As you might imagine for a city that has changed hands many times over the centuries, the Alcázar, or main fortress of Toledo, was rebuilt constantly every time the city fell. The fortress last endured battle in the early months of the Spanish Civil War, when a 70-day siege and bombardment nearly destroyed it. It took more than 70 years of engineering and archaeology to completely reconstruct the historic building and add a modern extension. Given the building’s symbolism during the Civil War, it also took some deft political maneuvering to open the Alcázar as Spain’s military museum, the Museo del Ejército. The modern portion is devoted to changing exhibits, while the old walls contain some striking collections of Spanish military history, including what is claimed to be the personal sword of El Cid (1043–99). The Spanish armor collection is second only to that at the armory in Madrid’s Palacio Real, and there are some real curiosities, including objects carried by conquistadors Francisco Pizarro and Hernán Cortés, a piece of the cross that Columbus took ashore to claim the New World in the name of Spain, and a tent that sheltered Carlos V in his Tunisian campaign against the Ottoman Empire. Perhaps most stirring, though, are the exhibits on the Siege of the Alcázar, which was ended when Francisco Franco arrived from Morocco with his Army of Africa. It ensured Franco’s ascendancy among the Nationalist generals.
- Frommer's Staff