Already an important pre-Roman settlement, Toledo was eventually chosen as the capital of the post-Roman Visigothic kingdom. After being taken by the Moors in AD 711, the city rapidly grew to become the capital of an independent Arab taifa (small kingdom) and the centre of learning and arts in Spain.

Alfonso VI marched into Toledo in 1085 and, shortly thereafter, the Vatican recognised Toledo as a seat of the Spanish Church. Initially, Toledo's Christians, Jews and Muslims coexisted tolerably well. However, the eventual convert-or-get-out dictates issued to the Jews and Muslims stripped this multifaith city of the backbone of its social and economic life. Once Felipe II chose Madrid as his capital in the mid-16th century, Toledo went into decline, although its religious power within the Catholic Church remains undimmed.