Have you ever dreamed of walking in the places that inspired the great masters of art?
With this post I take you with me to discover a legendary city and its most famous artist: El Greco in Toledo.
In the Footsteps of El Greco: an artistic and historical journey through magical Toledo
Only 60 minutes by train from bustling Madrid, historic Toledo welcomes you as an open-air museum and culture waiting to be discovered. This Spanish gem, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986, is like a portal to the era of Charles V and the coexistence of different cultures.
The city is still surrounded by much of its ancient walls and its narrow, winding alleys bear witness to a glorious past. Here, buildings such as the Hospital of Santa Cruz, the Alcázar and the Puerta Nueva de Bisagra tell stories of wealth and splendour.
However, it has not always been all sunshine and roses for Toledo.
In 1561, Philip II moved the court to Madrid, causing the city to slowly decline. Nevertheless, Toledo remained a centre of culture, spirituality and a model of coexistence between Christians, Jews and Muslims.
EL GRECO IN TOLEDO
The Cretan artist El Greco, whose real name was Doménikos Theotokópoulos, was attracted to Toledo. Although he aspired to become the official court painter of Philip II, his works were judged too radical by the sovereign. Undeterred, in 1577 El Greco made Toledo his home, resulting in some of his most iconic works.
El Greco was born in Crete, where he had been a very young and talented icon artist, then moved to Venice, later to Rome and finally to Spain. Toledo was the last stop on a long pilgrimage and it was here that the artist found the ideal place to express his talent and create his masterpieces.
Few certain details about his life in the city have come down to us, most of them related to legal disputes concerning missing payments for his works. However, the deep bond that united the artist to this city is undeniable.
IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF EL GRECO
The start of our tour in the footsteps of El Greco begins with the works commissioned by Luis de Castilla. The Convento de Santo Domingo el Antiguo is one of the first places where El Greco put his hand to his brushes. Today, masterpieces such as ‘Saint John the Baptist’ and the ‘Resurrection of Christ’ can still be admired.
A must-see in Toledo is also the Cathedral where, in the sacristy, you will find the work entitled ‘Espolio’, in which Jesus appears wrapped in a red tunic, with his eyes turned to the sky and seems absolutely isolated from what is going on around him.
El Greco’s great masterpiece in Toledo that should not be missed is ‘The Burial of the Count of Orgaz’ in the church of Santo Tomé.
It depicts a miracle that took place in Toledo in the Middle Ages and that the artist decided to represent with a painting full of portraits and in which, in the upper part, the sky opens up gloriously, while in the lower part you can see the burial of the body of the Count, who died in 1323 and who, according to legend, while his funeral was being celebrated, Saints Stephen and Augustine appeared together and placed the body of the deceased in the tomb.
Today, you can visit the El Greco Museum, believed to be located near the painter’s original home. The museum houses a remarkable collection of his works, and is a dive into the environment in which he lived and created his most beautiful works. Among them, the ‘View and Map of Toledo’ is not to be missed.
In addition to the El Greco Museum, remember to visit the Museo de Santa Cruz where you can admire the ‘Assumption (Immaculate Conception)’.
A short distance from the museum, be sure to visit the Judería, the Jewish quarter, whose narrow alleyways house the splendid Synagogue de Santa María La Blanca, an exceptional example of Mudejár architecture, which undoubtedly inspired the artist.
Toledo is a mosaic of history, art and culture. Don’t miss the opportunity to lose yourself in its ancient streets, and be inspired by the artistic vision of El Greco. A trip here is not only a journey through time, but also an experience that will leave an indelible mark on your soul..