Alcázar of Toledo

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The Alcázar of Toledo.
Facade of the Alcázar.

The Alcázar of Toledo (Spanish: Alcázar de Toledo, IPA: [alˈkaθar ðe toˈleðo]) is a stone fortification located in the highest part of Toledo, Spain. Once used as a Roman palace in the 3rd century, it was restored under Charles I (Holy Roman Emperor Charles V) and his son Philip II of Spain in the 1540s.[1] In 1521, Hernán Cortés was received by Charles I at the Alcázar, following Cortes' conquest of the Aztecs.[2]

Its privileged situation has made it a place of great strategic military value and so the various peoples who settled in it intuited it. Its name is due to one of those dominators: the Arabs who were called Al Qasar which means 'fortress', shortened name of the one that was habitual: Al-Quasaba whose meaning It was the place of the true princely residence [3]


Foundation and first phase[edit]

In the 3rd century it was a Roman palace where, after the reconquest of the city, they established the praetorium, seat of the magistrate or pretor. During the Visigothic period the king Leovigild established in it his capitality in 568. From that time the vicinity was used for "regal residences" that were completed with the construction of the "Pretorienses" churches, so called because of its proximity to the praetorium, like the one of Saint Leocadia (Toledo). It is believed that in this church are buried, flanking the tomb of the saint, the kings Wamba and Recceswinth which - together with Chindasuinth - created the Fuero Juzgo. From the era of Muslim domination, the works initiated by Abd ar-Rahman II in the year 836 and by Abd ar-Rahman III in 932.[4]

Successive expansions[edit]

It was restored and expanded during the mandate of Alfonso VI of Castile and its successors Alfonso VII of León and Alfonso VIII of Castile; Fernando III the Saint embellishes it considerably and Alfonso X the Wise manages to unite the three cultures that have passed through Toledo, — Jewish, Arab and Christian — with the famous Toledo School of Translators, and ordered the construction of the four square-shaped towers that form the four corners of the building.[5] From the 14th century, when the Muslim threat had almost completely disappeared, under the dynasty of the Trastámara began to exercise the function of regal residence. Internal reforms followed during the reigns of Peter I called "the cruel" by his detractors and "the just" by his followers, Henry I, John II, Henry IV and later, the Catholic Monarchs that conditioned the west façade.[6]

When Charles I (Charles V) returned to Spain from Germany summoned in 1525 the Cortes in Toledo and it lodged to him in Alcázar where it discussed with the Francis I of France's sister his rescue since he was prisoner in Madrid. It was modified in 1535 under his mandate and ordered the direction of the works to the architect Alonso de Covarrubias, Francisco de Villalpando and Juan de Herrera. They designed a compact and closed building, organized around a rectangular courtyard with double level of arches supported by columns of very classic air of Corinthians and compounds capitals. Covarrubias constructed the north facade and Herrera the south. The sober facade divided into three floors of repeated spans around which the decoration is concentrated and a gigantic imperial shield on the door reflect the power of the builder. On the death of Villalpando, the works were directed by Juan de Herrera. It impresses its stairs, later enlarged by Francisco de Villalpando, concluded under the reign of Philip II. It was temporary residence of the widowed Mariana of Austria (Philip IV's widow) and Maria Anna of Neuburg (Charles II's widow).[7]

Fires suffered[edit]

During the War of the Spanish Succession suffered its first fire by the Austrian forces in 1710. Years later, in 1774, the Cardinal Lorenzana proposes that its restoration be initiated which was carried out under the direction of architect Ventura Rodríguez. This was the first fire in a series he suffered. Once restored, the Royal House of Charity was installed there. The invasion of Spain by the troops of Napoleon and the events that happened the May 2 of 1808 in Madrid during the Napoleonic French Invasion had a great repercussion in the Alcázar since January 31 of 1810, when the French maintained a great contingent of men and artillery in the Alcázar, this suffers its second fire without the causes are known leaving only the main structure of the building standing. Luckily, the main staircase suffered very little damage. It was thought to reconstruct it several times but in none of them the attempts went from being simple projects. Many years later, in 1887, the Alcázar suffered the third fire which began in the library and spread rapidly throughout the building, almost completely destroying it.[8]

From the middle of the 19th century to the middle of the 20th[edit]

The Queen Isabel II gave part of the Alcázar so that the "College of Infantry" was installed in it. At that time the necessary studies were carried out to rebuild the building but the political revolution of 1854 paralyzed the works. In 1867 Toledo received with joy the news that the Alcázar is going to be rebuilt and began the works the 2 of July of that same year. The following year -1868- takes place the revolution that dethroned to the queen Isabel II and consequently the works were developing very slowly. When the reconstruction was over, the salons for "Royal Chamber", the "Hall of Honor" and the "Mudéjar Hall" stood out for its beauty. The Hall of Honor had painted on the ceiling four famous historical moments of the Emperor Charles I: the entrances in Rome and Tunisia, the Battle of Mühlberg and his interview with the king Francis I of France. In 1878 was installed in the Alcázar the Academy of Infantry of Toledo. As crowning of the reconstruction works was placed a statue of the Emperor Charles I in the center of the courtyard, cast bronze, a copy of the one made by Leone Leoni, which is preserved in the Royal Palace of Madrid, and placed on pedestal of Berroceña stone.[9]

The Alcazar as a "telegraph tower"[edit]

In the middle of the 19th century, the Ministry of the Interior, during the reign of Isabel II, installed in the NW tower(according to the testimony of Manuel de Assas In 1848) a telegraph device to receive and send coded messages from Madrid to Cádiz; Was the telegraph tower No. 10 of the Line of Andalusia, created by Brigadier Mathé. The posts of this line of optical telegraphy towers were in some towns like Aranjuez, Toledo, Ciudad Real, Puertollano and Fuencaliente. Fuencaliente; In the Andalusian part it crossed between other places like Cardeña, Córdoba, Carmona, Seville, Las Cabezas de San Juan, Jerez de la Frontera, Cádiz and San Fernando. Its operation as optical telegraph was brief, from 1848 to 1857.

Spanish Civil War[edit]

During the Spanish Civil War, Colonel José Moscardó Ituarte held the building against overwhelming Spanish Republican forces in the Siege of the Alcázar. The incident became a central piece of Spanish Nationalist lore, especially the story of Moscardó's son Luis. The Republicans took 16-year-old Luis hostage, and demanded that the Alcázar be surrendered or they would kill him. Luis told his father, "Surrender or they will shoot me." His father replied, "Then commend your soul to God, shout 'Viva Cristo Rey' and die like a hero."[10]

Moscardó refused to surrender. Contemporary reports indicated that the Republicans then murdered Moscardó's son. Other historians have reported that Luis was not in fact shot until a month later "in reprisal for an air raid".[11] The dramatic story also camouflages the fact that the fate of a number of male hostages, mainly from the Guardia Civil, taken into the Alcázar at the beginning of the siege is unclear. Some sources say the men "were never heard of again".[12] However at least one journalist who visited the Alcázar in the immediate aftermath of its liberation saw a number of prisoners chained to a railing in a cellar.[13]

The events of the Spanish Civil War at the Alcázar made the structure a symbol for Spanish Nationalism and inspired the naming of El Alcázar, a far-right newspaper that began during the civil war and ended during the Spanish transition to democracy as the mouthpiece for Búnker, a faction of Francoists who opposed reform after Francisco Franco's death.

By the end of the siege, the building had been severely damaged. After the war, it was rebuilt and now houses the Castilla-La Mancha Regional Library ("Biblioteca Autonómica") and the Museum of the Army ("Museo del Ejército"), the latter having previously been housed in the Salón de Reinos in Madrid.


Among others, El Alcázar has the following departments, museums and functions:

  • It can still see the lost bullets of the Spanish Civil War embedded in the walls of the Alcázar.
  • Since October 1998, it is the headquarters of the Library of Castile-La Mancha, which was created by integrating the funds and services of the State Public Library in Toledo (located until then in the Casa de la Cultura, at the back of the Museum of Santa Cruz) with those of the Regional Library (located until then in the Palacio de los Condes de Oñate).
  • Since July 2010 is the new headquarters of the Army Museum from the former Salón de Reinos of Madrid.
  • Hall of white arms: It is a room of homage and memory to the tradition of Toledan white guns that was continued in "National Factory of Weapons of Toledo", founded by Charles III, where it can see the evolution that has had the weapon.
  • Firearms Hall: Has all the firearms of the 20th century like pistols, machine guns, mortars, rifles, etc. Coming from the Army Museum of Madrid.
  • The Army Museum is currently located, which tells the story of Spain.
  • Modelroom: Two models of the Alcázar, before and after the siege, are exhibited in the Spanish Civil War along with photographs and other significant objects.
  • Romero Ortiz Hall: Exhibits the collections of which he was Minister of Grace and Justice don Antonio Romero Ortiz and that bequeathed to the Academy of Infantry.
  • Office of Moscardó. This office is the only room that is kept as it was on September 28, 1936.
  • Hall of battles. In this place represent the tactics, the environments and places where the most important acts of arms of the Spanish armies were developed. On each representation, on the ceiling, are the shields of Spain at the time of each battle shown below.
  • Crypt: It is the place where the remains of the defenders rest.
  • Hall of contemporary uniforms. In this room are exposed the standard uniforms until the present time as well as rewards and badges. It has an informative purpose. The lounge is presided by a bust of YE. Juan Carlos I.
  • Hall of Military Orders. In this room reproduce the eight Military orders of times between the 8th to 16th centuries and six current habits. The oldest order, that of the Encina, dates from the year 722. The intention they had in setting up this room is to pay homage to these orders that contributed very effectively to the Reconquista and who were the predecessors of The Regular Armies.
  • Documentary room: Contains the most varied documents, plans, instructions, etc. By which have been governed the construction and successive reconstructions of the Alcázar from the times of the Emperor Charles I.[14]

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

It contains translation of the homonymous page in the Spanish Wikipedia.

  1. ^ Henry Kamen, Philip of Spain, (Yale University Press, 1999), 184-185.
  2. ^ Toledo and the New World in the Sixteenth Century, Javier Malagón-Barceló, The Americas, Vol. 20, No. 2 (October 1963), 124.
  3. ^ Juana Aurora Mayoral. Alcázar de Toledo. Patronage of Conservation of the Alcazar of Toledo. pp. 1 to 5. 
  4. ^ Juana Aurora Mayoral (1987). Alcázar de Toledo. 1. Conservation Patronage of the Alcazar of Toledo. p. 5. 
  5. ^ Juana Aurora Mayoral (1987). Alcázar de Toledo. 1. Patronage of Conservation of Alcázar de Toledo. pp. 6 to 8. 
  6. ^ Juana Aurora Mayoral. Alcázar de Toledo. 1. Patronage of Conservation of Alcázar of Toledo. pp. 6 to 8. 
  7. ^ Aurora Mayoral (1987). Alcázar de Toledo. 1. Patronage of Conservation of the Alcázar of Toledo. p. 10. 
  8. ^ Juana Aurora Mayoral (1987). Alcázar de Toledo. 1. Patronato de Conservación del Alcázar de Toledo. pp. 9 to 12. 
  9. ^ Juana Aurora Mayoral (1987). Alcázar de Toledo. 1. Patronage of Conservation of the Alcázar of Toledo. pp. 10 to 13. 
  10. ^ Ideal Spain article
  11. ^ Thomas, p 311
  12. ^ Beevor, p122
  13. ^ Eby, p187
  14. ^ author = Juana Aurora Mayoral| title = Alcázar de Toledo | publisher = Patronato de Conservación del 1 = pages = 18 to 23 | accessdate = 7 December 2013}}


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 39°51′29″N 4°01′14″W / 39.858084°N 4.020631°W / 39.858084; -4.020631