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Ronda (Municipality, Andalusia, Spain)

Last modified: 2017-01-09 by ivan sache
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Presentation of Ronda

The municipality of Ronda (35,676 inhabitants in 2015; 38,458 ha; tourism website) is located 100 km west of Málaga and 60 km north of Marbella. The former submunicipal entities of Serrato and Montecorto were separated from Ronda to form municipalities on 19 December 2014 and 17 October 2014, respectively.

Ronda emerged as the Roman town of Acinipo, mentioned by Ptolemy and Pliny the Elder. There is evidence of the permanent settlement of the site since the prehistoric times, but the most significant remains date back to the Romans. In 1650, Lorenzo de Padilla identified the remains of a Roman theatre, which was subsequently dated to the 1st century BC, indicating the climax period of the town. Remains of the town walls, the forum, thermae (with three swimming pools), and temples are clear symbols of a political, economical and religious center. Acinipo started to decline in the 3rd century, being progressively superseded by the neighbouring town of Arunda.

While Arunda remained of little significance during the Middle Ages, the Muslims made of Ronda a military stronghold, capital of a kura (district), and, following the decline of the Caliphate, capital of an independent kingdom (taifa). Incorporated to the Nasrid Kingdom of Granada, Ronda was of strategic significance, being located on the border with the Christian states.
Built on a rocky spur, the town was transformed in the 13th century into a medina (fortified city). Access was permitted by three gates, the Almocábar Gate (named for the Arab word al-maqabir, "a cemetery", heading to the necropolis that had been established out of the town, following the Muslim tradition), the Mills' Gate, and the Wind Gate. Originally located out of the medina, the Arab baths of Ronda are the best preserved in Iberia; they were erected in the 13th-14th century close to the Grass Snake's Brook, on the model of Roman thermae. The St. Sebastian minaret, reused as the bell tower of the disappeared San Sebastian church, is a three-storeyed square tower, whose building started in the 14th century, the third storey being added after the Christian reconquest.

Conquered in 1485 by the Catholic Monarchs, Ronda was completely re-designed, with a new urban structure based on squares and broad streets. Urbanization was achieved in the 18th century with the erection of the most emblematic building of the town, the New Bridge. The canyon of river Tagus separates the old town from the modern borough of El Mercadillo, limiting the urbanistic expansion of the town. A first bridge, made of a single arch spanning over 35 m, was erected in eight months in 1765, as ordered by Philip IV; six years later, the bridge collapsed, claiming some 50 lives. The New Bridge, erected from 1751 to 1793 under the guidance of the architect José Martín de Aldehuela, spans over 98 m.

Ronda is a cradle of modern bull-fighting, documented in the town since the 18th century. Philip II founded in 1752 the Real Maestranza de Caballería de Ronda, aimed at rearing and maintaining horses for the Royal cavalry; equestrian exercizes were practised in a dedicated space of the town. In the 18th century, bull-fighting superseded equestrian games, under the leadership of the Romero family; Pedro Romero (1754-1839) retired after having dealt more than 5,000 bulls the death blow and without having received any prize. The aforementioned Martín de Aldehuela was commissioned by the Real Maestranza de Caballería de Ronda, now in charge of the organization of taurine games, to build a modern bullring. Built in monumental style from 1779 from 1785, the bullring has a diameter of 66 m, and is bordered by 136 columns delimiting 68 arches. In the 20th century, Cayetano Ordóñez and his son, Antonio Ordóñez, increased the international fame of the Ronda bullring, attracting there Orson Welles and Ernest Hemingway. Antonio Ordóñez invented in 1954 the corrida goyesca, in which the participants are dressed like in the times of the painter Goya.
The poet José Bergamín (1895-1983) celebrated the joined contribution of Ronda and Seville to taurine art, recalling that Seville brought the air while Ronda brought the fire (De Sevilla era el aire / de Ronda el fuego).

Ronda is the birth town of the cubist painter Joaquín Peinado (1898-1975), a noted member of the Paris Spanish School (with Pablo Picasso and Luis Buñuel, among others). In a six-verses tribute to the painter, the poet Rafael Alberti (1902-1999) claims that the painter could have been such a high and severe bull-fighter (Qué alto y severo, / si este pintor fuera torero!).

The Romantic landscape of Ronda, the taurine tradition and the association of the town with the mountain rascals made the fame of the town. Juan Ramón Jiménez (1881-1958, Nobel Prize in Literature in 1956), described the town as Ronda alta y honda, rotunda, profunda, redonda y alta... (Ronda, high and hollow, round, deep, rounded-up and high...). More recently, the Spanish writer Juan Goytisolo (b. 1931) labelled Ronda la ciudad más hermosa del mundo (the most beautiful town in the world).
In 1912-1913, the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) retired in Ronda, where he wrote The Spanish Trilogy, The Raising of Lazarus and the 6th Duino Elegy (ABC, 3 June 2015). Ronda is mentioned by Federico García Lorca (1898-1936) in the play Mariana Pineda (1923-1925) (Y los jóvenes de Ronda / sobre jacas pintureras / los anchos sombreros grises / calados hasta las cejas) (And the youth of Ronda / Wearing colourful pourpoints / And broad grey hats / Above the eyebrows), and in Molly Bloom's Monologue in Ulysses (1914-1921), by James Joyce (1882-1941) (Ronda with the old windows of the posadas 2 glancing eyes a lattice hid for her lover to kiss the iron and the wineshops half open at night and the castanets). Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986) dedicated a poem to the town (Ronda, 1980).

Ivan Sache, 21 September 2016


Symbols of Ronda

Ronda does not have an official flag. In 2011, Manuel Garrido, official Chronicler of the town, established a commission of specialists in history, art, archives, and heraldry, aimed at submitting a flag proposal to the Municipal Council. Garrido explained that the banner granted to Ronda by the Catholic Monarchs was never transformed into an official flag; the banner is in a very bad state of conservation and could hardly been extracted from the crystal urn where it is kept.
On 20 November 2013, the Commission announced that the flag of Ronda will be garnet red (Castilian red) and white, the colour of Prince John I, son of the Catholic Monarchs and lord of Ronda. The proposal will be submitted to popular vote.
[La Opinión de Málaga, 10 May 2011; Sur, 21 November 2013]

The coat of arms of Ronda, submitted on 29 November 2013 by the Municipal Council to the Directorate General of the Local Administration (correcting the original submission dated 3 July 2013), is prescribed by a Resolution adopted on 17 December 2013 by the Directorate General of the Local Administration and published on 10 January 2014 in the official gazette of Andalusia , No. 6, p. 66 (text).
The coat of arms is described as follows:

Coat of arms: Gules bordered by a cordon of the same a bundle of five arrows purpure in fess superimposed to a bow of the same surrounded by two columns argent ensigned by a three-arched yoke of the same surmounted by a Marquis' coronet or. A bordure purpure inscribed in base with the motto "ORONDA FIDELIS ET FORTIS". The shield surmounted by a Marquis' coronet.

The historical evolution of the coat of arms of Ronda has been studied by Jaime Rodríguez Barroso (Sobre el escudo heráldico de Ronda. Isla de Arriarán. 2003. 22, 93-101).
In a letter dated 20 April 1871, Bartolomé Morales del Valle, Secretary of the Municipality, describes the arms as follows:

A shield divided per pale and orled by the motto "Ronda fortis et fidelis", surmounted by a Royal crown. On the dexter flank the Royal arms of Austria. Sinister, on a field gules, that is, red, a golden yoke with its broken straps argent and in base a bundle of arrows the bundle surrounded dexter by a "T" and sinister with a "M A". On the sides of the shield and as supports columns with the Plus Ultra. It is impossible to investigate when and why the constituting parts of the shield were merged together.

The oldest and genuine description of the arms is found in the grant signed by the Catholic Monarchs on 25 July 1485 in Córdoba. A copy of the grant was brought to Ronda on 6 august 1490 by Juan Alonso Serrano:

Here is our mercy and willingness that the town of Ronda has for arms a golden yoke with its broken straps argent on a coloured / red field. We grant these arms to the town now and forever.

Accordingly, the original arms of Ronda were made of a single quarter and their only charge was the yoke and broken straps. The proliferation of charges must have been the result of progressive additions; ironically, neither the genuine coat of arms nor the model reported in 1871 appear to have been widely used.
In 1874, the historian Francisco Guillén Robles mentions the original arms and states, without further explanation, that those arms have experienced several changes; his description matches more or less the 1871 model:

A yoke or with its straps argent on a red / coloured field; since then, experienced additions, being today a shield divided per pale in two parts, orled with the motto "Ronda fidelis et fortis" surmounted by a Royal crown; dexter the Royal arms of Austria and sinister on a field gules, the golden yoke with straps argent and the bundle of arrows with the "T.M." of the Catholic Monarchs; on the sides of the shield two columns with the writing "Plus Ultra".

The first modification of the original arms was the addition of the arms of Austria. according to Bartolomé Morales del Valle, "unequivocally, when Ronda became a domain of Prince John". Indeed, the Catholic Monarchs, expecting their elder son and heir, John of Castile, to be the prince owning the most castles and towns ever, before his marriage with Margaret of Austria, transferred him "the town of Ronda and all the towns, places, castles and fortresses", by Royal Letters signed on 20 May 1496 in Almazán. The arms of the Royal House of Austria are ""Gules a fess argent"; their addition changed the arms of Ronda into a shield divided per pale; the arms of Austria were placed in the first quarter, contrary to the heraldic use prescribing to place the arms added after alliances or marriages to the second or subsequent quarters. The yoke and its straps were placed in the sinister quarter.
Jaime Rodríguez Barroso, however, believes that the addition of the Austrian arms was much later than the short-lived rule of John over Ronda. Aged 19, the prince died only six months after the marriage. At the time, the main issues in Castile were the international situation and the Morisco revolt, probably relegating the change of the arms of Ronda in the background. Rather, the addition of the Austrian arms would not have occurred before 1519, when Charles I inherited the German Empire from his grand-father Maximilian and added, among others, the arms of Austria to his personal arms. There is no document in Ronda backing up this hypothesis; however, during the troubles of the first half of the 16th century, Ronda remained loyal to the Emperor and its rulers might have added the arms of Austria as another proof of their loyalty.

The second modification was the addition of the bundle of arrows in base, of undocumented origin, too. The addition was probably aimed at representing the two Catholic Monarchs, following the symbolic proposed by the humanist Antonio de Nebrija: the yoke (yugo) and the arrows (flechas), with the initials "Y" and "F", represent Isabel and Ferdinand, respectively. These symbols were subsequently added to the arms of a great number of Spanish municipalities.

Another, little documented modification of the original arms is the addition of the letters "T.M.", interpreted, following, here again, Antonio de Nebrija, as the initials of "Tanto Monta". the motto of the Catholic Monarchs. The Civil Governor of the Province of Málaga provided an alternative, awkward explanation:

The etymological origin of the arms refers to the joint activity held by the inhabitants of Ronda, who were both farm workers and soldiers, as evidenced by the break of the straps and the "Tanto Monta", which is the same as saying, sometimes farmers, sometimes soldiers.

The grant of the motto "Ronda fidelis et fortis" is another matter of speculation. The tradition says that Charles I, when staying in La Ramba (Province of Córdoba), welcomed two representatives from Ronda, Gutierre de Escalante and Juan de Ovalle, by saying "Oh Ronda fidelis et fortis". This would have referred to the meeting of the representatives of several Andalusian towns, Ronda included, held in Seville on 17 February 1521, during which a promise of loyalty to the Emperor against the Comuneros was signed. Another version reports that Luis Méndez de Sotomayor, Regidor of Ronda, visited Charles I in 1521 in Brussels to reassure him of the loyalty and obedience of Ronda, being rewarded with "Oh! Ronda, fuerte y leal".
The oldest known representation of the arms of Ronda with the motto is the print of a municipal ink seal from the last third of the 19th century.

The seal used by the municipality from 1837 to 1847 features a bundle of six arrows pointing downwards and tied in the middle by a yoke, beneath the emblem the writing "TANTO MONTA". The model adopted in 1847 has only three arrows surmounted by the yoke and "TANTO", "MONTE" beneath the emblem; most important, the emblem is surrounded by two columns with the motto "Plus Ultra". The seal created in 1875 featured the broken straps, a mural crown, the letter "MNYML" (for "Muy Noble y Muy Leal") and the motto "Fidelis et Fortis".

There is no known representation of the arms of Ronda with the addition of the arms of Austria. Royal Letters signed on 15 May 1505 by Queen Joanna are decorated with colour arms of Ronda, "Gules a yoke argent with broken straps", lacking arrows, letters, motto and columns. The Eight Canes' Fountain, built in the first years of the 18th century, shows a stone shield with the bundle of arrows added, but nothing else. The Oratory of the Virgin of the Sorrows, erected in 1734 is decorated by the stone shields of the crown and of the town; here, the yokes and arrows are surrounded by "Tanto Monta", while the columns and "Plus Ultra" appear as supporters of the shield.

Ivan Sache, 21 September 2016