Picturesquely sited on a hill above the River Tagus is the historic centre of Toledo. Behind the old walls lies much evidence of the city’s rich history. The Romans built a fortress on the site of the present-day Alcazar. The Visigoths made Toledo their capital in the 6th century AD, and left behind several churches. In the Middle Ages, Toledo was a melting pot of Christian, Muslim and Jewish cultures, and it was during this period that the city’s most outstanding monument – its cathedral – was built. In the 16th century the painter El Greco came to live in Toledo, and today the city is home to many of his works.
In 1085, when Alfonso VI of Castile took Toledo from the Moors, the entire walled expanse near the old Bisagra Gate came under the control of the first Cardinal of Toledo after the Reconquista. His name was Bernard of Cluny. Having been a walled city (7th C. King Wamha), the city has various Gothic and Roman gateways and bridges including the gateway of the Sun (Mudejar), the Cambron, the Valmardon, and the Bisagra gates.
Over the succeeding centuries the walls lost their defensive nature and it became a recreational estate for the Cardinals. Towards the end of the 18th century, Cardinal Lorenzana constructed a pavilion overlooking the garden, which, after its restoration, is now known as the Hostal del Cardenal. This is our hotel pick in Toledo. The Hostal del Cardenal is a 3 star hotel with excellent access to the medieval historic old town, and top-notch amenities.
Don Francisco Antonio de Lorenzana y Buitron, a strict guardian of ecclesiastic discipline, a man of piety, culture, firm character and an independent thinker, after becoming the dean of the cathedral, was named Archbishop of Plasencia (1756) and Archbishop of Mexico in 1766, where he would demonstrate his enlightened and philanthropic nature. In 1772, he was named Archbishop of Toledo, becoming a Cardinal in 1779 and eventually the Grand Inquisitor of the Kingdom.
The singular feature of the edifice is the pentagonal tower that the cardinal used as an open air oratory, saying his vespers by the light of the twilight sun, setting on Toledo’s low plains. The façade is a harmonious blend of Castillian masonry and lintels of unpolished granite, with wooden struts and bases. Walking through a pathway of kiln-fired floor tiles, we enter the El Greco dining room, adorned with faux plaster lintels inspired by Moorish tracery and a 16th century polychrome coffered ceiling
A stairway whose railing dates from the 16th century leads to the upper flow where a replica of El Greco’s ‘Storm over Toledo’ hangs in the anteroom of a neo-classical social hall. Two cordovan leather armchairs huddle around a central fireplace in the middle of the irregularly shaped room decorated with etchings from the National Printing Office.
The lush gardens, a replica of the Generalife gardens of the Alhambra, boasts fountains that flow into long pools with cypress trees on either side. At the bottom of the stepped garden, past the century-old white mulberry trees and the privet bushes is a building in the Mudejar-Castillian style of St. James Church in Toledo, which houses the restaurant.