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.
Saint Teresa of Avila reformed the Carmelite Order in her lifetime, and after her death her remains were found to be incorrupt, so as was the custom of her time, parts of her body were removed, one of which was the left hand. Long story short, this eventually came into the possession of the Discalced Carmelites of Spain, and in particular their Ronda convent prior to the Spanish civil war.
General Franco was a devout Catholic and seized the incorrupt hand after the end civil war, and rumour has it he kept the relic in his sleeping chambers for the duration of his tenure as ruler of Spain. After his death the Discalced Carmelites of Ronda requested it’s return, and on the 21st of January 1976 it was finally returned. Needless to say Ronda celebrated in traditional style with a massive party.
We are not sure when the original church on this location was built, certainly during the time of the reconquest this area of Ronda was unpopulated and most of El Mercadillo covered in Oak forest. The earliest reference to the church dates from 1577 when the Bishop of Málaga, Don Francisco Pacheco de Córdoba paid a visit to Ronda and inspected all of the churches and temples.
The convent attached to the church was originally home to the Order of Mercedarios, and in the early 17th century was one of the richest convents the order occupied in Spain. Many wonderful paintings were commissioned by the order, including a set of twelve reliefs from Sevilla depicting the life of San Pedro Nolasco. Sadly only one of these remains, the rest having been destroyed by the Carmelite Order when they took possession of the convent.
Iglesia de la Merced Opening Times
Daily from 10.15am till 1.15pm then 4.45pm till 6.45pm (10:15 till 13:15 then 16:45 till 18:45)
Latitude: 36.744335 (36° 44′ 39.61” N)
Longitude: -5.167458 (5° 10′ 2.85” W)