Tagged Ronda


A Minaret


Another shard of the Islamic empire, left standing for 700 years in Ronda, Spain. The city was founded by the Romans as a fortified hilltop outpost of the empire, then conquered by the Visigoths, then again by the Arabs in 713. Its population was large enough that there were 7 or 8 mosques. This tower was part of a small mosque, built around 1300. The city was conquered by Christians in 1485 in the Reconquista, and most of the mosques destroyed. But this one tower (alminar or minaret) was preserved and adapted for use by the locals. It’s now known as the Alminar de San Sebastián.

Horse-shoe arch doorway to the minaret San Sebastián, Ronda.It wasn’t open when I went by at sunset in June a few years ago, its greyed wooden door fastened tight. There’s not much to be open, as there is no body of church attached, just the tower. But the history of the minaret is visible in its structure: a stone ground level, horseshoe arch doorway, rising to bricks in an alternating pattern. Zoomed in close there are blue green bricks to be seen on the upper levels. The call to prayer would have been made from the second level. The third level was built later, when the minaret became a bell tower for the church of San Sebastian, now gone.

So the minaret lives on quietly, holding its few metres square of space in this plaza, preserved by the Christian community that surrounds it. The website Ronda Today explains more:

Fortunately the church elders weren’t insensitive to the original design, and the roof of the third level was built following mudejar [fusion of Arabic and Christian art] principles.

Some historians have speculated the church tower may have been altered by Moriscos (Muslims who were forcibly converted to Christianity), and who would not want to destroy all remnants of their former city.

Coincidentally, the church was utterly destroyed in the 1600s during the Morisco uprisings that led to their expulsion to North Africa. It is possible the minaret was purposely left standing as a permanent reminder to Moriscos of all they had lost.