James and Emma Pre Pregnancy Adventure travel blog

One bull, no cape and your underpants on the inside - madness!

The parade we joined, no idea what it was about but it...

The ancient ritual known as "the fumigation of the crowd"

The centrepiece of the Corpus Christi parade, "The Custodia"

Toledo, famous for swords and knives. If you are familiar with Fremantle and know the 'Millenium exposition of fine arts', a place banned to potential submariners then it is a town of about 200 of these shops. We found no immediate need for a sword mind you, the last major battle for the city took place in the 1500's. The city is still ringed by the town wall and many parched fields.

We were lucky to arrive during the Fiesta of Corpus Christi which is one of the largest religious festivals in Spain. During the festival they line the streets with flowers and tapestries which makes the town very nice. During the first night there we found ourselves watching an obviously important parade with drums and religious images, not really knowing what it was about we joined in an walked along with the crowd waving at the locals. It was all devilishly good fun what!

The cathedral in Toledo is another typically grand building, and reminiscent on the excesses of the church in the Middle Ages and the grandiosity of the donations of the rich. A tradition that we have not seen to date is the placing of a cardinals hat over their grave/tomb. The hat is then left in place until it rots and given that there were still hats hanging there from the 1600's I suspect they were made of strong stuff. The Cathedral in Toledo also has produced a total of 6 Saints including one who was martyred for the cause. Whilst we wre in the church the wind organ was being tuned in preparation for the service of Corpus Christi the following day, to which we returned, to hear being played. The noise the organ produced was quite incredible and filled the Cathedral and became quite deafening at times, although luckily it was in tune.

During the parade the follieing day the streets are strewn with dried herbs so that when the Custodia (repositry for eucharist wafers) is paraded through the streets are filled with aroma. The Custodia is a solid silver 10ft high tower that has been guilded and weighs over 200kg. Slightly in front of the custodia the cardinal and his helpers fumigate the area with holy smoke, undoing all of the good work of the dried herbs. Once the crowd has come back to life with the application of liberal oxygen they can watch the remainder of the parade which consists of various religious orders from the town.

We saw a bull show with acrobats who dodge the bull, let us just say this is crazy and the bull got his own back before the end of the day!!

Toledo was also home of El Greco and quite a number of his paintings. One of the most famous of his paintings is called "The Burial of Count Orgaz" which was painted in 1586 and hangs unrestored in the Church of Santa Tóme. It is a massive work and shows, as the name suggests, the burial or ascencion of one Count Orgaz: Count Orgaz was also a large contributor to the church. Some time ago an intensive search was carried out for his body, this search lasted for quite a considerable time to no avail. Finally in 2001 they gave up the search after finding the tomb of our Count at the foot of his painting. Who would have thunk to look there! It is an amazing painting and for the art buffs Greco managed to paint a white smock over the black priests robes, quite a difficult thing to do. Greco also gets in on the action in the painting with a self portrait looking directly toward the viewer. Look on the net for a picture of the painting, it is quite good but unfortunately like many things will not show the colours as good as the original.


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