Easter In Toledo: Holy Crap!

Maundy Thursday is a very special day in Toledo, I was told. It is the day when the city’s myriad of monasteries and convents, usually closed to outsiders, open their doors to the hoi polloi. Spain’s first Catholic cathedral was built in Toledo, and resting on its momentous religious significance, every conceivable Catholic order has its hive. Nevertheless, the number of devout men and women contained within their thick stone walls has been progressively shrinking, and it seems that, nowadays, almost all the nuns, monks and priests under the age of 70 emanate from Latin America, Africa or the Philippines.

But I digress…

This is my third Easter since moving to Toledo, and I’d missed “The Grand Opening” of these holy dwelling places in the two years previous. So this time round, I was determined not to let it pass me by.

Well, I needn’t have bothered.

I’d not done much research beforehand to see what it was all about. I had naively hoped that I’d be able to indulge in a bit of “snooping”. I mean, I would love to see a working convent or a monastery from the inside, even if it was just for an amble around the inside courtyards (which can be very beautiful), a sneak peek into the reading room, kitchen, dining hall, or anything actually relevant to the everyday life of the inmates.

But no. The deal was that the institutions’ churches opened, allowing you to have a quick shuffle round the pews, gaze at statues of gold-robed saints with their fingers in weird positions and pray that you’d not get trapped in there mid-mass. Unless you actually wanted to attend mass. Which I didn’t. But I did get trapped. For a whole three hours. OK, it was probably only 20 minutes…

During my detainment, I noticed something interesting. At the back of these churches, facing the altar, there’s often a separate section, partitioned off with a wooden lattice. When I turned round during the interminable sermon, I realised what these were for: they were viewing galleries for the nuns. There they stood, shoulder on shoulder in solemn silence, watching the men in their fancy dresses pull off their show in what was actually their (i.e. the convent’s) church.

We (I was accompanied by my delightful Aussie neighbours) made it to four or five venues (with stopping off for drinks in between) before we ran out of steam.

There was only one WOW!-moment for me, induced by this most spectacular ceiling:

Church Ceiling Ceiling close-up

Toledo has some very fancy doors (here’s a picture post, if you’re interested), and we passed by this one on our thirsty pilgrimage:

Toledo Door

I wasn’t so much fascinated by the door itself, butt by the … erm… assome masonry work…

Over the millennia, Toledo has amassed a stockpile of tales and legends that would fill Hogwarts library twice over. It’s not all cute and pleasant bedtime lore, as you can imagine. And if all those sieges, driving out of Jews, murdering of Moors, not to mention the Spanish Inquisition, weren’t enough, there’s a whole compendium of ghost stories. The local Tourist Office is not above promoting Toledo’s dark side. On our walk, we came across this gem of a poster:

Toledo scary poster

What are you two idiots staring at the bloody lamp for?! Chucky’s about to get you…!

I’m a bit concerned now that I might have given you nightmares… here’s some remedial petunias for you:

Petunias

Happy Easter πŸ™‚

 

 

 

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59 thoughts on “Easter In Toledo: Holy Crap!

  1. joannesisco

    Silly me – I confess that when I started to read this, I was thinking about Toledo, Ohio and was totally impressed that this American city would have a history of convents and monasteries …. until I remembered who was writing the post. I blame the early hour of the morning and the coffee transfusion is not yet complete.
    As usual, you have beautiful (actually pretty stunning) pictures combined with a side dish of humour … a perfect start to the day πŸ™‚

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    1. lafemmet

      I was thinking Ohio too for the first few seconds… And the US does have some monasteries and convents. and not only Catholie ones. In CA near where I went to school there are Buddhist Monasteries! I was shocked to discover that!

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      1. lafemmet

        I had a professor at my Christian college who would say, “he who knows one (religion) knows none. After studying world religions, I am inclined to agree, but I am not a snob about it. Snobbery does not encourage learning. πŸ˜‰

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  2. linnetmoss

    Ha! I’ve heard of pub crawls, but never a church/pub crawl. Not a bad idea! That ceiling is truly a stunner. There is something Escher-like about it… have a great holiday!

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      1. linnetmoss

        They are making progress… very slowly. Winnie will come out of the tent now to be fed by the LSH. It helps when they are food-motivated. We may even try some prawns for her if I can get over my aversion to fish markets.

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      1. Loving Language

        I loved speaking Arabic to the Moroccan immigrants in Spain. I used to get such funny reactions, plus I met some fascinating people.

        Thanks for the link. I’ll check it out.

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      2. ladyofthecakes Post author

        I like the sound of Arabic… but I’m too daunted to tackle it. As a language to learn, I mean.

        The link is just pics of Toledo’s oldest mosque, which, like the rest of them, was turned into a church. A beautiful building πŸ™‚

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  3. June

    Rather you than me. I went to a convent school for five years and wild horses wouldn’t drag me back. Oh, the tedium. They also have a particular smell, like burnt porridge – did you notice that?!

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    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      All I could smell was incense… and I’ve hated that ever since childhood. I guess in the olden days, it was the only way to keep the stench of the unwashed masses at bay.

      I grew up catholic in Catholic Bavaria, but I was spared the convent school experience, and nor did I have a ‘believing’ family. I was the only one of my friends who opted out of Confirmation.

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  4. restlessjo

    Segregation in religion always seems a little strange to me. It’s the Jewish way, too, isn’t it?
    Spectacular ceiling though!!! Chocolate eggs abounding in Toledo? πŸ™‚

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  5. Anna

    You stole my heart with a Hogwarts reference πŸ™‚
    I do love that ceiling – must have missed that cathedral on my Toledo tour. One day I will finally import my Spain photos from a basement in Connecticut and then we can compare notes πŸ™‚

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    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      It’s a church, but I can’t remember which one, lol. And unless you were here over Easter, they’d not have let you in.

      Aw, the pre-digital age… we’ll get those photos out, one day, and we’ll go through them together in our rocking chairs πŸ™‚

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      1. ladyofthecakes Post author

        Best not… I’ve already offended all religious sentiments… need to maintain at least a shred of decorum. [pls do not make a knickers joke, as tempting as it may be!]

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    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      Well… the small door is for people to enter, the large one for horses/carts. You don’t want to push open the whole heavy contraption every time a single bod shuffling on foot comes to visit you, do you? Remember, these things are 500 years old and weigh ton.

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