Toledo is of pre-Roman origin; known in ancient times as Toletum, it fell to the Romans in 193 B.C. The city became an early archiepiscopal see; its archbishops are the primates of Spain. In the 6th cent. Toledo prospered as a capital of the Visigothic kingdom, and it was the scene of several important church councils. Its greatest prosperity began under Moorish rule (712–1085), first as the seat of an emir and after 1031 as the capital of an independent kingdom. Under the Moors and later under the kings of Castile, who made it their chief residence, Toledo was a center of the Moorish, Spanish, and Jewish cultures and thus a great center for translation (its School of Translators was revived in 1995). Toledo sword blades were famous for their strength, elasticity, and craftsmanship; the art was introduced by Moorish artisans, and it is still carried on. Other important products were silk and wool textiles.
In the 15th cent. Valladolid superseded Toledo as chief royal residence, but Emperor Charles V resided in Toledo during much of his reign (1516–56). Its decline began in the 16th cent., but at the same time Toledo gained importance as Spain's spiritual capital. The seat of the Grand Inquisitors, it was also the center of the mysticism symbolized by El Greco, whose name has become inseparable from that of Toledo.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.