Ronda is famous for it’s churches built after the reconquest as Catholic Spain asserted it’s control over the formerly Muslim city. Four of the many churches in Ronda are especially noted for their architecture or the story behind them, and all are part of every great tour of Ronda.
Christianity in Ronda began with Visigothic control of Iberia after the collapse of the Roman Empire in the 5th century, and quickly became the dominant faith. Arab invaders entered Iberia and overran the Visigoths beginning in 711 AD, and until 1485 Ronda was a Muslim stronghold alternating between liberal interpretations of Muslim faith and the more conservative Sharia versions. Continue reading Churches in Ronda
Originally built at the end of the 15th century and beginning of the 16th century the church was dedicated to Santa Cecilia who at the time of the reconquest was enjoying a great deal of popularity as the patron saint of musicians and churches.
The tower and entrance of Padre Jesús is gothic having been part of the original church, the remainder is renaissance period.
Continue reading Iglesia de Nuestro Padre Jesús Ronda
The Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Merced is one of Ronda’s more curious churches, and is also a convent for the nuns and priests of the Discalced Carmelites of Ronda. La Merced is more correctly a basilica since it is home to a holy relic, the incorruptible hand of Saint Teresa of Avila and the story behind this is in itself worth telling even if you never visit the church, although if you come to Ronda you’ll most certainly see the church as you pass by.
Continue reading Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Merced Ronda
Built by Mozarab Christians around the time of ibn Hafsun’s uprising during the Umayyad dynasty at the end of the 9th century, Virgen de la Cabeza (Virgin of the Head) is believed to have been primarily a chapel and hermitage for Christian Monks, and is a classic example of Mozarab rupestrian churches, although sadly one of the last remaining.
Also known as the Cuevas de San Antón, the church was originally the site of a small area of worship from shortly after the Arab invasion of Iberia, but during the Mozarab uprising, and while Ronda was nominally independent under ibn Hafsun, the original cave was enlarged to house a permanent hermitage of upto 10 monks. The entire church is not large in comparison to the other churches in Ronda, but is still 272 square metres in area.
Continue reading Rupestrian Church Virgen de la Cabeza
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.
Continue reading Iglesia de Santa María de la Encarnación la Mayor Ronda
The parish church of Socorro (Parroquia de Nuestra Señora del Socorro) was only built in 1956 but it and the plaza around it feature prominently on every walking tour of Ronda. The ground on which the church stands was the location of a parish chapel, a hospital, and before that a Muslim chapel.
During the reconquest of Ronda the plaza in front of the church was the campsite of Don Tello de Girón, the Grand Master of the Order of Calatrava. After the reconquest the Order of Calatrava built a residence in the site of the current church for their Grand Master, the last of whom, Don García López de Padilla, generously gave the house and its land for the purpose of a hospital for the poor and travelling pilgrims.
Continue reading Nuestra Señora del Socorro
A formidable looking fortress, this is in fact the Holy Spirit Church, and is one of Ronda’s notable churches. It is unique in being part of the original fortified walls of the old city, in fact the church was built on the destroyed foundations of an octagonal tower used by the moors to defend the gate and walls in this part of Ronda.
King Ferdinand ordered it’s construction almost immediately after taking ronda and for a time after it’s completion in 1505 was the main church in Ronda whilst Santa Maria was completed. Owing to the political and military uncertainty of the times it was built in a very severe gothic style more reminiscent of a defensive tower than a church.
Espiritu Santo took 20 years to complete and was consecrated on Whitsunday 1505, also the year Queen Isabel died giving the church a particularly bittersweet celebration at the time, on one hand a celebration of the first completed church in Ronda after the reconquest, and on the other hand a sad day for the newly united Spain.
Iglesia de Espiritu Santo Opening HoursMonday to Saturday 10am till 2pm then4pm till 7pm (10:00 till 14:00 then 16:00 till 19:00)
Latitude: 36.735230 (36° 44′ 6.83” N)
Longitude: -5.164057 (5° 9′ 50.61” W)
Price of Entry
1€ for individuals
0.60€ if part of a group
Dating from 1663, the Iglesia de los Trinitarios Descalzos as it was first known, was the third home of the Order of Descalzed Nuns of Ronda, who nowadays are located in the convent attached to the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Merced.
The plaza in front of the church, Plaza Los Descalzos, still retains the name of the order. An older Christian chapel, the “Ermita del Cristo de las Penas o Peñas” occupied this site from mid 16th century, being demolished to make way for the church you see today. In 1836 the Descalzed Order vacated the church and convent, and a school was established on the site using the church as their chapel.
1875 was the year the Iglesia de Padre Jesús was consecrated on its existing site, having previously been the parish church of Santa Cecilia, and since the Iglesia de los Trinitarios Descalzos wasn’t being used it was decided to convert and re-consecrate it into a replacement Iglesia de Santa Cecilia, the name it has retained since.
Santa Cecilia is unique in Ronda for having a highly ornate Baroque entrance with paired Tuscan columns framing both the main doors, and the upper window which is itself crowned by a papal cross. To the left of the main entrance there is another smaller entrance, with a small balcony that can be used by the Bishop to address the congregation.
During the Spanish civil war the Iglesia de Santa Cecilia was temporarily used as headquarters for Republican troops, so suffered less damage than other churches which were ransacked by socialist troops and many of the treasures spirited away or destroyed.
Latitude: 36.744206 (36° 44′ 39.14” N)
Longitude: -5.162019 (5° 9′ 43.27” W)