It seemed a work without much mystery: monitor the correct restoration of a public building in the street of the Tornerías de Toledo, rehabilitated in the eighties from the remains, studied and documented for more than a century, a medieval mosque raised, in turn, on a Roman cistern. But when the archaeologist Arturo Ruiz de Taboada went to work on the ground, almost nothing fitted him. So he looked and retired, he drew and redrew the arches that were believed to be from the cistern until he realized that, in reality, it is a monumental civil building of late antiquity – between the end of the Roman and the beginning of the visigoda – whose characteristics – a very large ashlar construction, with more than 12 meters for each façade, organized in four naves around a rectangular space – had never been documented inside a city.
And the key of all was in some arches that, apparently, were of half a point (which brought them closer to the Romans), but which are actually horseshoe, although at some point they had been stung to eliminate the imposts, those characteristic outgoing on the base. "They did it to make them more functional, to gain space; it was done in more places, "explains Ruiz de Taboada, a professor at the Complutense University of Madrid, pointing to the part where the ashlars were scraped.
They are on the ground floor of the building, in the middle of a great jumble of layers formed during centuries of construction and reuse that the specialist is now trying to unravel. The environment, at first glance, can not be more confusing: there are the old arches next to the remains of a cistern that, indeed, was built, but much later; there are also remains of shops of a Muslim brotherhood and of some walls of houses separated in their day by a street disappeared after a great fire at the end of the XV century.
So, to begin to understand the puzzle you have to go back about 2,500 years and get very down, about five meters deep. There, the specialists have found the remains of two circular structures of habitation of a primitive poblado town, of the Second Iron Age. "The first located in Toledo and the few identified in the Iberian Peninsula," says the specialist. Above them, sometime between the end of the 4th century and the 8th century, this monumental building with ashlars was built, whose use is very difficult to specify: it could have been from the block of a main character – "The height of the arches , about four meters, would allow a mounted rider to pass perfectly, "says the archaeologist," to a palace.
What is clear is that the 13th century mosque building was erected on it – although Ruiz Taboada does not rule out that before that there was another one, cited in XII texts -, using it as a foundation in a slope and runoff area that complicates the constructions. On the first floor is the mosque itself, the place of prayer, whose entrance was on the west facade, that is, the street disappeared in the fifteenth century (today, on that side is accessed through a door between two buildings in the Plaza del Solarejo de Toledo).
Ruiz de Taboada points out the particularity of a medieval mosque in a Christian setting as was the Toledo of that time. "Despite maintaining the typical construction scheme of this type of mosque, nine sections, three entrances and three windows, similar to the mosque of Valmardón de Toledo (Cristo de la Luz), its late chronology and its location on a higher floor. they have turned into a singular building destined to the Muslim cult in a medieval Christian Toledo ", he explains.
In that way, the ground floor would begin to be used at some point for something else. The archaeologist placed in it some shops belonging to a Muslim brotherhood, which was accessed by the east facade, ie, the street of Turneries. Next to them there is also that cistern cistern placed between the XIII and XIV centuries and that, likewise, needed other support walls that today still appear over there. And, if all that were not enough to complicate the interpretation, in each of the phases materials of previous epoch were reused, starting with the old building, for which they used Roman ashlars. Nor do the most modern reforms help, made after the building became a dwelling after the great fire of the fifteenth century, of which you can still see the black marks at some points.
So far, the part of the gibberish that, for now, Ruiz de Taboada has managed to unravel and that he will explain today at 10:00 a.m. in a conference at a cycle of the Sephardic Museum at the Toledo Foundation. Although he admits that there is still a lot of work left to fully understand the site and to elucidate, with the Junta de Castilla-La Mancha (owner of the building), how it can show all that historical richness within the reform that is proposed for reopen space as a cultural center; in the eighties, after the other reform, it was used as a center for the promotion of crafts, although it has been closed since 2012.
The specialist insists, within the singularity of an archaeological place like this in the heart of a city, on the importance of the ancient building of ashlars, whose characteristics place it in full "architectural transition between the classical and medieval world, since from a point of a constructive view does not fit either one or the other, "he says. And he adds: "In fact, the robust ashlar factory, but with an awkward invoice and regrets, gives it an uncanonical aspect when compared to buildings from Roman times or the Middle Ages. The fact that the blocks are locked with a thin layer of lime mortar away from the ancient world.