Hello from Toledo, Spain!
My name is Emmaline and I am a sophomore Anthropology major at Linfeld. I am currently studying abroad during January Term in Spain and Morocco, studying history and cultural encounters in cities throughout Andalusian Spain and Morocco. The course started at 5:30 AM on January 3, when I woke up to ride the shuttle to PDX. We then flew to Amsterdam (10 hours!), and then to Madrid (about 2 hours). We then took a bus to Toledo, about an hour south of Madrid. It is absolutely beautiful here and so full of history.
Toledo was an important city in the Iberian Peninsula for the Roman Empire, and then was taken over by the Visigoths during the 5th century when the Roman Empire had weakened significantly. The Visigoths established Toledo as their capital, and in 711, Toledo was taken by the Arab troops, looking to extend their empire. Toledo was taken back by the Christian Alfonso VI in 1085 during the Reconquista. Toledo is known as “The City of the Three Cultures,” as it was a rare city where Christians, Muslims, and Jews lived and co-existed together. All of this background is important because it explains why Toledo is a great city to study culture and history in.
Today, we attended a lecture at the local university, La Universidad de Castilla – La Mancha. We learned a bit more about Toledo’s history, and that is where the great information I shared with you came from! Afterwards, we toured the university, which has archaeological sites inside it! There are Roman ruins and evidence of water collecting and distributing. I loved seeing this, as I want to study archaeology in the future. Later in the afternoon, we went on a walking tour of Toledo, where we explored sites significant to Muslim, Jewish, and Christian history in Toledo.
We visited La Mezquita del Cristo de la Luz, which was a small mosque built in 999. It was later turned into a Christian church, after the Reconquista. A wall was knocked down and an altar was added to transform the space, but of course, it still resembles a mosque! A Roman Road was discovered under the mosque in 2010, which was really cool to see.
After the mosque, we visited Santa Maria la Blanca synagogue. All of the Christian names for Muslim and Jewish religious sites were added after they were transformed to Christian sites of worship, which is why they don’t exactly match up. The synagogue features Arabic architecture, because the best architects of the time were Arabic. This synagogue was also later transformed into a Christian church by adding an altar.
Lastly, we visited the Catedral Primada de Santa Maria. It is an incredible mix of architecture and highlights the mudejar architecture style, which is a mix of Muslim, Jewish, and Christian artistry. It has a beautiful altar, and is full of detailed work. I found it so interesting to see the sites I have been learning abut and preparing to see, and the co-existence that happened in Toledo throughout history. This created a very unique city to study culture and history in!
Tonight, we went to the parade for Three King’s day, which is tomorrow, January 6. This is the end of Christmas festivities here in Spain, and the parade was exciting. There were floats for each of the three kings, and afterwards, there were fireworks and people threw bouncy balls down into the square. It was a lot of fun and I am really glad I am able to experience an event like this in Spain!
I am enjoying Spain and I feel so lucky to be studying abroad here! I am so excited to see what the following days bring.
Thanks for reading and following along on this great adventure!