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The History of Twenty-three Towns in the Serranía de Ronda: a strategically located area

Diputación de Málaga
Montecorto. Dolmen Piedra Caballera 5

The History of Twenty-three Towns in the Serranía de Ronda: a strategically located area

This area has been inhabited since the Palaeolithic period almost all the time

The Serranía de Ronda is a territory of 1,537 square kilometres, where nature and culture are specially united. It is strategically located in the centre of Andalusia, in the south of the Penibaetic System. Its western border is the countryside of Jerez, while it borders on Sevillian countryside to the north, Guadalhorce Valley to the east and the Costa del Sol to the south.  The Serranía de Ronda encloses a large cultural and natural heritage, which is so unique that can only be found at several more places on the peninsula.

Its terrain is made of a plateau, which is at an altitude of more than 700 metres above the sea level, although some of its points are more than 1,500 metres high, like Torrecillas (1,919 m). Three valleys define the geographical features of the area: the Guadalteba Valley to the north, the Guadiaro Valley in the southwest, and the Genal Valley in the southeast. Ronda plateau is in the centre, and it connects the above three valleys.

The Serranía de Ronda has been inhabited since the Palaeolithic Age almost all the time. Iberians, Romans, Visigoths, Muslims and Christians left their traces in this strategic area in the Province of Málaga.

The best evidence of the Palaeolithic period is Pileta Cave in Benaoján, which has been declared National Monument in Cave Paintings in 1924. It has extraordinary cave paintings of animals, mostly goats, but also horses, animals with antlers, buffaloes, bison and fish.
The ruins of ‘Drunk Holm Oaks Dolmen’ in Alpandeire, a megalithic collective tomb, show how the mountain pass was used to communicate with other people with no permanent settlement from the third millennium BC.

There is also the Giant Dolmen in Montecorto from the second millennium BC close to Hondón Inn, which was discovered in 1941. This is a medium size passage that has conserved a good number of vertical stones and one horizontal slab.

The ruins of the Roman town of Acinipo, with a partly rebuilt theatre from the 1st century is placed in Ronda, on the way to Setenil de las Bodegas.

Even though most of the ruins that can be seen are Roman, we must not forget prehistoric ruins. The oldest ones are from the Neolithic and the Copper and Bronze Age.

Arab traces in the area are represented by Benadalid and Gaucín Castles. The former one is placed on the outskirts of the village. Actually, this building was made by Romans, although its first form was Arab as it was rebuilt in the 17th century by the Count of Feria. We are talking about the main door that faces south, which was the access to the first Muslim castle, which used to embrace so called ‘Higher Outskirts’ (Arrabal Alto), today the Espíritu Santo [Holy Spirit] neighbourhood. The entrance is placed between two semi-circular towers made of dry-stone. The entrance has three connected arches: two of them are horseshoe arches with an alfiz and archivolt and the middle one is a pointed arch.

The Major Mosque in Ronda was turned into a Christian church named St Mary Major after the Cristian conquest in 1485. Originally, it was an abbey with a special jurisdiction. During the Hapsburgs rule, it became a collegiate church and in the 19th century it was turned into a major parish church. What is left of the Muslim building are the remains of mihrab, as well as the larger part of its plan, the first between the 13th and 14th century.

The Holy Spirit Church is placed at the square with the same name. It was built by the Spanish Catholic monarchs over the mosque in Arrabal Alto neighbourhood. It was dedicated to the Holy Spirit in honour of the day when the town was conquered. The church was built at the end of the 15th and the beginning of the 16th century. The temple has only one nave which is divided in three sections covered by ribbed vaults. The main chapel with high altar has a large semi-circular triumphal arch on wide, elevated pillars inlaid in the wall.

The following links will provide you with the information about the history of these towns and villages, which are what they are today thanks to their past:

• Algatocín
• Alpandeire
• Arriate
• Atajate
• Benadalid
• Benalauría
• Benaoján
• Benarrabá
• Cartajima
• Cortes de la Frontera
• Faraján
• Gaucín
• Genalguacil
• Igualeja
• Jimera de Líbar
• Jubrique
• Júzcar
• Montecorto
• Montejaque
• Parauta
• Pujerra
• Ronda
• Serrato.