January 28

The Primate Cathedral of Saint Mary in Toledo, Spain


Officially named the Primate Cathedral of Saint Mary, Toledo’s cathedral stands as one of the best examples of Gothic architecture in Europe, something that perhaps will not surprise you much if know that it took over 200 years to have it built: from 1226 to 1493. It stand on the former Great Mosque of Toledo, which itself stands on a Visigothic church; this habit of building on top of previous pieces of architecture was a way of showing dominance and power over previous civilizations or rulings.

toledo cathedral
Inside the fourth largest cathedral in the world

The facade of Toledo’s cathedral dates primarily from the early 15th century, with three fine Gothic portals sculpted in 1418-50. Inside is a central nave with two aisles on either side, divided by  88 clustered pillars supporting the vaults. There are splendid 15th and 16th-century stained glass windows throughout, including two beautiful rose windows above the north and south doors.

cathedral in toledo
One of the many stain glass windows n the cathedral

At the heart of the cathedral is the magnificent choir with wood stalls that feature 54 historical reliefs of scenes from the conquest of Granada in remarkable detail. Each seat shows the defeat of a village.

The choir in Toledo’s cathedral
Another view of Toledo’s cathedral

As in any important cathedral there is no lack of art and jewelery. One of El Greco’s most important paintings is here, as well as some by Goya.

How is this for a crown? It was worn by Queen Isabella of Castile between 1451-1504.

I found the altarpiece in capilla mayor the most spectacular of everything there is in the cathedral. It was built by three masters in the 15th century and just so you get an idea of its size look at the Jesus you’ll see at the top- it is 3m tall.

The altar, the most spectacular and intricate I have seen in the world.

The admission fee for visiting Toledo’s cathedral is 7€, not much if you consider its historical and monetary value (imagine what kind of a bank loan would be needed today to build something like this!), and you’ll spend about an hour if you visit it with a guide or 30 minutes if you don’t.

Toledo’s cathedral as seen from outside its main gates.

As I explained in my article on visiting Toledo in a day with not only the cathedral but so many things to see Toledo is a great day trip from Madrid. Easily walkable, with great cuisine and so much history confined in such a small town visiting the former capital of the once largest empire in world will not deceive you.

Visiting Toledo’s cathedral was part of my day tour with GetYourGuide.com; they offer hundreds of day and multi-day tours around the world at very competitive prices! Despite this the favorable opinions stated in this article remain entirely my own…which I think is obvious!



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