Rupestrian Church, Virgen de la Cabeza

Rupestrian Church Virgen de la Cabeza

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.

The church includes a large hall with altar, a small nave for he sacristy, and beneath the altar a crypt that is believed to have been excavated in the 17th and 18th centuries. The hermitage was occupied almost continuously from its foundation to the mid 1700s when it fell into disuse and the Brotherhood of the Virgen de la Cabeza dissolved.

An annual pilgrimage, the Romería de la Virgen de le Cabeza, takes place in June over a week long period when the Virgin Mary is carried from Ronda to the cave church for services, and then makes her way back to the city again for safe storage.

One of the most popular Ronda walks will bring you to the Virgen de la Cabeza, though the route requires walking out of the town through the Barrio San Francisco, it is a gentle walk and easy to follow.

Another rupestrian church still exists in Ronda (Iglesia Rupestre de la Oscuridad), and was built around the same time as Virgen de la Cabeza.

GPS Location
Latitude: 36.737698 (36° 44′ 15.71” N)
Longitude: -5.184731 (5° 11′ 5.03” W)