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Origin "Holy Toledo!"

 
 
Reply Wed 23 Jun, 2004 09:12 pm
What is the origin of the phrase "Holy Toledo!"
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Type: Discussion • Score: 4 • Views: 38,478 • Replies: 19
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bromeliad
 
  1  
Reply Wed 23 Jun, 2004 09:18 pm
I thought Toledo was a holy city (Spain, not Ohio)
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Walter Hinteler
 
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Reply Thu 24 Jun, 2004 12:28 am
The expletive, "Holy Toledo," refers to Toledo, Spain:

ancient (Latin) Toletum , or (Arabic) Tulaytulah city, capital of Toledo provincia, which is situated in the comunidad autónoma ("autonomous community") of Castile-La Mancha, south-central Spain, on a rugged promontory washed on three sides by the Tagus River. It lies 42 miles (67 km) south-southwest of Madrid.

Of ancient origin, Toledo is mentioned by the Roman historian Livy as urbs parva, sed loco munita ("a small city, but fortified by location"). Conquered by the Roman general Marcus Fulvius Nobilior in 193 BC, it became an important Roman colony and the capital of Carpentia. The city was the residence of the Visigothic court in the 6th century and site of the famous councils, the third of which (589) was particularly important because of King Recared's conversion to Christianity. During the Moorish period (712-1085), it was the home of an important Mozarab community (Arabic-speaking Christians). Taken by King Alfonso VI in 1085, it became the most important political and social centre of Castile. It was the scene of a fusion of Christian, Arab, and Jewish culture, an example of which was the School of Translators (Escuela de Traductores) established by Alfonso X the Wise in the 13th century. The city's importance declined after Philip II made Madrid his capital (1560).

Toledo is considered most representative of Spanish culture, and the whole urban area has been declared a national monument. Its rocky site has resulted in narrow, winding streets, with steep gradients and rough surfaces, centring on the Plaza del Zocodover. Two bridges cross the Tagus: in the northeast is the bridge of Alcántara, at the foot of the medieval castle of San Servando, parts of which date from Roman and Moorish times; in the northwest is the bridge of San Martín, dating from the late 13th century. Parts of the walls of Toledo are of Visigothic origin, although most are Moorish or Christian. There are well-preserved gateways from various periods, including the Puerta Vieja de Bisagra (10th century), traditionally used by Alfonso VI in 1085.

Important buildings showing Islamic influence include the former mosques of Bib-al-Mardom (Cristo de la Luz; 10th century), with interesting cross vaulting, and of Las Toernerías; the Mudéjar synagogues of Santa María la Blanca (12th century) and El Tránsito (14th century; housing the Sephardi museum); and the Mudéjar churches of San Román, of Cristo de la Vega, of Santiago del Arrabal, and of Santo Tomé. The last has a fine tower and a chapel containing the painting "Burial of the Conde de Orgaz" by El Greco.

The cathedral, generally considered the most Hispanic of Spanish Gothic cathedrals, was begun by King Ferdinand III and Archbishop Rodrigo Jimenez de Rada in 1226. Outstanding among innumerable works of art are the choir stalls, the large retablo mayor ("raised altarpiece"), the ornate chapel of Don Alvaro de Luna, the Mozarab Chapel, and the Chapter House. There is also a rich museum that has a processional custodia (for carrying the monstrance and Host) by Enrique de Arfe (1524) and a series of paintings by El Greco, Francisco de Goya, Sir Anthony Van Dyck, Luis de Morales, and others.

The elaborate Church of San Juan de los Reyes, constructed by Juan Guas, is in Isabelline style. Of the same period is the Casa de la Santa Hermandad, now partly a museum. Dating from the early 16th century is the Hospital de Santa Cruz, designed by Enrique de Egas, restored and now used for the Provincial Museum of Archaeology and Fine Arts. Construction of the Alcázar (fortress), which dominates the city, began about 1531 to a design by Alonso de Covarrubias and with a fine patio by Francisco Villalpando; it houses the Army Museum. Its defense by the Nationalists in 1936 was one of the most heroic episodes of the Spanish Civil War. Other buildings such as the Ayuntamiento (early 18th century), the numerous Baroque churches, the Neoclassical Hospital del Nuncio and the Institute of Secondary Education, the museums of El Greco's house and of the Taller del Moro, and the modern Military Academy of Infantry, parks, and promenades justify the city's prestige and fame.

Toledan steel and particularly swords have long been famous, being mentioned as early as the 1st century BC in the Cynegetica of Grattius "Faliscus." There is an important National Factory of Arms and workshops for damask and engraving, which produce metalwork decorated in the Mudéjar tradition. A characteristic product is marzipan, a Christmas sweet made from almonds and sugar.

Toledo has a population (2004) of about 70,000.

[sources: britannica.com ©2004, et.al. on the www

links: -
- Virtual Tourist: Toledo - plenty of photos and a good outline history

- official Toledo website - only in Spanish, besides this English "partner site"
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BillyFalcon
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 Jun, 2004 09:34 pm
Walter Hinteler,

Thanks for the background on Toledo. It is very thorough and desribes the city very well. (I have been there.)

But I am left not knowing how "Holy Toledo!" came into use in everyday life in the US. It is used to exclaim the same meaning as "Holy Cow!" or "Holy Mackeral!"
And who knows where those sprang from?
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cavfancier
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 Jun, 2004 09:48 pm
Holy Cow clearly comes from the Hindu tradition, and Holy Mackeral from Christianty, as in the early days, the symbol for Jesus was a fish, hence the observance of eating fish on Fridays (which resulted in the popularity of fried fish). Also, take nothing what I say seriously here, I really have no clue. However, odds are I could be half right.
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littlek
 
  2  
Reply Sun 27 Jun, 2004 09:55 pm
From a holy __*__ website:

Macaroni must be holy, because every time I eat it, I think "What a friend I have in cheeses."
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littlek
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 Jun, 2004 09:59 pm
So, I'd say that the phrase Holy Toledo is not one that can be reference back before the mid-1900s. Apparently, the "Holy ___" phrases started with Batman and Robin.....? At least, that's what I am finding on google.
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cavfancier
 
  2  
Reply Sun 27 Jun, 2004 10:04 pm
Okay, I'll be proper here and admit that I was indeed half right:

holy mackerel - exclamation of surprise - A blasphemous oath from the same 'family' as goddam and darn it, etc. Holy Mackerel dates back at least 200 years and is one of very many blasphemous oaths with the Holy prefix. Holy Mackerel was almost certainly a reference to Catholics eating fish on Fridays (rather like Holy Cow is a reference to Hindus, and Holy Smoke is a jibe at incense burning and funeral pyres; also Holy Moses - shortened to the rhyming Holy Moley - the way that the words trip of the tongue is very significant in how these expressions become widely used and adopted, and Holy Mackerel does have a certain ring to it, in a way that Holy Skate, or Holy Cod do not..... ). As well as being a popularly eaten fish of the times (affordable by Catholics on limited budgets - the insulting term 'mackerel snatchers' was also used for Catholics in the 19th century), the word Mackerel has historically been a strong fish symbol and fish stereotype (the French word maquereau is slang for 'pimp', due to its habit supposedly of leading other fish to their mates). The term Holy Mackerel would also have served as a euphemistic substitute for Holy Mary or Holy Mother of God, which is why words beginning with M feature commonly in these expressions.

As for Holy Toledo, the etymology is a bit confused, but believed by some to have a Jewish origin that crossed into common parlance. Here is another historical article that points to the possible invention of the phrase from that perspective:

http://muweb.millersville.edu/~columbus/data/art/TOLEDAN1.ART
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littlek
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 Jun, 2004 10:06 pm
well, then, Cav seems to have found a better site than the ones I look through.
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cavfancier
 
  2  
Reply Sun 27 Jun, 2004 10:07 pm
There is this as well:

Holy Toledo! is an expression that's probably slipped out of usage now except among comic book characters and government officials with a taste for mild expletives. The phrase has a curious etymology. In medieval and Renaissance Europe, two cities were considered great centers of mystical and occult learning, Toledo being one. Its high-vibrational, otherworldly nature can be seen in the paintings of El Greco, who frequently chose the city as a subject. Depicted in his characteristically elongated style, Toledo seems to be soaring upward, aspiring to something greater than the daily affairs of mankind: buying and selling, eating and drinking, working and sleeping.

The other great mystical city was Prague, the setting of Frances Sherwood's The Book of Splendor. It was known as "Golden Prague," both because of its yellow walls and gilded spires and because it was a hotbed of alchemy, the attempt to turn base metals into gold, a pursuit on which many a king lavished funds. The rulers of Prague wanted their alchemists close at hand and had special workshops built into the castle wall. Known as "Golden Lane," they can be visited today and are still equipped with all their beakers and retorts.

The city's mystical reputation was enhanced by the presence of Rabbi Loew, creator of the Golem, a creature made of earth and magic, a robotlike, Frankensteinlike, but not unhuman creature whose mission was to protect the Jews from the violence of the Christian majority. There was an actual Rabbi Loew, and his grave remains a site of pilgrimage to this day. Any Golems that he might have invented have long since returned to dust.
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Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 Jun, 2004 10:53 pm
"Holy Toledo" may have been a sarcastic term used to criticize Toledo's many saloons, which outnumbered the churches.

The expression may have originally referred to the Holy City of Toledo, Spain, which was the center for Catholic and Moorish religious councils between the fourth and fifteenth centuries.



Source: Toledo library
www.toledolibrary.org
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BillyFalcon
 
  1  
Reply Mon 28 Jun, 2004 09:35 pm
Holy S - - t, Cavfancier!
I didn't expect to get a degree in "Holy Toledo."
You really got into my question. Now I can e-mail the info to a relative who is from Toledo (Ohio). At a family get-togther, he hadn't a clue what "Holy Toledo!" referred to.

The bit about euphemisms is fascinating.
Some others I recall are Jeezoh peezoh for Jesus. I had a co-worker whose vocabulary` included
"dag nab it," "gol darn it," "shoot" for "S - - t'
(I think).

Thanks for the info and the fun.
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sdunny21
 
  1  
Reply Thu 1 Oct, 2009 10:31 pm
@BillyFalcon,
hey, i am gonna say that the expression holy toledo came when someone put on a lot of weight & stepped on a Toledo scale, couldn't believe the number and said "HOLY TOLEDO" instead of holy s__t. Thats what I think, we have all done it before that shocking site of the scale & the increase from the last time. lol steve...
roger
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 Oct, 2009 12:13 am
@sdunny21,
I think you're onto something, here.
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geegee 3
 
  1  
Reply Wed 8 Jun, 2011 03:03 am
toledo in spain was the headquarters of the spanish inquisition and as people were in awe of the power and dreadful results of being called before the inquisition they called it Holy Toledo to avoid any suspicion being directed towards themselves
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avz
 
  2  
Reply Sun 22 Apr, 2012 05:33 pm
Holy Toledo comes from mobster lingo back in the early 20th century. Two versions are often circulated. Both deal with Toledo being a sanctuary. Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland and New York mobs would meet in Toledo with the promise that they would be as safe as in a church. Other version was boot leggers felt safe once they made it to Toledo, Ohio. Law enforcement didn't nab them by Toledo they were in the clear.

Off topic but Ohio went to war with Michigan over Toledo. Ohio wanted the Lake Erie coast line for a port. Congress gave Michigan the U.P as a consolation prize.
McTag
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 Apr, 2012 03:06 pm
@avz,
From comic books, I think.
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FatMike
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 May, 2012 06:58 pm
so, when some of you here respond to anothers post...why do you put the "@" symbol in front of their name? Why not just use their name? Strange.
Region Philbis
 
  1  
Reply Thu 31 May, 2012 03:24 am
@FatMike,

mike, the A2k software does that automatically if you reply to a particular post.

i've also seen people do it manually -- perhaps a habit they developed from twitter...
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McTag
 
  1  
Reply Thu 31 May, 2012 04:42 am
@FatMike,

like that
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