Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Spain Day 5 Part I - Toledo

After spending 3 nights in Madrid, it is time to move on again. We were half way through our journey & now making our way back to Barcelona.
We were asked by the tour manager, if we would like to include a brief tour of Toledo at our own expense & I am so glad we did. Toledo was also declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco for it's extensive monumental & cultural heritage. And walking through it's streets, among the medieval architecture, makes one feel like having stepped back into the middle ages.
Magnificent skyline of ToledoA rare pic (top right) with the guys - Shaun, Jason & LinusI was completely besotted by our Toledo tour guide, Angel (pronounced: Ang-hill).
1st stop was a sword factory. Toledo has been famous for its hand-crafted swords since medieval times and still supplies film-makers, television producers and collectors worldwide with weaponry, suits of armour, metal gloves and scabbards. Yep ...... those weapons you see in 'Lord of the Rings' was supplied by them. The other craft that it is famous for is the finely made gold jewellery boxes, plates and jewellery. This pic shows a master putting the gold thread on his craft.
There were so many different kind of swords (& guns too)! We had an awesome time enacting fighting scenes & at the same time satisfying our cam whoring urge :pI totally love this pic! Amy's expression was priceless!
Next stop was at the Cathedral of Toledo. It was initially a mosque & then later converted into a Christian cathedral, without hardly making changes to the structure (hence the Mudéjar style). A pity no photography was allowed inside though.
Other than architecture, I've also managed to learn a wee bit about art history during this trip. 2 of the world's top 5 paintings is in Spain. And I am privileged to see 1 of it. (The original of course!) The Burial of Count Orgaz in the Church of Santo Tomé by EL GRECO, a painter, sculptor & architect of the Spanish Renaissance.

An important characteristic of his paintings was the elongation of human bodies. The bodies painted by him were long & thin.

If you have a chance to see this painting, there's a couple of interesting things to note: a) Clearly divided into 2 sections - heavenly above & terrestrial below. You debate whether he's successfully united the 2 zones or whether instead he had created a barrier between heaven & earth ☺ b) He's portraying an event in 1323 but the men who attended the burial were garbed in contemporary 16th-century costume. c) His self-portrait - the only one whose face is looking directly at you. d) His son, Jorge Manuel - the young page boy on the left, also looking directly at you. e) His signature appears on the handkerchief in the pocket of the young boy followed by the date '1578', the year of his son's birth, but not the date of the painting (1586).Another famous painting, El Expolio (The Disrobing of Christ), of El Greco is housed in the Sacristy of the Cathedral. Again controversial points: a) Christ was placed at lower level than some of the onlookers. b) The 3 Marys at the left forground - they were not mentioned to be present at this point in the Gospels. c) Soldier wearing a 16th century suit of armour.Since we're on the topic of art, I might as well add this in: Las Meninas (The Maids of Honour) by VELAZQUEZ. This is the other top painting found in Spain. I only saw the replica because I was too cheapo to pay the entrance fee to El Prado Museum :p

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