The burial of Count Orgaz and the history behind the painting
The burial depicted in the painting is that of a noble Spanish person, Don Gonzalo Ruiz. He died in 1323. Legend says two saints, Saint Stephen and Saint Agustine, descended to witness the burial of Don Gonzalo Ruiz . Don Gonzalo was a pious man and he seems to have left a generous amount of money for the decoration of the Church of Santo Tome. He received the title of Count, it seems, due to his noble deeds, amongst which we find philanthropy. Don Gonzalo was buried at Santo Tome.
In 1580 a project was initiated by a priest, Andres Nuñez, to refurbish the chapel where Don Gonzalo, the Count of Orgaz, had been buried. It was at this time when El Greco was commissioned the painting and the legend above mentioned explains the way in which El Greco designed this masterpiece.
Santo Tome was not the only church Don Gonzalo supported. He also contributed to the reconstruction of other parish churches, like San Justo, San Bartolome, and also the construction of the church of San Esteban at the Monastery of Los Agustinos. Don Gonzalo indicated in his will that he desired to be buried in Santo Tome, at the humblest possible chapel.
El Greco´s self-portrait
The priest who commissioned the painting, Andres Nuñez de Madrid, is portrayed in the painting (the priest in white) The two saints hold Don Gonzalo. Some important nobles from Toledo are portrayed in the painting, including the self-portrait of El Greco himself (the character whose regard looks at the spectator of the painting.
Is Santo Tome worth the visit?
Bearing in mind this is a very short visit and that includes the famous painting from el Greco, one of Toledo´s top attractions, we would strongly recommend getting this included in your to-do list whilst visiting Toledo.
The main reason to visit Santo Tome church is to enjoy the painting by El Greco, Burial of Count Orgaz. But the church can also be visited, it takes almost no time, and it offers certain interesting elements. From the outside, the tower of Santo Tome is an excellent example of Mudejar architecture in Spain. The use of bricks and the horseshoe arches that we find at Santo Tome´s tower are typical characteristics of Mudejar art.
Inside the church, there are other interesting works. The altarpiece dates back to the XVIth century. There is a fantastic marble image of the Virgin and three outstanding paintings from famous painter Luis Tristan. You will enjoy also two remarkable sculptures from Alonso Cano´s school.
Tickets and tours to enjoy the Santo Tome and El Greco burial of Count Orgaz
The entrance ticket to enjoy the church of Santo Tomas can be acquired as part of the Toledo card (it includes four of the top sights in Toledo). If the idea of a flexible card is not for you, you may decide to book a private tour with a local guide and request a customized tour where you will be able to influence the itinerary based on your interests and things you would like to enjoy in Toledo.