OCTOBER 20-22: Remarkable Ronda Part 2

Posted on Feb 28, 2012 in category

Walking around the old Moorish quarter of Ronda called ‘La Ciudad’, I was surprised to find so many interesting places. The first street we entered was Calle Tenorio which wraps around the gorge of Ronda. Impressive freshly painted Mudejar houses with handsome stone facades greet visitors on this leisurely stroll.

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Calle Tenorio:hotel to the left; art gallery to the right

Following the snaky bends of Calle Tenorio, we came across ‘Casa de Juan Bosco’, a very early 20th century house built by a wealthy family who eventually bequeathed the house to a religious order of Don Juan Bosco. Its highly decorated arabesque tiled garden looks out over El Tajo, the gorge.

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‘Casa de Juan Bosco’, a relaxing garden and great view for a small fee.

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A house combining Mudejar and Renaissance (16th century) features like the rajas or wrought iron window grills with the Renaissance stone facade.

Another building of similar mixed eras on our walking tour was the ‘Palacio de Mondragon’. Already in existence during the medieval period, the building was extended during the 17th and 18th centuries. The Museum of Ronda is now sited in this large building on the Plaza Mondragon.

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Entrance to the Museum of  Ronda

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A well in the middle of one of the museum’s elegant courtyards

Displays are mostly presented in four main halls based on Ronda’s chronological periods such as ‘Hunter and Collector Societies’, ‘First Farmer Society’, ‘Hierarchical Societies’ and ‘The Roman World’. Mock limestone caves to depict the famous ‘Cueva de la Pilate’ and ‘Cueva del Gato’ are a little kitsch and unnecessary as are some of the examples of housing constructions. However, I’m sure young school kids would enjoy the experience.

According to the Roman writer and poet Postumius Rufius Avienius (A.D. 4th century), the Cilbiceni tribe settled the area around Ronda in 6th century B.C. Initially, their main oppidum was sited at Silla del Moro but by 450 B.C. the hub of power had shifted to a limestone plateau and an oppidum called Acinipo. This fortified settlement was assisted by satellite oppida in Ronda and Lacilbula (Grazalema) to name a few (see map below for more oppida).

 

 

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Great maps of the main archaeological sites

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Coins found in the Ronda area reveal that Acinipo had its own mint (56-53 B.C.) and that coins from other areas of southern Spain were traded such as from Castulo near Ubeda, north-east of Granada.

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Acinipo was a good settlement site as it had natural defences, controlled the Guadalquiver Valley via the Guadalete River, had iron and clay supplies, was surrounded by prime agricultural land and possessed a good water supply from the plateau.

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A bronze mirror excavated from Acinipio

Ronda’s museum had few Moorish artefacts especially stone gravestones as they were used by the Christians for building material. Moslem gravestones were also rare because they were reserved for officials of high status. Fifty memorial tombstones from the Nasrid dynasty (14th-15th centuries A.D.) have been registered but few of these were found in situ. They reveal the importance of Ronda to the Nasrid rulers of southern Spain.

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Sheik, Governor and Grand Vizier, Abu Ishaq died in Ronda in 766 (9 Oct., A.D.1364) and buried in Granada

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A Mudejar courtyard in the ‘Palacio de Mondragon’

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A series of water fountains and pools. Note the seashell fountains either side of the middle pool. Unfortunately there are not working.

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Another patio (16th century A.D.) inside the ‘Palacio de Mondragon’

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Church of the Virgin Mary is built over a Roman temple and Islamic mosque. An earthquake in A.D.1580 did some major damage to it.

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Some good restoration work of Ronda’s medieval walls and gates make it a pleasant walk.

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An unrestored entrance to a Ronda house

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Versus a restored entrance to another Ronda household.

In regard to unrestored buildings, ‘La Casa del Rey Moro’ is a striking example of the urgent need to restore these magnificent heritage buildings. Although an apparent misnomer (‘House of the Moorish King’), it was built in the 18th century A.D. well after the fall of the Moors. Most of the house is derelict and in urgent need of repair. Apart from the lovely gardens that are largely cared for (designed by the Frenchman who planned Seville’s Maria Luisa Park, Jean Claude Nicholas Forestier), the main fascinating feature of this house is ‘La Mina’ or the Mine. Legend states that Christian slaves were forced to tunnel down to the river below in order to secure water for the Moorish defenders in case of a protracted siege. This tourist site would not pass OHS requirements in Australia as it was very slippery, dark and damp in sections. However, it’s still a must-do option in Ronda!

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‘La Mina’ is a real adventure and quite steep in sections

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It must have been heaven when the Christian slaves finally finished their stairway at this spot!!

The ‘Palacio del Marques de Salvatierra’ is another superb example of 18th century architecture. During its construction in A.D.1798 over 40 houses were demolished to make way for this former South American governor’s residence. Sculptures decorating the entrance testify to the owner’s South American sojourn that obviously paid off.

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The right side of the entrance has the male poking his tongue out; the left side has the female slave poking her tongue out. Why is it so????

Following the winding road down through the Gate of King Philip V (A.D.1742-1744), we came across the Old Bridge. Many say that it is of Roman construction; yet, the experts say it was a Moorish bridge across what the Moors called the ‘Snake Stream’. Close by was the Arab Baths built in the 13th and 14th centuries A.D. The size of the baths along with its accompanied huge waterwheel apparatus and aqueduct would have made this baths complex Ronda’s main bathing facilities.

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Moorish baths were similar to Roman baths with three main chambers: warm, hot and cold rooms

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Good signage is always appreciated!

A last walk around the Baths’ grounds revealed a former Roman cemetery and the foundations of the Moorish waterwheel that fed copious amounts of water to the bathhouse. A look up reminded us that we had a long walk up the hill in order to return to our Parador hotel experience for dinner.

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“It’s a long way to the top if you want to rock and roll!”

 

 

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