The crypt of Toledo Cathedral

The crypt of Toledo Cathedral

The crypt of the Primate Cathedral has recently been restored and opened to the public. With great success on the part of the Cabildo-Cathedral, what was a dark and forgotten space has become another, very interesting, open area of the many kept by the primate temple.

Almost all Gothic cathedrals usually have the crypt below the High Altar, a clear example of this being, in addition to Toledo, Barcelona. In our cathedral, the crypt has been closed and practically unused since time immemorial. I have only seen it open during the restoration of the chapel of the Tabernacle that took place in the seventies and that for that reason they said here the daily masses that are usually said in the chapel of our patron saint.

Creation of the crypt of Toledo Cathedral

It was Cardinal Pascual de Aragón (1666-1677) who decided to create an appropriate space in the cathedral to house the remains of Saint Ursula, which had arrived in Toledo thanks to a gift from the Duchess of Feria, wife of his brother Antonio de Aragón. He ordered the cardinal to build an urn of glass and wood (sealed with his cardinal’s coat of arms) to house the remains of the saint who until then had belonged to Pope Clement X.

The precious casket was deposited in the central altar of the crypt, located just in front of the singular sculptural ensemble called “The Holy Burial of Christ” created by Diego Copín from Holland and with polychrome by Juan de Borgoña.

The crypt of Toledo CathedralCrypt of the Primate Cathedral.
The Holy Burial of Christ. Diego Copín from Holland
SICP Photo: Carlos Dueñas Rey.

The scene presents us as Mary, the three Holy Women and St. John contemplate, in a praying position, as Christ lies on the sheet held by Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, half kneeling at the head and feet of the tomb before placing it in it.

The crypt of Toledo CathedralCrypt of the Primate Cathedral.
Triptych of Saint Francis of Assisi: Francisco Fernández.
Slaughter of the Innocents: Francisco Ricci.
St. John the Baptist: Francis Ricci.
SICP Photo: Carlos Dueñas Rey

Two triptych-shaped altarpieces complete the decoration of the crypt of the Primada cathedral. In the first of them, as we descend to the left, is the bishop San Julián, flanked by San Bartolomé and San Juan and in second place we see the oil called San Francisco de Asís receiving the stigmata accompanied by the beheading of the Innocents and San Juan Bautista.

The crypt of Toledo CathedralCrypt of the Primate Cathedral. Triptych of Bishop San Julián: Anonymous. Saint Bartholomew: Antonio Veneziani. Saint John: Antonio Veneziani. SICP Photo: Lisardo Gómez

With the enhancement of the crypt, Toledo joins the group of cities where there are two reliquaries of Saint Ursula, such as Colonia, Bruges, Pamplona, Saint Joan de Valls, or the museums of Art and History of Durango or the diocesan of Ávila.

This is Toledo, chapter eight: The pillars of Faith, Toledo Cathedral.

Legend of Saint Ursula and the Eleven Thousand Virgins

According to a story carved on a tombstone in Cologne, a group of Christian maidens was martyred in the fourth century. Four hundred years later, the stories about these women gave rise to a fabulous legend:

Ursula, daughter of the English king Donatu of Dummonia, was a Christian, and the date of her marriage to the pagan prince Conan Meriadoc of Armorica (present-day Brittany) had been fixed.

The young woman proposed to postpone the marriage for a period of three years, hoping that her fiancé would convert to Christianity. In the meantime he boarded a ship with his ladies for company and made a pilgrimage to Rome.

As she passed through Cologne, she and her maidens were attacked by the Huns. Ursula rejected the marriage proposal of Attila himself, head of the barbarians, and all of them were murdered. According to tradition, the young Christian woman was asaeteada.

Since ancient times she has been considered the patron saint of young girls and schoolgirls.

The crypt of Toledo CathedralCrypt of the Primate Cathedral. Urn with the remains of Saint Ursula. SICP Photo: Lisardo Gómez

For my part, I am grateful to the chapter of the Primate Cathedral for having opened this unique space for their own and strangers to contemplate, because I think it is worth it.

Photos: Crypt of the Holy Primate Cathedral.

Text KING OWNERS CARLOS. Original publication in the group of Legends of Toledo.

Photos: Carlos Dueñas and Lisardo Gómez (see Facebook)