Don’t miss the Chapel of the Treasure, which holds the famous 10-foot Monstrance of Arfe, a finely gilded and bejewelled reliquary that is a real feast for the eyes.
Of Spain’s three major 13th century Gothic cathedrals, Toledo’s might just be the best. Sat in the centre of the city, the Catedral Primada Santa María de Toledo is a truly magnificent piece of High Gothic, inspired by French 13th century style but adapted to local taste, incorporating Mudéjar (Moorish) and Mozarabic features.
Its most striking feature from outside is the 92 metre bell tower, whose crown imitates a papal tiara. It adjoins the main façade to the left; on the right is the projecting Mozarabic chapel, which took the place where a second bell tower was originally to be built.
The cathedral is accessed through great portals, each decorated in a different manner: the richly carved main façade holds the Portal of Forgiveness, the Portal of the Last Judgment and the Portal of Hell. The Portal of the Clock and the Portal of the Lions give clues to their decoration.
Inside, its five naves reach up to a magnificent vaulted ceiling, and the space is flooded with light from stained-glass rose windows. An enormous and colourful Gothic retable dominates the main altar. At the cathedral’s heart is a beautiful choir, with two tiers of walnut-carved stalls surrounding a smiling Virgin Mary. The main chapel is full of statuary of all shapes and sizes, including the 15th century Sepulchre of Cardinal Mendoza, the first piece of Castilian Renaissance sculpture.
The range of intricate and ornate carving in the cathedral is truly extraordinary. From floor to ceiling, the smaller surround chapels, sacristy and chapterhouse are also bursting with a wide variety of wonderful artworks. The sacristy in particular is renowned for its paintings by El Greco on the High Altar (whose son also designed the dome of the Mozarabic Chapel), as well as works by Goya and van Dyck, and Luca Giordano’s painted ceiling.
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