Strategically situated on the top of a huge stone cliff, Ronda watches endlessly over the surrounding landscape. A 360º view ensures that any invaders will be seen long before they reach the town’s picturesque narrow streets.
And there’s good reason for this need to know because Ronda has had more than its fair share of invaders intent on its destruction and complete annihilation. Since prehistoric times, successive waves of invaders have washed over and around the high cliffs, eventually marauding down the narrow streets. As early as the 1st century AD Pliny the Elder recorded that the town (then known as Arunda) was settled by the Celts who mixed with the Ibers and who themselves conquered several of the nearby towns. He inferred that because of its many natural advantages, invaders had been violently making their mark throughout recorded history.
Pliny was a product of the roman empire who were then the dominant power. Under their domain, they built a castle at Ronda, specifically to take advantage of the magnificent views that the natural redoubt provided.
The empire, falling to dust in the 3rd century AD, was overrun by the Visigoths and the Vandals but, after a brief period, in 711 were replaced a strong Arabic force sweeping in from North Africa. Ronda then became a main trade settlement vital as a communication centre between the African Continent and the capital of Al Andaluz, Córdoba.
The wheel of invasion and violent repression being never ending, on the 22 May of 1485 after more than seven hundred years of Arab domination, the town passed into the hands of the Catholic Kings, Fernando of Aragon and Isabel of Castilla. It’s stated that a period of grandeur followed for the town, although the suspicion is that it was a time of grandeur for a few, the nobles and knights who had commanded the troops of Fernando and Isabel. The change marked a period of growth and it was then that many of the magnificent buildings seen today in the streets of the town were built.
The old town of is divided into three areas, the San Francisco area, dating from the 15th century, the 13th-century Almocábar door and the Carlos I gate. Monuments of special note include the Mondragon palace, which preserves almost untouched elements of Baroque and Gothic Mudejar architecture and was used by both Christian and Arab forces as army barracks and the interestingly named Casa del Rey Moro, which is an eighteenth-century palace with the image of the last Arabic ruler made with Sevillian tiles on its façade. Under the foundations of this latter building, and open to the public, is a basement (originally a mine) that was excavated during the 9th century and was used as a dungeon.
A small minaret, now called the tower of San Sebastian, was built in the 14th century and is one of the most fascinating constructions as it was originally part of a mosque built in the same place.
In the modern district, the bullring is the oldest known ring of its type in Spain. This construction, together with the famous bridge that crosses the steep gorge of the Guadalevin river and that presents the visitor with incomparable views, dates from the 18th century.
Ronda is a city full of historical treasures, a clear sign of the passing of many civilizations and cultures with successive waves of invaders weaving intricate architectural signatures through the timescape. Today, hordes of tourists flock through the streets of Ronda, a testimony to the beauty of the town and the attraction it presents to a new generation of less aggressive but perhaps no less voracious invaders.