Walk Description

A center of culture and religion since the Middle Ages, Toledo has been home to Jews, Christians, and Muslims from the Mahgreb. Now a World Heritage site, the churches, synagogues, and mosques that still dot this beautifully preserved city are a testimony to the heterogenous history of Europe.

During this excursion from Madrid, we'll join a scholar from the Context network to explore the architectural and social history of Toledo to offer insight into the city that is traditionally known as ‘the melting pot of three cultures.' Our seminar-like discussion will begin on the 20-minute train ride from Madrid, during which our scholar will lay out the basic timeline of Toledo's history and some of the main themes to think about. Once in Toledo, we'll begin our walk at the Cathedral, whose origins go back to the seventh century, and boasts a superb collection of Gothic altarpieces, funerary monuments and choir stalls, as well as a rare religious painting by Goya.

From here we will head to the Synagogue of Santa Maria la Blanca, stopping along the way at the church of San Tomé to examine one of El Greco's masterpieces, The Burial of the Count of Orgaz within the context of medieval funerary customs and the relevance of its setting in Toledo. The fourteenth-century Synagogue nearby, which houses the Museum of Sephardic Culture, is crucial to our understanding of the Jewish influence on Spanish culture. After a tour of the Jewish quarter, we will visit the late fifteenth-century Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes, commissioned by the Reyes Católicos, and a perfect setting for a discussion of the political and religious decisions taken by the monarchs.

At this point we'll leave you (with tickets for your return to Madrid) free to explore the rest of Toledo on your own.

This excursion is fairly walking-intensive.Please note that Toledo is unfortunately not very wheelchair-accessible.

It may be possible to customize a private excursion to focus on Toledo's Jewish history. Please contact us for more information.


Duration: 6 hours
Category: Excursions
Venues: Toledo Cathedral, Synagogue of Santa Maria la Blanca, Church of San Tomé
Incidentals: Various entrance fees- €20 euros
Additional Costs:
  • Train Ticket: Madrid-Toledo Round-Trip (Regular Price) - €20.00 (mandatory)
  • Train Ticket: Madrid-Toledo Round-Trip (Reduced Price) - €15.00 (mandatory)
  • Andrea Van Houtven

    Andrea Van Houtven received her Ph.D. in art history at the University of Maryland. Her dissertation was on the relationship between art and humanism at the Spanish court in the early 17th century, which inevitably led her to Madrid. She has lived in Madrid for 12 years where she has been teaching art history and art-related courses at various universities and private centers. She also participates in special events at the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum.

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    Lourdes Fernandez Bencosme

    Originally from the Dominican Republic, Lourdes Fernández Bencosme has made Madrid her home for the last nineteen years. She is very passionate about the city and Spain in general. She holds a BA in History from the Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo after which she moved to Chicago to pursue her graduate work. She first earned a MA degree in Hispanic Studies from the University of Illinois at Chicago and later transferred to the University of Chicago for her PhD studies. She has taught courses at the University of Illinois, The University of Chicago, Colgate University, Universidad Autónoma de México, Syracuse University Madrid, Suffolk University Boston and is currently part of the faculty at Suffolk University Madrid Campus where she teaches a course entitled Madrid Cosmopolitan City among others. Her main interests are visual culture, popular music, urban life and their literary representations in Hispanic literature. Lourdes lives with her husband, her two daughters and two cats in the historic center of Madrid.

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    Clara Nchama

    Originally from Equatorial Guinea, Clara moved to Spain when she was 2 years old. She holds degrees in geography and history and a Master’s in art history from Sorbonne University in Paris. With more than fifteen years experience in museum education and public programs, Clara has worked at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice (Italy), the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C, and a number of institutions within the cultural department of the Ministry of Culture in Spain. She also has designed art and cultural tours for groups for more than 10 years. At present Clara works as a Public Programmes and Communication Coordinator at the Museo del Traje (Costume Museum) of Madrid, organising events, lectures, group visits and educational programmes. An avid traveller, she has lived in Seville, Bilbao, New York City, Washington, D.C., Venice, Florence, London and Paris.

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    Itziar Mesanza

    Itziar Mesanza obtained her first degree in tourism in the Spanish city of Bilbao, famous for its wonderful Guggenheim Modern Art Museum. She continued her studies with a Masters in History and has been living and guiding in Madrid. Passionate about travel, Itziar lived in Dublin for one year and shares Spanish history and culture on specialized tours around Spain.

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    Barbara Perucka

    Barbara Perucka has been living for last few years in Madrid. She earned her Ph.D. in Art History, as well as her Bachelor’s degree in Italian Philology, at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań (Poland).
    Her research interests focus on medieval painting, art at European courts, and travel literature. Her doctoral thesis was dedicated to the decoration of a French manuscript Livre des merveilles (Book of
    Wonders, Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, ms. fr. 2810). She has published papers about late medieval tapestries and medieval illustrated accounts of a journey, and was a professor of art history at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań and Nebrija University in Madrid. She was also the benefactor of several research grants in Paris, Dijon, Vienna, Pisa and Brussels.

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    Tobias Locker

    Originally from Berlin, Germany, Tobias attended the Freie University Berlin, where he earned his Masters Degree (Magister Artium) in art history. He continued his studies at the Technical University Berlin, and finished his PhD studies in 2011 with a thesis on the 18th century Swiss born Decorative Sculptor Johann Melchior Kambly and the Royal Furniture that he and his Potsdam based workshop built for Frederick II of Prussia. Tobias lived for several years in Paris and in Liverpool, teaching amongst others at the University of Liverpool, before he moved to Madrid where he is currently teaching at the Madrid Campus of the Saint Louis University. Tobias works about 17th and 18th century decorative arts with a special interest in furniture, furniture design and art & culture during the 18th century. He has presented his research in several countries. Amongst others he has given lectures for the National Trust (UK), at the Deutsches Forum für Kunstgeschichte (Paris) or at the Bard Institute (NYC), participated at international conferences and published his findings. Besides his scholarly activity he works as a freelance translator and has right now several years of experience leading tours with groups throughout Europe.