Cristo de la Luz

More than 1000 years of history and legend.
Welcome to the oldest monument in Toledo

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10:00 – 18:45 *

10:00 – 17:45 *

Open from Monday to Sunday.*

*The ticket offices will close 10 minutes before closing time.
* 1 January and 25 December closed.
* 24 and 31 December until 13:00


The oldest standing monument in Toledo

Built in 999, the Old Mosque, now the Ermita del Cristo de la Luz, is the oldest standing monument in the city of Toledo.

It is small but very rich in history and art. Its similarities and differences with the great mosque of Cordoba make it a tourist attraction that you should not miss if you come to visit Toledo and want to soak up its multicultural history.

Islamic Toledo, largely unknown to many, enjoys an important significance in this unique building. The Toledo of the three cultures made into a building: the achievement of civilisations that played a major role in the history of our city becomes a reality in this mosque converted into a church.

The legend of the Cristo de La Luz, one of the best known, leaves no one indifferent… don’t you know it? Come and discover it!

of Cristo de la Luz

The 10th Century Caliphate Mosque

Bab al-Mardum Mosque

Located next to one of the gates of the walled enclosure, it is one of the most important monuments of Hispano-Muslim and Mudéjar architecture in Spain. Small as jewels, this valuable millenary building is a unique example of the survival of the Al-Andalus art: a mosque or small oratory from the Caliphate period, to which two centuries later, when it was transformed into a church, an apse was added, following the style of the original building, giving rise to Mudejar art, in perfect combination and symbiosis.


A sumptuous commission

The inscription discovered in 1899 allowed the building to be dated to AD 999 and linked it to the prestigious Banū l-Hadīdī family:


“Basmala. This mosque was erected by Ahmad ibn Hadidi, from his private wealth, requesting Allah’s glorious reward for it. It was completed, with the help of Allah, under the direction of Musa ibn Ali, the architect, and Saada, and was finished in Muharraq in the year three hundred and ninety” (Foundation inscription, 13 December 999/11 January 1000).

However, we do not know whether the mosque was a private place linked to the residence of the family or whether it was built as a pious foundation for the whole village.


It was built in an important neighbourhood where palace-houses of illustrious personages have been found, due to its proximity to the Alcazaba, known as Al Hizam or Ceñidor. It was next to one of the main access roads to the medina or city and opposite one of its gates. The original building was outstanding for its great sumptuousness, as it was originally free-standing and elevated above street level, with a small square on its north side from which it was accessed by a flight of steps.



School or mausoleum?

It is not excluded that this mosque -like the Fatimid mosques of northern Egypt with a similar plan to this one- was used as a place of instruction, or madrasa, since its spatial layout seems to be intended to accommodating the halqa-s of students around the teacher. Scholars also do not rule out a funerary nature in the building and its use as a mausoleum.


The history of their names

The Mosque receives the Arabic name of Bab al-Mardum from the nearby gate with this name, as it was called at the time of the conquest of Toledo by Alfonso VI (1085). However, a century later, it became under the ownership of the Knights of the Order of St John as the ermita de la Santa Cruz (Hermitage of the Holy Cross). But the most common name it receives: del Cristo de la Luz (Christ of the Light), is due to different stories with no documentary basis that have formed part of the tradition since the Christian reconquest and of which only the testimonies of the carving of a Christ called de la Luz remain, currently in the Museum of Santa Cruz and of an image of the Virgen de la Luz that no longer exists.

The Church of Santa Cruz from the 12th century

Conversion into a Christian church

A document from 1183 included in the Book of Privileges of the Order of St John of Jerusalem records the donation by Domingo Pérez and his wife Juliana of the so-called house of the Holy Cross “which was a Moorish mosque next to the gate of Beni Abardom” to this military Order so that they could turn it into their chapel and oratory. It is strange that after the reconquest of the city, it passed into private hands and not to the archiepiscopal mitre, like the rest of the Islamic cult buildings. Perhaps it was already privately owned after the assassination of al-Ma`mūm, when the Banū l-Hadīdī family fell into disgrace and their possessions were disposed.

Three years later, Archbishop Gonzalo consecrated this place, which became known as the  Iglesia de la Santa Cruz, of the hospitaller brothers. Its peculiar architectural structure complicated its adaptation to parish use, so it finally became a private chapel with the addition of an apse on its eastern side. In the 17th century, the church was still called “de la Cruz” in El Greco’s “Plan and View of Toledo”.

The discovery of their identity

Travellers in the 19th century initiated the rediscovery of this building, which had been hidden under surrounding buildings, wall coverings and other elements. American writers and French drawers made the mosque known to the world. Amador de los Ríos and Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer tried to strip it of the legends and doubts about its understanding, pointing to the more than evident architecture which at the time allowed a glimpse of the coexistence between the Muslim building and the Christian head of the mosque. The history of the restoration of the building, full of difficulties and abandonment, was arduous and stretched out over time until well into the 20th century. The discovery of the mural paintings in 1871 and of the foundation inscription in brick in 1899 sparked critical euphoria and visits by scholars and the curious. Since then, the beauty of its forms, the exquisite refinement of its arches and vaults and the discovery in its very simple forms of a complicated and multiple combination of lines, has not ceased to fascinate all those who have wanted to approach this arcane corner of Toledo’s artistic heritage.

Art in
Cristo de la Luz


A miniature copy of the Cordoba Mosque

Its constructive and decorative elements, such as vaults, horseshoe arches with cant, voussoirs, arcades, cruciform-shaped crests, etc., are clearly inspired by the Mosque of Córdoba, and especially by the enlargement of the prayer hall ordered by the Caliph Al-Hakam II, just 30 years earlier. The vaults are fragmented or complete replicas of the vaults designed in the capital of al-Andalus. The former, however, was built in stone, while the latter is built in brick with lime mortar, the facades are made of taped masonry, and the qibla wall to the southeast and the southwest wall reuse ashlar stonework.

The T-shape plant

Its floor plan is practically square with small dimensions, around 8 square metres, distributed by means of four columns in three parallel naves crossed by another three naves in a transversal sense, leaving the space divided into nine square sections, covered with totally different vaults. The columns are reused, without bases and with Visigothic capitals of rough carving on three of them, and the fourth, rebuilt after the restoration of 1909, as the date inscribed on it clearly reveals. Above them, cruciform ogees distribute horseshoe arches in all directions. A second body contains caved walls pierced by appropriate openings around the axes of the building: a longitudinal axis in the central nave and a transversal axis parallel to the wall of the qibla is located on the southeast wall.

Professor Ewert’s studies have highlighted the existence of a T-shaped layout, in which the central nave and the last of the transverse aisles before the maqsurah are the richest and best decorated, with the exclusive use of multifoil arches in their layout. There is therefore a clear intention to reinforce these spaces with architecture in order to orientate the faithful towards the qibla wall, and therefore towards Mecca.

Brick facades

The facade on the Calle del Cristo de la Luz, which bears the inscription, is made up of three arches: the central one is semicircular, the left one is a cinquefoil arch and the right one is horseshoe-shaped. According to archaeologists, these were never originally doors but windows on the side facade. Above them is a second body with a blinded arcade of intertwined horseshoe arches , and above them is an openwork band of bricks forming a network of lozenges, framed by corner bricks that serves as the base for the inscription in kufic script.

What was once the main facade, today to the northwest, has three prolonged horseshoe arches, covered by three semi-circular arches framed with brick bands, in reference to the multiple double arcades of the Mosque of Córdoba. In the third section, a blind arcade with horseshoe arches under trefoil arches is crowned by a double band of bricks in the corner.


Romanesque paintings

The interior of the presbytery is decorated with frescoes. Nowadays they are very deteriorated. In accordance with Romanesque iconography, the vault depicts the Pantocrator or Christ in majesty surrounded by the Tetramorphos, the four symbols of the evangelists. On the side walls, there are figures of saints and a clothed male figure in which the archbishop or cleric who commissioned the work is depicted. Still clearly visible is the representation of angels carrying the soul of a deceased person, in the form of a girl, a later painting, closer to the Gothic world of the 14th century.


A place rich in archaeological remains

The excavation carried out in 2006 yielded surprising results. On the one hand, the discovery in the northern esplanade of the mosque’s gardens of a Roman road of large granite slabs 5 metres wide that ran in a north-south direction and under it a sewer that ran to the well-known Valmardón sewer, preserved under the gate of the same name. The area of the mosque building has been found to have been a rock quarry in the Roman Toletum, possibly related to the construction of the nearby Roman wall of which a circular tower is preserved very close under the current Puerta del Sol.

A cave under the high altar

Under the current medieval apse, whose walls are 60 cm thick, another larger apse has been found, 1.60 metres thick and whose axis follows the same east-west orientation, although slightly displaced from the current building. It may have belonged to a monumental building made of masonry with lime and integrated into the Roman or Visigothic Toletum, as it is perpendicular to the axis of the road and marks the beginning of the road towards the city, although it may also be the foundation of the current apse. The most surprising thing is that a small excavated cave has been discovered inside this apse, the remains of the Roman quarry located here. Its location led to the conclusion that this unusual space was created for the needs of worship, devotional or pious motivations, among which the retreat of a hermit could not be ruled out. Archaeologists currently favour the unique hypothesis of the Roman quarry.

The missing tower

Partially attached to the apse was a tower whose traces are preserved in the subsoil and whose 5 x 5 metre plan, similar to the other documented towers in the city. This fact tells us of the importance of this church.

Archaeology has once again found remains of foundation walls attached to the north facade, which may well have been chapels in which various individuals were undoubtedly buried.

The Christian cemetery

In the northern area, occupying an area of about 300 metres, a Christian cemetery has been located with numerous burials in simple graves or those delimited with bricks and in anthropomorphic form, which was in use between the 12th and 15th centuries. During the reign of the Catholic Monarchs, at the end of the 15th century, burials began to take place inside the church. Only a few of them were privileged, although they would do so at all times until the 19th century.


Crucifix Cupolas

It is very likely that the anomalous height of the nine sections, already pointed out by Gómez-Moreno, especially the central one of 10.30 m. for a section 2 m. high (in the aljama of Cordoba the skylights in front of the mihrab are two to three times the width of the floor plan), is a consequence of the two construction periods that we defend the mosque had, one prior to 999 when the first body was built and the nine sections were separated by pillars and the other in 999, which was forced and unpublished both in the height of the interior and in the reinforcement of the exterior.

We make new observations about the cupolas: firstly, the nine cupolas in the Caliphate tradition in Córdoba are all different from each other, without observing here the 2-1-2= 1 with two identical figures, which can be seen in the section of domes in front of the Mijrab of the aljama mosque in Córdoba, an anomaly that we have already detected in the arches on the facade of the street. With respect to Cordoba, the transgression in Toledo is evident: disorder in the location of the two unique models plagiarised from Cordoba: in the axis of the middle street, the central cupola and the extreme northwest cupola; the latter, which in Cordoba enjoys maximum hierarchy due to its centrality and being in front of the mihrab, is now noticeably displaced and emptied of its symbolic or sacred content, as it is placed at the foot of the oratory, choosing for the centre the model of the sides of the Cordoban mihrab, although with a transgression in the adaptation of the eight-pointed star to the octagonal frame: the points of the eight-pointed star are placed in the centre of the trumpets, instead of at the vertices of the octagon, a model that became popular in the post-Caliphate period. Another very particular use of this model is in the roof lantern on the left side of the front wall, this time without trumpets, with the points of the star incising on the vertices and in the centre of the square-based sides.

There is the small roof lantern on the right of the front wall imitating the model of the Villaviciosa Chapel of the Aljama Mosque of Cordoba with a design of nine equal sections two by two, the largest central section, a model that is used in one of the muqarnas vaults of the church of San Andrés in Toledo. The model adds a loophole in the centre, reiterated in the cupolas of the Tornerías. Equally novel is the roof lantern in the centre of the front wall with a cross of equal arms, the ribs of the cross and of the arches of the trumpets with a foil arch design, which is present for the first time in the false cupola of the Royal Chapel of Cordoba. According to Ewert, this cross seems to be pointing to the almihrab. The simplest roof lantern is one with a slanted square and another with a design of the nine equal sections or parallel ribs two by two, a form adopted in the cupola of the central section of the Tornerías. (Pavón Maldonado, LAS MEZQUITAS DEL CRISTO DE LA LUZ DE TOLEDO Y DE LAS TRESPUERTAS DE QAYRAWAN. ARCHITECTURE AND DECORATION)


Roman road of Valmardón

The discovery under the Mosque and in front of the Valmardón gate of an important stretch of Roman street, paved with granite slabs, entails a revolution to what has been discovered so far. On the one hand, it allows us to make progress in our knowledge of this type of road in relation to the urban planning of cities such as Toledo, and on the other, it significantly expands the poor inventory of Roman remains in this city. Although the discovery has surpassed all expectations, its location is not at all surprising, as it is in an area of the city that ancient sources had always described as its main access. Thus, the few published findings from this period tell us of the existence of the Roman wall just a few metres away.

This wall would have run along elevation 500 and sections would have been located in the convent of Carmelitas and under the present-day Puerta del Sol. The best-studied remains that can help us to understand the walled and urban environment of this area are undoubtedly the tower discovered under the Puerta del Sol (Rubio Rivera and Tsiolis Karantasi, 2004: 231). The chronology of the archaeological context of the tower suggests that the construction of the wall must be dated to the second half of the 1st century AD. These authors argue that in Toletum, the construction of the wall was promoted in accordance with the period in which it became a municipality. In fact, in this same direction they point to the design of the orthogonal urban grid, with crossed and criss-crossed axes at right angles and with an orientation coinciding with the cardinal points, as well as the hydraulic drainage network.

Nevertheless, the main access to the Roman city remained a mystery. Both Rubio and Tsiolis once assumed that the Valmardon site was a strong candidate for the location of the main Roman gate on this slope (Rubio Rivera and Tsiolis Karantasi, 2004: 231). Something indicates that they were not far off in their predictions. The stretch of urban road located under the Cristo de la Luz complex completes part of the puzzle of the urban fabric of Roman Toledo. The uncovered street has a north-south direction, is 7 m long and 4 m wide (although its real width would be around 6 m). This paving is made up of large granite slabs or slabs of granite arranged in pseudo-regular courses or layers, formed by prismatic-shaped pieces, in which the courses formed by large slabs (120 x 40 x 15 cm) alternate with the courses made of smaller slabs (60 x 40 x 15 cm). It is worth noting that the slabs that make up the road surface or the road surface retain marks of the notches made to facilitate the transit of the carriages, as well as projections and differences in level between them, which would make it easier to overcome the slope of the same, braking the wheels of the vehicles in the opposite direction of travel.

At the present stage of our investigations, the excavated section of public road seems to have continuity in the north and south directions. In the first case, the layout of the route allows us to hypothesise that it continued in a straight line as far as the Bab al-Mardum Gate, while in the southern direction it was clearly cancelled out by the construction of the Mosque, which thus occupied a space that had previously been used as a public thoroughfare.

Within the classification that the Romans themselves- according to their importance and final destination- made of their public roads and which has been revealed to us through an administrative document written by Siculus Flaccus in the 1st century AD (Adam, 1982: 300), the characteristics of our example allow us to ascribe it to the first type: the viae pvblicae, paid for by the State and equivalent in the urban case to the great monumental streets, either cardini or decumani.

(Ruiz Taboada and Arribas Domínguez)

Visitors' comments

Comments and opinions of visitors on the Royal College of Doncellas Nobles

EsperanzaMi rincón preferido
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“He estado infinidad de veces en Toledo y es una de las ciudades que no me cansaría nunca de visitar, pero sin duda mi rincón toledano favorito es esta pequeña mezquita que lo tiene prácticamente todo.”
MarilUn lugar mágico
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“Una mezquita pequeña, pequeña, como de juguete. Da la sensación de estar dentro de una cajita perfecta. Tengo que decir que es mi lugar favorito de Toledo, no sabría explicar porqué, así que muy objetiva no soy, pero ¿quién lo es?. Merece la pena visitarla, en cualquier caso. Ha sido restaurada recientemente.”
JesúsHistoria y belleza conservada
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“El pequeño edificio que en su tiempo fue mezquita de culto musulmán y posteriormente Iglesia cristiana tiene una gran importancia por haber mantenido durante todos los siglos la estructura sobre la que fue construida típicas del arte árabe de la península. La riqueza en arcos de herradura, las inscripciones en los frescos o en ladrillo en el alfabeto musulmán…”

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