Originally built in the 14th century as one of the muslim Mosques, the Church of Santa María la Mayor, known locally as the Iglesia de Santa María de la Encarnación la Mayor in Ronda’s Town Hall square, the Plaza Duquesa de Parcent, and is the biggest and most attractive of the churches. Its distinctive tower and front facade make the church look more like a city hall than a church, but don’t be fooled, entering the church soon puts these thoughts aside.
Mr Henderson’s Railway walk between Benaojan and Jimera de Libar is one of the most popular walks in the Serranía for visitors, particularly because it is long enough to be a challenge for some, but short enough to really enjoy the walk, see some lovely nature, and be located between two railway stops giving peace of mind if anything untoward were to happen help is close at hand.
The walk is just 7.5km from start to end, and the return walk is listed as a three and a half hour walk. The terrain is suitable for all bar those with serious health concerns, though there are two sections of the track that could be more difficult because the path has been cut into rock.
Michelle Obama, the wife of President Barrack Obama, and First Lady of the United States recently visited Ronda as part of a 5 day holiday in Spain, and Ronda Today is proud to provide her complete itinerary.
Arriving in Ronda, Mrs Obama first enjoyed a leisurely stroll around the Casgo Antiguo, Ronda’s old Moorish city, where she visited the Casa Don Bosco and admired their view of the Puente Nuevo, Ronda’s most iconic monument.
It is hard to believe that Ronda was once a major centre in the Iberian provinces of the Roman Empire, however a quick look at the history books will find references to Acinipo and the terrible battles that occurred at Monda during a civil war between Julius Caesar and the sons of Pompey.
Acinipo the city was most likely founded by native Iberians several thousand years ago, and archeological evidence at the site shows a bronze age settlement existed here between 1100BC and 750BC, and a Carthiginian town may well have been established after this period, before the fall of Carthage in the Punic wars.
Carved in the cliffs of the ‘El Tajo’ gorge is a surprising mine and fortress that dates back to the Moorish era when constant wars in Al-Andalus required the city governors to protect water supplies to the people and defenders.
The Water Mine was built during the reign of Ronda’s King Abomelic at the beginning of the 14th century, when Ronda was an independent Islamic kingdom on the frontline between the Christian north, and the newly developing Islamic Nazari Kingdom in Granada. To reach the water mine it is necessary to first enter the gardens of the House of the Moorish King.
The cave church outside Ronda, known as the Virgen de la Cabeza, is a 10th century hermitage built sometime around 970-980AD, and is just a short walk out of Ronda. Most people should find this Ronda walk easy to do and gets you out of the city for some of the most spectacular views of the Ronda skyline you could imagine seeing.
We start the walk at the Almocabar Gate in the Barrio de San Francisco and walk along Calle Torrejones, passing the Bodega San francisco and further on the road the restaurant El Predicatorio which are on our right. Around 500m from the old walls of Ronda we encounter a small white roundabout in the street, and 100m further an intersection with a sign pointing to the right for the ‘Ermita Rupuestre Virgen de la Cabeza’.
Ronda is one of the few cities in the world to have a deep gorge running through the heart of the city, and is luckier still to have the Puente Nuevo (new bridge in Spanish) spanning it. The gorge also served as the most formidable defence Ronda’s enemies have ever tried to attack. Known as El Tajo, the gorge was created by constant erosion of the rio Guadalevín which is fed by mountain streams and melting snow high in the mountains of the Sierra de las Nieves. Continue reading
Ronda and the Serrania surround it have been lawless lands for millennia, not even the iron grip of the Almohads could stamp out rebellions and banditry, so it is hardly surprising that capital punishment has been so widely used.
In Ronda, nowhere is this more obvious and chilling than the Temple of Our Lady of Sorrows, also known as the Shrine of the Hanged, with its frightening depictions of condemned men’s eyes bulging as they desperately try to get a last breath while the hangman’s noose crushes their windpipe.
Capital punishment is gruesome business, but under the authority of the church, and with the shields of Ferdinand and Isabella (the Catholic Kings) and their descendent Philip V on either side of the image of the Virgin to lend legitimacy.
The Temple of Our Lady of Sorrows was more than just a reminder to all who pass of its terrible duty, but also a place where the condemned could beg forgiveness for their mortal sins. It was only through beseeching the Church State to intercede on their behalf that they could stand any chance of forgiveness in the afterlife.
Modern day visitors to the temple are rarely told of its past, most of the tour guides make only a passing mention of the condemned, though a cursory examination quickly reveals a dark past.
The temple is nothing more than a roof and two pillars leaning against an adjacent house, but intricately decorated and adorned with the date 1734, the year of it’s construction. Each of the pillars look less like supports and more like statues, a cunning effect intended to frighten the condemned into confessing their sins.
The corners of the temple appear incomplete, descending only to a point around 40cm from the roof, but adding to the illusion that once under the cupola one is completely inside the temple.
Intricately constructed, the cupola is beautiful, almost heavenly, and once again an appeal to the condemned to confess in the hopes of eternal forgiveness. The trick on the mind cannot be understated, the mindset of a person from the 18th century brought to beg forgiveness would be sure to see the connection that in the 21st century we see only as an expression of art.
Interestingly, the images of the hanged men closely resemble the style of statue found at the Palacio de Salvatierra, as well as Aztec temple artwork. This is no coincidence, with the last king of the Aztecs (Moctezuma) having spent his years in exile in Ronda. To this day his descendants are still powerful landowners around Ronda.