711-1085

The Visigoths stayed in Toledo from the Fifth Century A.D. until 711, when the Muslims, with their vast armies, strange new religion, and potent weapons obliterated them. Though some of these Visigoth Christians remained (called "Mozarabes" in Spanish), they were basically forced to do things the way the Muslims wanted them done, and because of this radical shift in ideals and in leadership, Toledo became a Muslim city. Toledo, even after more than 1000 years, still looks the part of an entirely Muslim city (with a few incongruities, such as the Gothic cathedral dominating the landscape). The streets are narrow and laberynthine, and the major parts of the Islamic city still remain. El Alcazar, for instance, even derives its name from Arabic ("Alacazaba") and means, literally, a fortified zone. The "Medina," or actual city, is the most laberynthine part, and the streets, narrow and filled with Islamic-style houses, have no logical plan, just as the Muslims designed them. Some baths survive, and the market district (Zocodover) even continues to wear its Arabic name which means "animal market". La Puerta de Bisagra Antigua (The Old Gate of Bisagra)



This is the Puerta de Bisagra Antigua (The Old Gate of Bisagra) from the Eleventh Century A.D. It is oldest of the many gates to the city and was the first constructed by the Muslims as a passage for travelers from Madrid. It is made of typical Islamic building materials: stone, mortar, and brick, and it shows two of the most unique features of Islamic art: the horseshoe arch/pointed arch and the Islamic tower. This arch, along with several other popular types, comprised the most important part of Muslim buildings. They were used either solo or in combination (as in the gate) and can been seen even in Christian art of later centuries. The tower is one of the most common elements in Toledan architecture. It can be seen in about nine churches built by Muslims under Christian rule ("los mudejares") as well as in several original Muslim buildings and gates. This type of tower traditionally is composed of large stones and mortar ("mamposteria") with varying layers of brick ("mamposteria encintada") that become more abundant in the upper parts with large arched windows. This style of architecture is basically all that appears in classic Toledo (except for the Christian art), and it can be seen in Christian churches, homes, businesses, and a few mosques. El Aljama, the large mosque of the city, was destroyed to make a place for the great Gothic Cathedral of Toledo, but the mosques that remain reproduce, in classic form, the house of Mohammed, with a patio and an inner room divided into nine sections by columns with a tower for prayer. The prayer wall ("Quibla") of Spanish mosques, however, in the tradition of Cordoba, is oriented not toward Mecca but toward Damascus, the home of the then-emperor and caliph. This Muslim style best defines the art of Toledo, but it was in fact the Mudejares (Muslims under Christian rule) who dominated the artistic scene, as much of the city was built after Muslim domination ended. They constructed buildings for Christian purposes that looked almost exactly like Muslim buildings.