The cardinals’ hats hanging from the vaults of Toledo Cathedral


They are called «capelos cardenalicios», and beneath them are the tombs or graves of the cardinals to whom they belonged

If you visit Toledo Cathedral you will come across a curiosity: cardinals’ hats hanging from the vaults of several of its chapels. The curious thing is that they are all attached to a thick cord. Why is this so? We’ll tell you about it below.

All those red hats that you can find in the vaults of several chapels in Toledo Cathedral belong to deceased cardinals. What’s more, if you take a look on your next visit, you will notice that some of them are very old and discoloured.

They are called «Capelos Cardenalicios». In Italian, capello means hat, and they were imposed by Pope Innocent IV in 1425. You may have seen them in other cathedrals, but it is said that the ones hanging from the vaults of the cathedral of Toledo are the originals.

Beneath them are the tombs or graves of the cardinals to whom they belonged, so that all the hats are on the tombs of their owners.

That is the first detail. The second is even more surprising: they are all fastened to the ceiling with a thick red cord. Why is that? There is a legend that says that until the cord is broken and the cord falls to the ground, the soul of the cardinal who owns the hat will not enter heaven.

Among all the hats you can find the hat of Gil Álvarez de Albornoz, archbishop of Toledo between 1338 and 1350, founder of the Royal College of San Clemente of the Spaniards in Bologna in 1364. Tradition has it that the inhabitants of the city referred to Toledo students returning from holidays as «los bolos». This is one of the explanations for the origin of the nickname by which the people of Toledo are known.

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