There is small space to dwell upon the incredible value of the church treasures, only shown at stated periods. Seven canons open the seven doors, each with a separate key. The hour for showing these matchless splendors is 3 P.m., a bad one on account of the light, and the miser-able candle the sacristan carries is of small use. Here will you see pearl and precious atones, embroidered mantles, such jewels and gold and silver brocade as surely the eye of man never elsewhere beheldthe rarest of wrought cloaks and robes and laces-all royal presents, or gifts of cardinals to the Virgin of the Sagrario. The Custodia is, for sheer magnificence, a thing to gape at. It is the work, rather the monument, of a German silversmith, Henry of Arfe, and his son and grandson. The guide-book describes it as of an unheard-of wealth in jewels, gold work and chiseling. To attempt its description would involve me in another chapter on the Cathedral. Perhaps the most precious thing of all among so many treasures is the sad and mystical wood statue of St. Francis of Assissi, by Alonso Cane, some say, by his pupil, Pedro de Mena, later critics aver. Unfortunately, it is vilely placed in a corner, and as well, just in the middle of the face, the glass cover is broken, so that it is difficult to obtain a real view of the head without some portion of the features distorted.
The object of the devotion of the Chapel of the Treasury is a statue of the Virgin,. which Our Lady is said to have kissed on her descent from heaven to bestow the chasuble on St. Ildefonso. Hence the astounding mantle embroidered by Felipe Corral, made of gold, pearls, rubies, sapphires and emeralds. Other notable treasures are the charming specimens of silver repousseone, the Rape of the Sabines, so beautifully wrought as for years to have been attributed to Benvenuto Cellini. Today, the Flemish artist, Mathias Meline, is recognized as the creator. It was the gift to the church of Cardinal Lorenzana. The big silver figures on four globes, with belts and sandals all gleaming with jewels, belong to the time of Felipe II. They command attention, even in all this magnificence of precious metal, precious stones, silk, lace and art; but I do not know who made these statues that represent the four parts of the world.
Two hundred and fifty ounces of seed pearls, 85,000 pearls, as immense a number of diamonds, rubies and amethysts, were expended alone on the Virgin’s celebrated mantle. As for the reliquaries of gold, silver and rock-crystal, the church plate, the censers, only an auctioneer’s list could do them justice. One hails them marvels of their kind, and passes by. In staring, with an abashed modern gaze, unfamiliar with such sights, at Arfe’s masterpiece, the Custodia, that weighs its weight in precious metal over 10,900 ounces, we note the gold cross on the top, said to have been wrought of the first piece of gold brought from America by Columbus, and was raised by Mendoza over the surrendered walls of the Alhambra in the same year. Historic interest is still more attached to the modest sword shown as that of Alphonso VI., worn by this monarch on his triumphal entry into Toledo, and to the original letter in Latin of St. Louis of France to the chapter of Toledo, on sending some sacred relics for the church.
The “Ochavo” is like everything here, an impressive chamber, the home of vast treasure. It is a monument of bronze and marble, containing massive silver coffins wonderfully wrought for the bones of St. Leocadia and St. Eugenius, statues of silver and ivory, and priceless reliquaries. Behind are guarded the church vestments. Nowhere are such embroideries and brocades to be seen. The hundred altar-pieces are works of art to set the mouth of the collector awatering. The older they are the more lovely, and beside the early Gothic brocade-embroidery, the finest effort of the last century seems poor and vulgar, tho seen apart would cause the beholder to exclaim at its loveliness. Whence did these rude Goths obtain their secret of such exquisite work? And how has it died from among us? Were the sacristan willing, and human nature capable of such a prolonged effort of admiration, one might spend days among these gold and silver embroidered brocades, and complacently dream of impossible times. But when the sacristan has shown you a dozen chasubles and a dozen altar-pieces, he thinks it quite enoughand so do you, wearied from excess of strain upon admiration and ravenous envy.
It is good to breathe a moment in so exalted an atmosphere, to behold so vast and wonderful a scene, in which all remembrance of human miseries vanishes, and our very joys drop into relative significance. Nature has nowhere else attained a note of beauty harsher, more intense, more in-differently sublime. Elsewhere you feel that an effort has been made to captivate you, a deliberate combination of effects to win your admiration. Not so here. The Moors never succeeded, during their long sovereignty, in stamping the place with their voluptuous charm, as they did in Granada, Cordova, and Valencia. They left it as they found it, the stern home of revolt, the nest of mailed warriors and hardy artizans, so hard and quarrel some that not even their loves furnish us with a soft legend, nor their literature a witching profile, nor any hint of seductive grace in their womanhood.