We spent a wonderful week in Zamora and it was time to move on to our next stay which was to be a few days in the Paradore in La Granja. The aim was to rest for a few days after two weeks of sightseeing! But of course a trip from A to B is also an opportunity for some more exploring and our first stop was in Toro on the Duero.
A brief history of Toro
Toro is a very old town, possibly over 2,000 years. This was possibly the settlement of a Celtic tribe, the Vacate, who were conquered by Hannibal in 220 BC. The Romans took over the town and after they left the Moors conquered Toro in the 8th century. Alfonso III reclaimed the town c.910.
Ferdinand III was crowned here and Isabel of Castile held court here. Her court passed significant laws which included the ’83 laws of Toro’. These said that a woman could inherit the throne which was a very unusual decision for its time.
in March 1476 two armies faced each other on the Duero west of Toro. Alfonso V of Portugal commanded one army and the young Ferdinando of newly united Castile-Aragon commanded the other army. The result was inconclusive but Catholic propaganda proclaimed victory and the Reys Catholics continued as the King and Queen of Spain.
The Collegiate Church of Santa Maria in Toro
The Collegiate Church of Santa Maria la Mayor dates from the 12th-13th centuryies and stands on the edge of the town, overlooking the River Duero. The site is similar to the Cathedral in Zamora and the dome is one of the most notable in the Romanesque style together with Zamora, Plasencia and Salamanca (on the list for 2023!)
The most extraordinary aspect of the church is perhaps the Western Door, or Royal Portal. This interior door is carved and painted and quite stunningly beautiful. I could have spent a long time exploring the details with a the camera on a tripod, but that is not allowed, and no flash. So, handheld and open up the camera is the only option!
In the 15th century a chapel was built around the doorway so that it is enclosed, and protected. The colouring of the doorway has been almost completely preserved and when it was restored during the 20th century conservators were able to work with, and research, almost unique material. This kind of colouring was common in Europe at the time but almost no examples have survived and so Toro is extremely important indeed.
Inside the body of the church
Yes, there are ornate altarpieces but the building retains its simplicity and austerity. And there are some wonderfully ‘human’ statues of the angel talking to Mary, a very pregnant Virgin Mary, and Joseph looking on.
The Church of San Lorenzo el Real
This is the oldest Mudejar-Romanesque church in Toro and dates from the 12th-13th centuries. It is called ‘Real’ because some members of the Castilla-Fonseca family are buried here, illegitimate descendants of Peter I. It was stark, but I liked it.
The Church of Santa Sepulchre
The Church of Santa Sepulchre stands on the Plaza Mayor in Toro. It dates from the 15th – 17th centuries, and in the Middle Ages it was the headquarters of the Order of Knights of the Holy Sepulchre in Castile, León, Navarre, Galicia and Portugal. The Order was later incorporated into Knights Hospitaller, or the Order of St John of Jerusalem.
Corners in Toro
We only had a few hours but plan to return because this was clearly a very important town in the Middle Ages and it felt good even today. So here are a few pictures to remind us of what we enjoyed.
We enjoyed Toro on the Duero but we had to move on. We plan to return in 2023!