The ancient city of Toledo stands above a dramatic gorge on the River Tagus, which is crossed by one of the world’s most celebrated stone arches, the Alcántara Bridge, constructed by the Romans and many times rebuilt. The city is dominated by the Alcázar fortress which took its present form in the 1540s, although it stands on the site of earlier fortifications. The city has a long history of weapons manufacturing. Its steel was known in Roman times, and it was one of the principal sources of weapons in Europe in the 15h, 16th and 17th centuries. The Royal Arms Factory was established here in 1761. Toledo was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1986.
The Alcázar, a military academy in the 18th and 19th centuries, and a notorious symbol of nationalism in the Spanish Civil Wars, has since 2010 has been the site of Spain’s army museum, an amalgamation of several institutions the earliest of which was the Royal Military Museum founded in Madrid in 1803 to support the teaching of officer cadets. It has a huge collection, totalling more than 35,000 items including knives, swords, firearms, artillery pieces, flags, uniforms and medals. It includes leather shields and breech-loading shotguns used by the army in New Spain (now Texas, California and New Mexico), Japanese armour and expensively ornamented duelling pistols. The building of new galleries revealed archaeological remains of Roman, Visigoth and Moorish fortifications. The museum includes six restoration workshops. The Royal Arms Factory, whose role had for several decades been restricted to the supply of ceremonial weapons, closed in the 1980s, but several workshops in the city still manufacture swords with the traditional Toledo blades.