In the mannerist style paintings of Toledo's
adopted son, El Greco, the city nestled on a hilltop of granite and cradled by
a bend in the Tagus river appears suspended
somewhere between heaven and earth--between eternity and time.
Though Toledo had been dolefully purged of
its once sizeable Moorish and Sephardic population by the time El Greco arrived
in the 1570s, this spiritual heart of Spain still beats an admixture of Jewish,
Christian and Muslim blood.
From the beginning of the eighth century until around the
end of the fifteenth century, Toledo served as
the center of La Convivencia, a golden age of relatively peaceful co-existence
between the "Peoples of the Book" in Spain. Even while the Crusades were being waged in Jerusalem and while Jews were elsewhere being exiled to
smaller and smaller pockets of the European landscape, the situation on the Iberian Peninsula prompted one learned tutor to the
Caliph to exclaim: "
All the lands in
their diversity are one, and men are all neighbors and brothers."
It was in Toledo that learning and wisdom
thrived even while the so-called Dark Ages eclipsed the remains of the Roman Empire in the West.
Working together in the court of Alfonso the Wise during the 1200s,
Muslim, Jewish and Christian scholars rendered available great
classical works of philosophy and ancient science by translating them into
Arabic, Hebrew, and finally, Latin.
Metanexus Institute's 2008 Conference, Subject, Self and Soul: Transdisciplinary Approaches to Personhood,
being held July 13-17 in Madrid, Spain, continues the quest for wisdom, the
integration of faith and learning, and the interreligious collaboration that
characterized this singular period of history.
At the start of four full days of scholarly exchange, conference
participants will travel to Toledo
for a day to experience the spirit of La Convivencia first hand. They will be welcomed by Toledo's
faith leaders at the Sinagoga del Tránsito and treated to a talk by Maria Rosa
Menocal on her book and upcoming PBS special The Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews and Christians Created a
Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain. In the evening, participants will gather at
the Iglesia de los Jesuitas for a talk by renowned cosmologist, George Ellis,
followed by a tapas reception under the stars.