Mezquita del Cristo de la Luz, Toledo

The Mezquita del Cristo de la Luz (Mosque of Christ of the Light) is a fascinating little former mosque in a park above the northern ramparts of Toledo, Spain. Dating from the late 10th century, it is the only surviving mosque out of the ten that once stood throughout Toledo.

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History of the Mezquita del Cristo de la Luz

Built over the site of a Visigothic church, the Mezquita is one of the oldest Moorish monuments in Spain. An Arabic inscription on the facade tells us that it was constructed by one Musa Ibn Ali in 999 AD (390 AH).

Despite its dimunitive size, this mosque was very important in the Islamic era, due both to its location in a wealthy quarter and its proximity to the Alcazaba, an elevated fortress that stood on the site of the Alcazar.

The chapel derives its name from a legend: when King Alfonso VI rode into Toledo in triumph in 1085, his horse fell to its knees out front (a white stone marks the spot). It was then discovered that a candle had burned continuously behind the masonry throughout three and a half centuries of Muslim rule, illuminating a hidden crucifix.

The history is a little more obscure. After the conquest of Toledo in 1085, the building was still known as Bab-al-Mardum. It wasn't until 1186 that the mosque was converted to a chapel, when it was given by King Alfonso VIII to the Knights of St. John and named Ermita de la Santa Cruz (Chapel of the Holy Cross).

The first mass of the Reconquest was said here, and a transept was later added, along with a Mudejar apse decorated with blind arches. The church portion of the structure is thought to be the first product of the Mudejar style.

What to See at the Mezquita del Cristo de la Luz

The square part of the building is original from the 10th-century mosque. At the top of the facade is an Arabic inscription in brick that reads:

Below this is open latticework of bricks, followed by a blind arcade of entwined horseshoe arches, and at the bottom are three entrance doors. Three more doors are on the northwest facade, which provide access to the courtyard. Along the top are sets of red-and-white striped horseshoe arches, reminding one of the much larger versions in the Mezquita of Cordoba.

Inside, the mosque is 7.74 m by 8.60 m in size. Pillars and horseshoe arches divide the space into three aisles crossed by another three, forming nine small compartments. These are topped with square vaults, each of which has a unique and attractive geometrical design. Some of the columns rest on Visigothic capitals.

The apse at the back was added after its conversion to a church in the 12th century and is a fine example of Mudejar architecture (and quite possibly the earliest anywhere).

It was decorated with murals of Christ and other figures, some of which still survive. Especially notable is a faded Christ Pantocrator on a blue background in the far east end.

The crucifix found in the Mezquita is now housed in Toledo's Santa Cruz Museum.

Next to the Mezquita is a small peaceful garden centered on a little fountain. Walk a bit beyond the garden for fine views over the north edge of the city walls and the large Puerta del Sol city gate.

Quick Facts on the Mezquita del Cristo de la Luz

Site Information
Names:Mezquita del Cristo de la Luz · Mosque of Christ of the Light
Categories:churches; mosques; change of religion
Styles:Mudejar; Moorish
Dedication: Christ of the Light
Dates:999
Status: museum
Visitor and Contact Information
Coordinates:39.860658° N, 4.024268° W
Address:Cuesta de las Carmelitas Descalzas, 10
Toledo, Spain
45002
Phone:+34 925 25 41 91
Email:cristodelaluz@terra.es
Hours:Summer: daily 10-7

Winter: daily 10-6
Lodging:View hotels near the Mezquita del Cristo de la Luz
Note: This information was accurate when first published and we do our best to keep it updated, but details such as opening hours and prices can change without notice. To avoid disappointment, please check with the site directly before making a special trip.

References

  1. Personal visit (April 2, 2007).
  2. Mezquita Cristo de la Luz (brochure provided with admission).
  3. Fodor's Spain

More Information

© Holly Hayes
© Holly Hayes
© Holly Hayes
Arabic inscription in brick on the main facade of the Mezquita. It reads: "Bismallah [In the name of Allah].... © Holly Hayes
© Holly Hayes
One of nine square vaults in the old mosque, each one unique. © Holly Hayes
© Holly Hayes
View into the Mudejar apse (under renovations) from the mosque. © Holly Hayes
© Holly Hayes

Map of the Mezquita del Cristo de la Luz, Toledo

Below is a location map and aerial view of the Mezquita del Cristo de la Luz. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.