San Sebastian Minaret

San Sebastian Minaret (Alminar de San Sebastián)

For nearly 700 years Ronda was an Islamic city, and during this time is believed to have had 7 or 8 mosques, none of which exist today, except for the Minaret of San Sebastian which was converted into a bell tower after the adjacent mosque was reconsecrated a Christian church. It was here in 1485 that Ferdinand II is believed to have ordered a mass to offer thanks for the capture of Ronda.

The mosque wasn’t particularly large, but being the closest to the central mosque frequented by the city’s rulers and elite families, the mosque in Plaza Abul Beka probably served as the main mosque for merchants and middle ranking families of the city.

Originally the mosque minaret was built from locally quarried stone slabs, this is the bottom level with the horse-shoe arch entrance leading to an office or storage room. From two side it appears the stonework is incomplete, as if the structure had been destroyed, and then rebuilt using brick. However, archeologists now believe that an event much less destructive may have been the cause – money.

It appears that the minaret couldn’t be completed in stone, and the original builders switched to brick for the top of the first level, and all of the second level upto the line of green glazed bricks between the second and third levels.

We now believe the minaret was a two level structure with an open patio on the third level where the muezzin (Islamic priest) would call the faithful to prayer. It is possible that during the hot summer months a canopy or umbrella may have been erected, but certainly there is no evidence that the minaret ever had a built-in third level.

Of course to serve as a bell tower the third level would need to have a roof built with supporting beams to carry the weight of cast-iron bells. Fortunately the church elders weren’t insensitive to the original design, and the roof of the third level was built following mudejar principles.

Some historians have speculated the church tower may have been altered by Moriscos (Muslims who were forcibly converted to Christianity), and who would not want to destroy all remnants of their former city.

Coincidentally, the church was utterly destroyed in the 1600s during the Morisco uprisings that led to their expulsion to North Africa. It is possible the minaret was purposely left standing as a permanent reminder to Moriscos of all they had lost.

In 1931 the Minaret of San Sebastian was declared a national monument of historic importance.

Setenil de las Bodegas

Setenil de Las Bodegas

Setenil Cave Village
For many thousands of years Setenil de las Bodegas has been occupied, possibly for as long as people have been using the Cueva de Pileta, though it wasn´t until the age of the Phoenicians and then Romans that the village was first mentioned in texts.

Always eclipsed by nearby Acinipo, Setenil was nothing more than a warehouse for storing goods that were traded with other parts of Iberia or the rest of the Empire. It was during this time that archeologists believe the caves were first closed off with brick walls to prevent thieves from stealing goods produced in the area.

After the fall of Acinipo (and the Roman Empire) in 495AD, Setenil´s fortunes changed as the village was forced to convert the warehouses into homes.

For many hundreds of years Setenil was a quiet almost ignored village, a mosque was built after the Islamic invasion of Iberia in 711AD, and it wasn´t until the 1200s when Christian advances had taken Cordoba and Sevilla that Setenil finally became an important frontier post.

So critical was its position that 7 separate attempts were made to capture the town, however the castle was built to be impregnable. It stands at the highest point of the village and one of the two towers remains along with the well.

Next to the ruined castle stands the largest church in the village, Our Lady of the Incarnation, built in the last years of the 16th century and completed around 20 years later. It includes a gothic vaulted ceiling and ribbed vaults.

Within the church there is a chasuble, a vestment worn during Mass which was presented to the people of Setenil by the Catholic Monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella to commemorate the first Mass in the village after the it fell to their armies.

The rest of the castle was demolished by cannon on the 21st September 1484, a momentous occasion in the Christian reconquest of Andalucia, which directly led to the fall of Ronda one year later, and then Granada in 1492.

Also not to be missed in Setenil, and of course the main reason people visit, are the homes, shops, and bars that occupy the caves. Unlike other cave villages, most of Setenil has not been enlarged, the caves have simply been closed in.

Visitors often wonder how safe the people of Setenil feel living under the rock, but villagers will tell you the village has existed for many years so it must be safe, though the truth is they prefer not to think about it.

Lesen sie mehr über Setenil de las Bodegas

El Bosque Botanical Gardens

El Bosque Botanical Gardens

Within the Serrania we are lucky enough to have three natural parks, Grazalema, Sierra de las Nieves, and Alcornacales, and at El Bosque, a small botanical garden “El Castillejo” devoted exclusively to the local and endemic plant species of these mountains.

Due to the Serrania being both Moediterranean and European, many of the tree species are common throughout Europe, whilst most of the shrubs are generally Mediterranean. Most of the flowers and grasses are either Mediterranean or endemic to the area. Your stroll will take you through several mini ecosystems, each with their own viewing area to sit and appreciate the surroundings.

Sadly many of the endemic species of the area are endangered, and not just in the Serrania, so the botanical gardens now also have preservation areas set aside for plants from the Sierra de Loja and Sierra Bermeja, thus ensuring that qualified botanists are able to track grwoth patterns and grow new seedlings for transplant should this ever be required.

As you wander around pay attention to the signs next to each species, a red dot in the top left corner indicates the species is in danger of extinction, while a yellow dot indicates the species is vulnerable. An orange dot signifies a species that is endemic or peculiar for some reason.

The park has adequate parking, and toilet facilities at the main entrance, which is also where the library and classrooms are located. Take care not to hurt any wildlife you encounter, from insects to lizards and snakes, all of which are a vital part of the ecosystem.

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