Toledo: The Multicultural Challenges of Medieval Spain

For centuries under both Moorish and Spanish rule, Toledo thrived as a cultural, religious, and political center for its Muslim, Christian, and Jewish communities. Its artists influenced one another, blending styles in art and architecture, and remained influential enough to still attract El Greco late in the 16th Century. Its philosophers and scientists created a vibrant center of learning, while Latin translations of major Arabic works spread Toledo’s influence throughout Medieval Europe. Does Toledo deserve its reputation as a showcase of “Convivencia,” the relatively tolerant and synergistic co-existence of Muslims, Christians, and Jews? Or was its greatness the paradoxical result of tensions and conflicts that simmered beneath the surface until finally boiling over with the expulsion of the Jews (1492) and Muslims (1502)?

Moderator: Fred Astren (Professor and Chair, Department of Jewish Studies
Member, Faculty in Middle East and Islamic Studies, San Francisco State University)

Friday, February 4, 2011, 8:00 to 10:15 pm

The Place of Toledo in Spanish History
Teofilo Ruiz (Professor of History, UCLA) provides a broad view of the history of Toledo from its Roman foundation to the aftermath of the conquest of the city by the Christian armies of Alfonso VI in 1085. Emphasis is on the Visigothic presence in the city, the role of Toledo as the capital of the Visigothic empire, as primate Church in early modern Spain, as well as on the great Church councils held in the city. In many ways, the edicts of these councils eerily foreshadowed later harsh legislation against Muslims and Jews in the mid-thirteenth century. Focusing on discreet aspects of Toledo’s history and on its unique location in the center of the peninsula, Professor Ruiz also explores the contradictions inherent in Alfonso VI’s definition of himself as the emperor of the three religions (Islam, Christianity and Judaism) and the parallel development: the growing antagonisms between different religious groups in the city and the realm.


Soprano Susan Rode-Morris, percussionist Peter Maund, viola-da-gambist David Morris, and vielle/violinist Shira Kammen present a program indicative of the astonishing diversity of the music of late Medieval and Renaissance Toledo and Spain. From the Spanish secular storytelling villancicos to Sephardic love songs and laments, to the Moorish muwashah, this concert explores the rich and unusual meeting of cultures which culminated in a fascinating world. Introduced by Clifford (Kip) Cranna (Director of Musical Administration, SF Opera)


Multicultural Challenges of Medieval SpainSpanish Villancicos, Sephardic Love Songs, and Moorish Muwashah of Medieval and Renaissance SpainShira Kammen (vielle/violin), Susan Rode Morris (soprano), David Morris (viola da gamba), and Peter Maund (percussion).

Cantiga de Santa Maria #212from the Court of Alphonso X “El Sabio” (1221–1284)
Una MaticaAnonymous, Sephardic
Salinasbased on melodies by Francisco de Salinas (1513–1590)
Alta AltaAnonymous, Sephardic
Istihal NawaAthar and Lamma Bada YatathannaTraditional Arabic Muwashshah
Amor con FortunaJuan del Encina (1468–1529 or 1530)
RecercadaDiego Ortiz (ca. 1510–ca. 1570)
Puer Natus EstCristobal de Morales (ca. 1500– ca.1553)
Calata ala SpagnolaJuan Ambrosio Dalza (fl. 1508)
Tres Morillas me enamoran en JaenVillancico Anónimo
Jancu JantoAnonymous

Saturday, February 5, 2011, 10:00 am to noon and 1:30 to 4:00 pm

From Difference to Deviance in Early Modern Toledo
Mary Elizabeth Perry (Research Associate, UCLA Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies).
The Purity of Blood Statute passed by the city government of Toledo in 1449 signaled a major change from past toleration of difference to official condemnation of difference as deviance. Originally aimed at judeo-conversos (Jews who had converted to Christianity), this law reflected a larger concern about growing challenges to a ruling elite. Historical records, literature, art, and architecture of Toledo expose deep anxieties about not only judeo-conversos, but also moriscos (Muslims who had to convert to Christianity in the early 16th century), the poor, the infirm, and prostitutes.

Toledo’s Visual Interlace
Deborah Loft (Art History Professor, College of Marin). Toledo offers a rich opportunity to explore artistic interchange across lines of political power. Works of art ranging from medieval mosques, synagogues, and churches to the paintings of El Greco—himself a product of several cultures—reflect the city’s complex cultural relationships. The “Cristo de la Luz” mosque and the “Santa Maria la Blanca” and “Il Tránsito” synagogues are considered in the broader context of the Iberian Peninsula and as contributions to European art down to modern times. Toledo is also viewed through the paintings and projects of El Greco, for whom the city provided the patronage for his distinctive later work.

Lunch Break

Orphenica Lyra: Orpheus’ Lyre in Spain
Virtuoso guitarist Richard Savino (Professor of Music, CSU Sacramento) captures the spontaneity of Spanish period music on the guitar and vuihuela, el rey de los renacimiento intrumentos español(the king of Spanish renaissance instruments). Shaped in a manner more closely resembling that of a modern guitar, yet tuned in the manner of a lute, the vihuela was the defining musical instrument of late 15th and 16th century Spain.

The Limits and Pitfalls of “Convivencia
Teofilo Ruiz (Professor of History, UCLA). This lecture, a summation of our study of the great city of Toledo, examines critically the historiographical debate about convivencia, the supposedly peaceful interaction of Jews, Muslims, and Christians in medieval Toledo and Spain. By tracing the historical roots for this concept and its development over time, Professor Ruiz seeks to provide a new assessment of what the term meant for those different religions co-existing in medieval Toledo and Iberia, and what the presence or absence of real convivencia tells us about medieval Spain and about our own conflicted experiences of toleration and intolerance in the modern world. While most Toledan and medieval Castilian art shows a high degree of what Jerrilynn Dodds has defined as hybridity, Professor Ruiz examines, though a brief look at some specific cultural markers, how that hybridity worked at the level of everyday life.

Panel Discussion with all presenters and written questions from the audience.


Fred Astren, Professor and Chair of the Department of Jewish Studies and member of the Faculty in Middle East and Islamic Studies at San Francisco State University, received his PhD in Near Eastern Studies at UC Berkeley, where he also earned a master’s degree in Arabic. His bachelor’s is in Medieval History from the University of Minnesota. Among Professor Astren’s publications are: Karaite Judaism and Historical Understanding (2004); Judaism and Islam: Boundaries, Communication, and Interaction (Editor, with B. H. Hary and J. L. Hayes), Festschrift for William M. Brinner (2000); and The Jewish Printed Book in India: Imprints of the Blumenthal Rare Book and Manuscript Library, The Judah L. Magnes Museum (1992). Areas of research include minority/sectarian history history in the Mediterranean Middle Ages, with special focus on Jewish history under Islam, Islamization, Jewish-Muslim relations, and the Karaite Jewish sect. Having recently published a study on Jews in the early medieval Muslim conquests of the Near East and Spain, he is currently writing a book on Jews in the Mediterranean of the early Middle Ages.

Multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Shira Kammen received her music degree from UC Berkeley and studied vielle with early music specialist Margriet Tindemans. Shira has performed with Alcatraz, Project Ars Nova, Medieval Strings, Sequentia, Hesperion XX, Boston Camerata, Balkan group Kitka, and the Oregon, California and SF Shakespeare Festivals; with singer/storyteller John Fleagle, Fortune’s Wheel, Ephemeros, Panacea, storyteller/harpist Patrick Ball, sopranos Anne Azema, Susan Rode Morris, Margriet Tindemans, and in theatrical and dance productions. She founded Class V Music, an ensemble performing on river rafting trips. She has performed and taught in the US, Canada, Mexico, Europe, Israel, Morocco, and Japan, and on the Colorado, Rogue and Klamath Rivers. She has played on television and movie soundtracks, including ‘O’, a modern high school-setting of Othello. Her original music can be heard in a film about fans of JRR Tolkien. The strangest place Shira has played is in the Jerusalem Zoo elephant pit.

Dryden G. Liddle is a recently qualified PhD in history (Open University, UK),with an MA in Economics from Cambridge University, followed by a long career in diplomacy (the UK FO) and banking. His PhD thesis was on Charles V’s financial secretary, 1520-1547, covering issues on the finance of the Habsburg wars and the emergence of the fiscal state, largely by taxing the Castilian towns and not through the silver inflow from the Americas as is often thought. The thesis also covers the diplomatic and personal correspondence of artists, popes, ambassadors, and of course Charles V on issues raised by Luther, the Turk, Algerian piracy, and the wars against France in Italy. With the resulting imperial overstretch there is a clear parable with today, including the role of complex financial instruments, liquidity and subsequent solvency issues.

Deborah Loft is Art History Professor at College of Marin, with a BA from Oberlin College and MA from University of Pennsylvania. She has also worked on the curatorial staff at Fine Arts Museum San Francisco and has lectured at Bay Area museums, including the Getting to Know Modern Artseries at SFMOMA. In recent years, her research has focused on the artistic interactions of a variety of European cultures. Her wide-ranging travels have included significant time in Spain, including Toledo. She has paid particular attention to the ways in which the Islamic architectural vocabulary became integrated into the Christian buildings of northern Europe. She is currently working on a book on the meanings of interlace designs, and their significance as an indicator of intercultural contact.

Peter Maund, a native of San Francisco, studied percussion at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music; tabla with Swapan Chauduri at the Ali Akbar College of Music; and music, folklore, and ethnomusicology at the University of California, Berkeley (AB, MA). As a PhD candidate at Berkeley, he specialized in the music of north India. He specializes in hand percussion from the Middle East and North Africa. He has performed and recorded with various early music, contemporary music, and world music ensembles throughout North American, the UK, and Europe, including Chanticleer, Ensemble Project Ars Nova, Paul Hillier, Quaternaria, and Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra. He has toured with Jordi Savall’s Hesperion XX in a program of medieval Spanish music, and performs and records regularly as a member of Ensemble Alcatraz, Davka and Alasdair Fraser’s Skyedance. He has played on film and television soundtracks and has appeared on dozens of recordings. He also enjoys teaching and presenting lectures, workshops and classes.

Kerrin Meis received her master’s degree in art history from UC Berkeley. She lectured at San Francisco State University for many years and taught European Art classes in the Emeritus program at the College of Marin, where she received a Most Valuable Teacher Award. Her focus is on the interaction among artists of different cultures made visible in the recurrence of certain symbols and motifs in architecture, painting and sculpture. She has recently taught courses in Spanish Art and Culture at Elderhostel and at the OLLI program at Dominican University of California and has led travel/study programs in Europe.

David Morris (violoncello) received his BA (Magna cum laude) and MA in Music from UC Berkeley and was the recipient of the University’s Eisner Prize for excellence in the performing arts. He has performed with Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and been a guest of the Los Angeles and Portland Baroque Orchestras and the Mark Morris Dance Company. He is a member of Musica Pacifica and is the musical director of the Bay Area baroque opera collective Teatro Bacchino. He is the Dean of Students at the Crowden School in Berkeley, and has conducted the Crowden School Orchestra on festival tours through the United Kingdom and Europe. He has recorded for Harmonia Mundi, Dorian, New Albion and New World.

Susan Rode Morris is a singer of unusual versatility whose accomplishments encompass a wide range of repertoire and musical styles. A native of the SF Bay Area, she has received much critical acclaim for her expressiveness and naturalness in singing, as well as her communicative presence. She is a founding member of Ensemble Alcatraz and has sung with many ensembles including Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, American Bach Soloists, Sequentia Koln, Sex Chordae Consort of Viols, Foolia!, Magnificat!, Women’s Philharmonic and others in North America and Europe. She has premiered numerous works of Bay Area composers, including opera and theatre pieces. Performances include appearances at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC, Metropolitan Art Museum in New York City, the Cloisters, Bellas Artes in Mexico City, and in such cities as Boston, Seattle, Phoenix, New Orleans, Portland, Pittsburgh, London, Regensberg, Vancouver, and at such universities and colleges as Stanford, UC Berkeley, and UC Davis, Oberlin College, and Washington State. She has enjoyed collaborations with artists including Shira Kammen, Phebe Craig, Judith Nelson, Alasdair Fraser, Paul Hillier, John Dornenburg, and others.  In 1992 she founded a recording company called Donsuemor which has released four compact discs, including songs of Henry Purcell and three recordings of the songs of 18th century Scottish poet Robert Burns. For many years she has studied voice with the legendary Lilian Loran. A special love is teaching children the joy of singing. She owns a baking company (Donsuemor) which supplies the U.S. with fresh madeleines.

Mary Elizabeth (Betsy) Perry is Research Associate for the UCLA Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies and a Fulbright Senior Specialist. She has published five books and many articles and essays on women’s history and marginality in early modern Spain. Crime and Society in Early Modern Seville ( and Gender and Disorder in Early Modern Seville, won the Sierra Prize; Gender and Disorder has been translated and published in Spain as Ni espada rota, ni mujer que trota. A specialist in marginal people in 16th and 7th-century Spain, her most recent book is on Spanish Moriscos (baptized Muslims), exploring in particular the roles of women and children: The Handless Maiden: Moriscos and the Politics of Religion (Princeton University Press, 2005; paperback, 2007; Spanish edition, U. of Granada Press, forthcoming).

Peter O’Malley Pierson
 is Lee & Seymour Graff Professor of History Emeritus, Santa Clara University, where he taught for thirty-four years. He grew up in Southern California, and after two years at Denison University, he completed his undergraduate work at UCLA. Following four years active duty as a US Naval Reserve officer, he returned to UCLA to earn his PhD. Both a Fulbright Fellow to Spain and lately a visiting scholar at Stanford, he has written Philip II of Spain, Commander of the Armada and History of Spain, as well as many articles. He regards it his good fortune to have had to teach the whole of Western Civilization. He has a great interest in maritime and military history, travel, the fine arts, and locally, the opera; he serves on the Advisory Council of Humanities West. He also paints as a pastime.

Teofilo F. Ruiz, Professor of History, UCLA, was a student of Joseph R. Strayer, Teo received his PhD from Princeton in 1974 and has taught at Brooklyn College, CUNY Graduate Center, University of Michigan, Ecole des hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales and Princeton–as 250th Anniversary Visiting Professor for Distinguished Teaching–before coming to UCLA in July 1998. A scholar of the social and cultural (popular culture) of late medieval and early modern Castile, Teo Ruiz’s selected publications include Spain, 1300-1469. Centuries of Crises (Oxford: Blackwell Press, 2007); Medieval Europe and the World (with Robin Winks) (Oxford, 2005); From Heaven to Earth: The Reordering of Castilian Society, 1150-1350 (Princeton University Press, 2004); Spanish Society, 1400-1600 (Longman, 2001); Crisis and Continuity: Land and Town in Late Medieval Castile (University of Pennsylvania Press: Philadelphia, 1994); The City and the Realm: Burgos and Castile in the Late Middle Ages (London: Variorum Reprints, 1992); Co-author, Burgos en la Edad Media (Valladolid, 1984) ; Sociedad y poder real en Castilla (Barcelona, 1981); Co-editor of Order and Innovation in the Middle Ages: Essays in Honor of Joseph R. Strayer (Princeton,  1976).

Richard Savino (Doctorate, SUNY) lectures at SF Conservatory of Music, directs the ensemble El Mundo, and is Professor of Music at CSU Sacramento. His instructors included Andres Segovia, Oscar Ghiglia, Albert Fuller and Jerry Willard. Recordings include guitar music of Johann Kaspar Mertz; virtuoso sonatas by Paganini and Giuliani; sonatas for flute and guitar; 18th century guitar music from Mexico by Santiago de Murcia (1998);Venice Before Vivaldi, a Portrait of Giovanni Legrenzi and Villancicos y Cantadas; music by Barabara Strozzi, Biagio Marini and Giovanni Buonamente; the Boccherini Guitar Symphonia and Op. 30 Concerto for Guitar by Mauro Giuliani; The Essential Giuliani Vol. 1; Music Fit for a King;and Baroque Guitar Sonatas (1696) of Ludovico Roncallii (2006-07). He received a Diapason d’Or from Compact (Paris) and a 10 du Rèpertoire (Paris). He is a principal performer with the Houston Grand Opera, New York Collegium, Portland Baroque Orchestra, SF Symphony, Santa Fe Opera, San Diego Opera, Opera Colorado, Dallas Opera and Glimmerglass Opera. From 1986-98 he directed the CSU Summer Arts Guitar and Lute Institute, and he has been Visiting Artistic Director of Aston Magna Academy and Music Festival at Rutgers.