Extreme Makeover: Holy Place Edition By Caroline Boone

Caroline Boone is a junior at Ohio University majoring in political science and minoring in Spanish. Caroline is currently studying in Toledo, Spain at the University of Castilla- La Mancha.

Today marks the end of my first week living in Toledo, Spain.  So much has happened that I can hardly believe it has only been seven days.  Already I have run along the River Tajo, sampled tapas and sangria, met my professors, and spent a few days in Madrid!

While there is still so much for me to explore in Toledo, it feels more familiar every day.  I am constantly learning about this place: through the navigation of narrow streets, conversations with my host sisters, classes at the university, and visits to the city’s numerous historical sites.

On Tuesday, our group went on our first excursion to the Catedral de Toledo.  Here I learned why Toledo is called “the city of three cultures”.  Throughout its history it has been home to Jews, Muslims, and Christians.  Each religion and culture has influenced language, architecture, and customs in such a way so that today, Toledo is a blended culture of all three.

Throughout Spanish history one religion has dominated and regulated the others with varied levels of tolerance (sometimes none at all).  When the power shifted from one religion to another, often the holy places of the previous religion were reclaimed as holy places of those now in power.  Toledo is perhaps one of the best examples in all of Spain of a “repurposed” holy place.  This city has been an important religious site since the time of the Romans when a temple stood where the Catedral de Toledo is now located.  But before the cathedral there was an Iberian church, and then a Jewish synagogue, and then a mosque.  Thus, this site has been the holy place of the people of Toledo for many, many centuries.

As a temporary inhabitant, I have the opportunity to participate in mass at the Cathedral – just like people in Toledo have been doing for hundreds and hundreds of years!  I think this is super cool.  It is special to be in a place where the history of my religious tradition is so prevalent.

However, this feeling of being a part of Toledo’s living history isn’t confined to just the cathedral.  In Toledo, every building and bridge is from hundreds of years ago.  The skyline is ancient castles, churches, and forts. The streets are narrow, cobblestone walkways, designed for horses and people. In this setting, I feel I could be in a different time.  It is unlike anything in the United States where everything is very new and very large by comparison.

I am excited to continue to learn about the history of Toledo and Spain while living in the midst of it.

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