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Notes on the Geography of Spain: Toledo: Photo 4

world pictures Spain: Toledo

A zoomed image of the city seen from the hills south of the river. The octagonal tower on the left is the Chapel of Santa Catalina; the black dome in the center belongs to the Church of San Juan Bautista; on the right is the massive cathedral. Ford writes that "when seen from afar, nothing can be more imposing," but he goes on to say that "there is rottenness in the core...."

What did he mean? The city's population had declined from 200,000 to 15,000, but Ford probably was referring instead to the behavior of the remaining residents. He doesn't comment on this explicitly, but an American naval officer, Alexander Slidell Mackenzie, came by a decade before Ford and wrote, "Toledo furnishes a striking epitome of the national decay. Here you may see the monuments of past magnificence crumbling to pieces, and ready to crush the squalid habitations of modern times... Instead of the noise of the loom and shuttle, and the voice of cheerful labour, announcing the presence of an industrious and happy people, you may now hear the tinkling bell of the host, or the louder tolling of some convent clock, calling the lazy inmates to the daily duties of the refectory...."

Then he comes to the heart of the matter. "But though there is much religion in Toledo, there is very little morality. There is, on the contrary, a vast deal of libertinism in this same sainted city. Indeed, how can it be otherwise, when so large a number of men are interdicted from the open enjoyment of domestic and family endearments, and, at the same time, provided with money to purchase the gratification of every desire?" (A Year in Spain, 1836, II, 70).

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