Catholic Kings by one of its influential advisors, Gutierre de Cárdenas, and his wife, Teresa Enríquez. According to tradition, the image of the Virgin that is venerated here comes from the old Visigothic basilica.
- Chapel of the Baptism: As its own name indicates this oratory was destined to the rite of the baptismal sacrament. The pile, from the late fifteenth or early sixteenth century, was made with reused bronze, from the tomb of Don Álvaro de Luna.
- Chapel of Santa Teresa: Founded in the fifteenth century with the dedication of the Pieta by Alfonso Martínez, treasurer of the Cathedral, whose grave was next to the altar. After some reforms in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, in which the present altarpiece was added with the image of Santa Teresa, I remain with the aspect that shows today.
- Chapel of San Pedro: Built in the fifteenth century under the direction of the cathedral architect Alvar Martínez, by order of the Archbishop Sancho de Rojas, to be buried there. The current structure is due to the reform made during the eighteenth century, at the time of Cardinal Lorenzana.
- Door of the Clock: It is evident that the name is due to the clock that it exists almost since the completion of the temple. The one we see today is the work of the late eighteenth century, but unfortunately no longer stands a slender tower that housed the bells of the clock. This tower had to be demolished in 1889 for presenting serious threat of collapse. This gate is also known by the name of Fair Gate or Chapinería, since in the annexed street was held the fair of August in times past.
- Chapel of the Virgen del Sagrario: Founding of the Archbishop Gaspar Quiroga between the end of the 16th century and the beginning of the 17th. In 1608 was reformed to be ceded by the Cabildo to Archbishop Sandoval and Rojas for its conversion in family pantheon. This reform was carried out by the famous Juan Bautista Monegro. This chapel is the favorite of Toledo to be presided over by the Virgin of the Tabernacle, patroness of the city. The image is a Romanesque sculpture from the 12th century, covered with silver in the 16th century. Before the entrance of the chapel is the burial of Cardinal Portocarrero.
- Sacristy: Like the Treasure Chapel, this is an old museum full of works of art. These include El Expolio and an apostolate of El Greco, as well as works by Goya, Van Dick, Tristan, Burgundy, etc. The fresco that covers the vault is the work of Lucca Jordano in the seventeenth century, and represents, as not, the imposition of the chasuble to San Ildefonso. Entering the Costume different episcopal ornaments are displayed, as well as curious banners used by Muslims in different battles. Next to the Sacristy, and behind the chapel of the Virgen del Sagrario, stands the Ochavo, a beautiful octagonal-shaped room destined for the shelter of many interesting relics.
- Chapel of the Christ of the Column: Also known by the name of chapel of the Students, because these usually come to ask for help in the image of the Christ who presides over it. In the altarpiece, from the XV century, also appear the Saints John and Peter.
- Chapel of Santa Leocadia: It is one of the oldest of the temple, although its current structure dates from the 16th century reform done by the bishop Juan Ruiz de Ribera to turn it into his pantheon.
- Chapel of New Kings: The original chapel of New Kings was founded by Henry II of Trastámara, in the place where today is the call of the Treasury, to burial to the monarchs of the new reign reigning in Castile. In the sixteenth century, on the initiative of Archbishop Fonseca and with the authorization of the monarch Charles V, he was transferred to his present location. The design is the work of Alonso de Covarrubias, and the altars of Ventura Rodríguez. Chaplain of this chapel was the famous writer Pedro Calderón de la Barca.
- Chapel of Santiago: Foundation of Álvaro de Luna, constable of Juan II, in the first half of the fifteenth century. Of particular note are the tombs of the founder and his wife Juana Pimentel carved by Pablo Ortiz in the 15th century. The gothic altarpiece of the same period is the work of the authors Segovia, Gumiel and Zamora.
- Transparent: It was the solution adopted in the first third of the XVIII to correct the deficit of illumination, both in the girola and in the Altar Mayor. He directed the work Narciso Tomé being archbishop Diego de Astorga and Céspedes, who is precisely buried before the altar of Transparente. The paintings and sculptures that adorn the opportune window are factory of the brothers of the architect, Andres and Diego.
- Chapel of San Ildefonso: Archbishop Gil de Albornoz, taking advantage of the chapel of San Ildefonso founded by Jiménez de Rada, built during the fourteenth century this chapel. It was subjected to different reforms until the eighteenth century that gave it its present appearance. The existing altarpiece, projected by Ventura Rodríguez, represents the scene of the imposition of the chasuble to San Ildefonso from the hands of the Virgin.
- Chapel of the Trinity: Restored in the first third of the XVI by the canon Gutiérrez Diaz to turn it into his funeral chapel.
- Chapel of St. Nicholas: it seems that it was founded in the thirteenth century, although the aspect that comes from the XVI.
- Capitular Hall: Foundation of Cardinal Cisneros built in the first decade of the XVI by Enrique Egas and Pedro Gumiel. This great room is destined to the meetings of the Cabildo Catedralicio, and in her they emphasize the portraits of all the archbishops of Toledo. The first portraits, up to Cisneros, are works of John of Burgundy, like the frescoes. The rest of the portraits are the work of contemporary artists to the archbishop portrayed. Worth noting is the coffered ceiling that covers the room.
- Chapel of San Gil: Restored in the sixteenth century by the canon Miguel Díaz to turn it into his funeral chapel.
- Chapel of San Juan Bautista: The appearance is a product of the reform made in the fifteenth century by the archdeacon Hernando Díaz de Toledo, who is buried here. The altarpiece with the image of San Juan Bautista is a work of the eighteenth century.
- Chapel of Santa Ana: Founded in the 13th century by the Archbishop Jiménez de Rada, and reformed in the XVI by the canon Juan de Mariana, period of which more vestiges conserves. The prayerful statue we see is of the restored, which is buried here.
- Chapel of the Old Kings: Also known as the chapel of the Virgin of the Alcazar, to save the image of the Immaculate that remained in the fortress while it was Infantry Academy. Originally founded at the end of the 13th century by Archbishop Gonzalo Díaz Palomeque under the invocation of the Holy Spirit. Reformed in 1498 by Cardinal Cisneros to be converted into a royal pantheon, and called by Reyes Viejos to differentiate it from the other, Reyes Nuevos, founded by Enrique de Trastámara. This funeral function was never active, as the royal remains were next to the High Altar.
- Chapel of Saint Lucia: Also known as chapel of the Sacred Heart by the image that presides presently it. It was founded in the thirteenth century by the archbishop Jiménez de Rada, being one of the oldest of the cathedral temple. The aspect that it offers is fruit of the last restoration of importance to which it was submitted in century XVIII.
- Puerta de los Leones: Which we already had the opportunity to see from the outside.
- San Eugenio Chapel: Founded by Archbishop Jiménez de Rada. In times it was parish with the name of San Pedro. It emphasizes the plateresque altarpiece, work of Egas, in which is the image of the titular saint. Bishop Fernando del Castillo restored it at the beginning of the 16th century to place his grave. The grate, commissioned by the prelate, is the work of Juan Francés.
- Chapel of San Martín: Foundation of the canons Tomás González de Villanueva and Juan López de León, buried both here. The titular saint appears in the stained glass of the sixteenth century, in which he is represented by sharing his cloak with the beggar. The first altar that attracts attention after the splendid grid of Villalpando is the superb gothic altarpiece, in which many important artists took part under the direction of Enrique Egas and Pedro Gumiel between 1498 and 1504, time of Cardinal Cisneros. In it are represented different scenes of the New Testament. Curiously, the figures located higher are of a larger size, in an attempt to maintain the visual perspective. Flanking both sides of the altarpiece are several royal burials, such as those of Alfonso VII, Sancho III and Sancho IV. Equally important is that of the great Cardinal Mendoza.
- Chorus: Pretending to perform a choir worthy of such a magnificent temple, and not being able to build inside the Great Chapel due to space problems, was located in this place that endowed with its particular independence. When crossing the grid built by Domingo Céspedes in the sixteenth century we find two exquisite sets of stalls. The ground is composed of fifty-four seats carved in walnut by Rodrigo Alemán at the end of the XV, who represented in them different scenes of the reconquest of Granada. The tall ashlar, composed of seventy seats, was carved in the middle of the XVI by Felipe Vigarny and Alonso de Berruguete. In it different saints and apostles are represented. The archiepiscopal chair is crowned with the scene of the Transfiguration, by Berruguete, and with its support is represented the well-known imposition of the chasuble at San Ildefonso. The lecterns we find on both sides are the work of Nicolás de Vergara “El Viejo”, with the collaboration of his son Nicolas de Vergara “El Mozo”, without knowing the author of the lectern in the center. Before leaving the Choir it is worth taking a look at the two organs that are in it, both built in the eighteenth century.
Leaving the interior of the temple through the Llana Gate, continue along Cardenal Cisneros Street until you reach the Town Hall Square. Once there we resumed our visit to the Cathedral contemplating his:
- Main facade: The structure of the main facade was realized between the XIV and XV centuries, but was later reformed in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. To this last period belong the triangular fronton and the representation of the Last Supper, work of Mariano Salvatierra, that they preside over. After the gate that closes the atrium, placed by order of Cardinal Lorenzana, we see three doors. Those of the center, and of greater size, is the Door of the Forgiveness, so called by granting partial indulgences to all that crossed it. It is also known as Puerta de los Reyes, being only open for the passage of kings and heads of state. The smallest that we see on our right is the Door of the Scribes, known in this way to be the one that crossed the members of this guild when taking oath before the altar. It is also known as the Gate of Judgment because of the relief that the Judgment represents. The other smaller door is the Puerta de la Torre, without it being necessary to explain the cause of its nomenclature. It is also called the Palms, to be where the procession of Palm Sunday, and the Hell, by the strange relief that decorates his eardrum. Looking up we will see the bell tower begun in the fourteenth century, when it was built its first smooth body. In the first half of the XV, Alvar Gómez added the following three bodies crowned by the bell tower, which houses nine bells including the famous Campana Gorda. It has a circumference of over 9 meters and a height of 3.35, while its weight exceeds 17 tons. Enrique Gargallo built it by order of Archbishop Luis de Borbón, and the enormous caliber of the bell caused the breaking of many crystals the first time it was used, reason why his clapper had to be reduced. As for the flamboyant octagonal body with beautiful pinnacles, it is the work of Hanequin of Brussels in the middle of the fifteenth century. The bell tower is topped by a slate structure and a weather vane in which the shield of Cardinal Cisneros appears. Looking at the other side of the facade we see the unfinished tower, either due to lack of resources or, as seems more logical, by default of foundation that does not allow the weight of a tower similar to the previous one. In its place we see a smaller one where the Mozarabic chapel is. Enrique Egas built it in the XVI by order of Cisneros taking advantage of the square body built in the XIV. When the vault was destroyed in a fire, it was replaced by the present one, constructed between 1622 and 1631 by Jorge Manuel Theotocopuli, the son of El Greco.
To the left of the bell tower, crossing the street to which it gives name, it is before our eyes the:
- Palace Arch: Built by Juan Bautista Monegro, by order of Cardinal Sandoval y Rojas, to replace one dated in the fifteenth century that communicated Cathedral and Archbishop’s Palace until it was destroyed by a fire.
Passing under the Palace Arch, on the right, we are ready to penetrate the cloister of the temple through:
- Door of the Muffin: Known by this name when distributing in an old one alms based on a piece of bread or “muffin”. It was built at the beginning of the XIV. The frescoes of his interior are the work of Bayeu, and represent the kidnapping and martyrdom of the Child of the Guard.
Cloister: The lower cloister was built at the end of the 14th century by order of the archbishop Pedro Tenorio. The initial director of the work was Rodrigo Alfonso, although in 1425, the year in which it was finished, Alvar Martínez was in charge of its construction. The first door that we see to our right is the Door of the Presentation, of plateresque style and constructed by Alonso de Covarrubias in time of the archbishop Fray Bartolomé Carranza, century XVI. A medallion depicting the Presentation of the Virgin gives a name to the door. Continuing through the cloister, traversing the rear of several chapels, we reach the Gate of Santa Catalina, from the end of the fourteenth century, which highlights the mullion with the statue of the saint. The current decoration was made by mandate of Cardinal Lorenzana, who commissioned Francisco Bayeu and Salvador Maella frescoes with representations of San Eugenio, Santa Casilda and Santa Leocadia. The high cloister was built in 1500 by order of Cardinal Cisneros to be used as a residence for canons.
Source: Jesús-José Cerdeño Vozmediano