Sinagogas y Mezquitas
This past year I had the privilege to teach a class that was based on whatever I wanted it to be. Naturally, I chose Spanish culture as my starting point. We went through the history of spain from pretty much the beginning, stopping at interesting sections of the history to do projects and spend a little more time with the subject matter.
I stumbled upon this great documentary called Cities of Light which dealt with Medieval Spain. From 711-1492 the Moors (Muslims from North Africa in that time) ruled Spain. It was a very bright time in Spain’s history in which much of the beautiful architecture you’ll see on your visit was constructed. Lots of advances were made in translation and medicine during this epoch, and some people consider this period of time Spain’s “Golden Age.”
Not only Muslims inhabited the area, but Jews that had migrated over with the Romans and made homes for themselves along with Christians. I would say the best place to see this clash of religions would be Toledo. Two of the buildings that were on the top of my list to visit were the Synagogue of Santa Maria la Blanca and the Mosque of Cristo de la Luz. These were and are stunning works of architecture that took my breath away to think about the antiquity of the stones still working as their foundation and structure.
The wonderfully interesting thing about these edifices is that each one, depending on who was in power at the time, was inhabited by a religious group that did not construct it. For example, when the Christians took back control of Spain in the 15th century, they turned Cristo de la Luz into a church to serve their needs. They also converted another mosque into a cathedral. The minaret is still standing, much like the Giralda in Sevilla.
If you’re ever in Toledo, I would highly recommend crossing the river to go to the Parador. The view from there is spectacular and you can chill on the terrace overlooking the city while sipping on a cafe con leche, or as I preferred, cafe solo con hielo. The summer, as I’m quickly finding out, is hot! But as my mom and friends say: better to be hot in Spain than hot in NC 🙂