A Brief History of Toledo

Let’s take a trip through the history of Toledo. The city is an ideal fortress. Perched on a mountain top and boxed in on all but its northern side by the River Tagus, the natural defenses are formidable and further bolstered by the city’s walls protecting its Achilles’ heel (for more information see our previous post).

The area has been occupied since the Paleolithic Era and has a rich and diverse history. Often known as The City of Three Cultures (“La ciudad de las tres culturas”), Jews, Christians and Muslims have all left their mark on the city.

Upon its conquest by the Romans in 192 A.D, the city was christened Toletum. The period was one of growth for Toledo, in particular in the iron and minting industries. After the fall of Rome it was the turn of the Visigoths to rule over the city, making it the capital of their kingdom and starting a golden age.

The city once again changed hands and name in 711 with the arrival of the Moors, from then on being known as Toleytola. In 1085 the city returned to Christian hands during the Reconquista under the leadership of Alfonso VI, becoming the new capital of Castille. During the reign of Alfonso X the city gained great prestige upon the inauguration of the Escuela de Traductores (School of Translators), remaining the cultural heart of Spain until the capital was moved to Madrid by Felipe II in 1560.

What followed was a period of decline for the city, losing both people and capital – a decline that was only halted when Toledo was made the capital of Castilla La Mancha upon the return of democracy to Spain. It has to be noted that it never stopped being the religious heart of the country, hosting the seat of Catholic power in Spain and the country’s most important archbishop. Fruit of this important legacy is the Gothic cathedral, one of Toledo’s best preserved treasures.

With its rich history, forty-five years of World Heritage status and lavish cuisine influenced by the many peoples that have called the city home, Toledo is a city well worth a visit.