You are here

Convivencia in Toledo

March 8, 2016

I know I’ve probably let you all down, my dearest readers, as I’ve fallen slightly off my once-a-week goal of writing blog posts. The reality is that I have three midterms this week and, as much as I love exploring new cities, this is still school!

Last weekend, we went on an IES Abroad field trip to Toledo, a city about an hour from Madrid that is known for having a strong history of three major religions, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, coexisting peacefully. While we don’t have an applicable word in English, the Spanish term for this peaceful coexistence and coinhabitance is called convivencia. As explained by my Art and Architecture professor, it’s more than just the three cultures living in the same place peacefully.

In Toledo, we were able to see quite a number of historical buildings with IES Abroad before wandering around the city ourselves. After a quick walk around one of the main squares and through tiny, winding streets, we headed over to the Catedrál de Toledo, or Cathedral of Toledo for a peek inside. It’s known for incorporating light into its structure and making it possible to light up what might otherwise be dark corners of a cathedral.

Madrid_Toledo_Exterior_Roya Moussapour.jpg

Exterior of the Catedrál de Toledo.

It was constructed in a gothic style and is often known as the pinnacle of all gothic cathedrals in Spain. 

Madrid_Toledo_Nave_Roya Moussapour.jpg

Nave of the Catedrál de Toledo.

It was truly beautiful to see much natural light was able to filter into the church and light it up by day. One of the most beautiful aspects of the church, in my opinion, was a skylight cut into the ceiling in the ambulatory that illuminated the artwork surrounding it. 

Madrid_Toledo_Skylight_Roya Moussapour.jpg

Skylight with certain art illuminated and other art shadowed.

We followed the visit to the cathedral with a few other notable visits – one to the beautiful Synagogue of El Transito, a Jewish synagogue built by Muslim workers (hence the Islam-influenced artwork) that has changed hands between religions over the year. We then headed over to El Monasterio de San Juan de los Reyes, a beautiful, peaceful monastery also intricately decorated with some fascinating arches that any art history professor would love to analyze.

Madrid_Toledo_Monastery_Roya Moussapour.jpg

Here I am at the Monasterio de San Juan de los Reyes.

My Art and Architecture class had discussed the Mezquita del Cristo de la Luz in class, so I headed over a bit later with a few friends to see the mosque built in 999 and how it had held up over time. The mosque itself is TINY – it has nine very small vaults each decorated differently in patterns of three and nine (a play on the year it was built) and was later on expanded by Christians into a church. Now, it’s a museum, but holds the same architecture as it used to, as well as its location next to the old city wall of Toledo. 

Madrid_Toledo_Mezquita_Roya Moussapour.jpg

Exterior of La Mezquita del Cristo de la Luz. 

While the mosque itself seemed ridiculously small, especially for having an entrance fee, we had some great views of parts of Toledo from the gardens behind the mosque. Someone pointed out an old hospital outside the city walls and when we asked why it was so far from the heart of the city, we learned that many years ago, when people were seriously ill, they were specifically taken to a hospital outside the city walls. Everyone lived in such close proximity within the walls that the only way to avoid spreading severely contagious diseases was to quarantine patients outside the city walls!

Madrid_Toledo_City View_Roya Moussapour.jpg

Our view from the gardens behind the mosque.

For now, I’ll go continue to study for my midterms, but I hope to get another post up by sometime next week about my upcoming trip to Lyon! Then I’m off to Budapest, Prague, and Copenhagen again with my family for Semana Santa,my spring break. Look out for more posts and lots and lots of photos!

From Our Blogs

Sep 18 10:23am

Sliding Through History

by Paige

Over the past week, I had the oportunity to go on the World Heritage Tour. This field trip is put on by IES Abroad during the first week break. In this week we visted Hallstadt, Salzburg, Český Krumlov and Prague. There is so much to talk about and so many photos to share.

Learn more
Sep 18 9:01am

Intimacy, gender, and public space

by Maddy

Within my first hour of being in Morocco, I became attuned to the way that men dominate public space. Whether you’re walking through the medina or driving past the busy city center, women are conspicuously absent from sidewalks and doorways.

Learn more
Sep 18 8:15am

My First Week: in Reflection

by Connor

It always helps to process thoughts and ideas when you can take a second to reflect on what’s happened. Personally, taking some time to myself to process things helps keep things in order, and also gives me break from the busy day-to-day.

Learn more
Sep 17 1:50pm

Marching to the Beat of Social Justice: Thoughts on Global Citizenship from John Luke Hawkins

by IES Abroad

We chatted with John Luke Hawkins (IES Abroad Cape Town, Fall 2016 | Hope College) to hear more about how studying abroad spurred, what he described, as a “180 degree turn” in his life.

Learn more
Sep 16 11:42am

Time to Explore and Time to Return

by Joshua

After our first week of traveling with the European Union program, I am at a loss of where to begin in this blog.  It is quite difficult to reduce this full week of new sights, thoughts, and relationships into one blog post, but I will try my best.  

Learn more
Sep 16 6:23am

From Boot Camp to Bike Rides

by James

After a week of intensive Nantes orientation, we head to the idyllic île-Aux-Moines for a magical afternoon only Europe could provide!

Learn more