Where: Ronda, close to the Costa del Sol
When: 16 – 17th century
What happened: Over 100 years of persecution of non-Catholics, particularly in the form of interrogation and torture
Things to see: The infamous Puente Nuevo, and the oldest bull-ring in Spain
Don’t miss: The local nuns, with their unusual social habits
An hour inland from the Costa del Sol and spectacularly situated on a rocky outcrop amidst the Serrania de Ronda mountains is the ancient Moorish kingdom of Ronda.
What’s the history here?
The infamous Spanish Inquisition had an HQ in Ronda. Once the Islamic Moors had been driven out of the country in the early 16th Century, there began a period of religious persecution of all non-Catholics which lasted for over 100 years. Fearsome monarchs King Fernando and Queen Isabella forbade the defeated Moors from using their own language, ordered them to convert to Christianity and finally expelled from Spain all Jews and Moors who would not convert. The Inquisition, under the notorious Grand Inquisitor Thomas de Tourquemada used horrific methods to exact confessions of non-Catholic activity and conversion. Witches were another target of the inquisition and were more often than not condemned and burnt at the stake.
The Spanish Civil War of 1936 divided the nation, villages and families between Communists and Fascists. In Ernest Hemingway’s novel For Whom the Bell Tolls he tells how Fascists of a small town were rounded up and made to run a gauntlet through the street whilst being stoned and beaten. The survivors were thrown off a bridge, the impressive 100ft high Puente Nuevo in Ronda which links the old town and the new. 512 people were murdered here within the first month of the civil war.
Cakes and nuns
The Carmelite nuns at the Convent in Ronda and the surrounding area have remained true to a strange vow for centuries. They are forbidden from looking anyone outside of the convent in the face. The nuns receive egg yolks from the Sherry bodegas, who use the whites in the process of maturing Sherry. The nuns use the yolks to make sweet cakes or “dulces” which they sell from a wooden carousel. The customer places their money on the carousel which you place your money on, tells the nuns what they would like . The nuns spins the carousel, picks up the cash and out pop the cakes without the nun having to look anyone in the face.
Plaza de Toros is the oldest bullring in all of Spain, dating from the 18th century. During the Feria of Ronda which takes place at the beginning of September, a bullfight is held in the Plaza when the matadors wear traditional costumes from the period of Goya. The event is known as the Goyesca and is attended by people and celebrities from all over the world.
Andalucian Tourist Board
Visit the website for Andalucian Tourism.
By Susi O’Neill