A couple of years back I wrote a story about the renovation of a ruin into our present Ronda home. It was my first fictitious episode of a non-existent Andalusian Extreme Makeover Television Series. Amongst later ‘episodes’ was a 10-1 countdown of Andalusian ruins and potential fixer-uppers. The idea remains off-the-air, but I am still of the opinion that it would be a great show, as this is the land of potential for extreme home makeovers. Andalucía is literally simmering with yet to be discovered jewels in the raw.
Since a new year has come upon us, I felt it was appropriate to present another countdown episode, this time of abandoned places in the town of Ronda. In the spirit of the season, I have decided to include 12 contestants. All are within the town centre or old town, all are abandoned, non-inhabited and/or uninhabitable, and all are, in my mind, beautiful in their present stage, yet have vast potential for the right Extreme Makeover Visionary.
As in my previous countdown, I want to make it clear that I do not and will never work in Real Estate. This is not about flogging properties. This is about commemorating the past while recognizing the beauty in forgotten places, be it an abandoned home, a former fort turned boarding school, or a disgraced palace.
So, without further ado, here are a selection of 12 of Ronda’s most memorable abandoned buildings for your enjoyment and perusal:
Casa 12 – Crashing beauty in the Barrio San Francisco
When you walk up Calle Torrejones from the Barrio San Francisco on a windy day, you will inevitable hear slamming doors. Do not be alarmed. It is not the neighbourhood ghost, but merely the unhinged window shutters of my first contestant.
According to local legend, this former señorial home was once owned by the famous rondeño bullfighter Pedro Romero. One of the front door panels is gone, but the carved stone doorframe is still gorgeously intact. In recent months, the inner ceiling caved in (the upper roof went long before), giving the entrance hall a rather post-apocalyptic look, but what better way of defining a crashing beauty?
Casa 11 – City Hall open-air extension
There are various streets that lead to Ronda’s town hall square. One is a cobbled, pedestrian only lane ending up in a set of stairs, adjacent to the town hall building itself. The homes on either side of this entrance have fallen down and are abandoned by any residents, save a few hooting pigeons.
Most people will pass it thinking it an eyesore, though to me, it has great potential. What remains is a fascinating imprint of the past, as we can still see frames of windows, as well as room and roof divisions embedded into the back wall, which once was part of the town’s inner defensive wall from the Arab era.
As an Extreme Makeover project, this would make for a beautiful, rambling extension of the peaceful town hall square park. Without much interference, one could simply remove the unsightly concrete walls that have been added in recent years and secure the back wall, leaving the echoes of past residences. This way, it could make a unique semi-open area where visitors and locals alike could enjoy being simultaneously inside and outside Andalusian history.
Oh, the things I will do when I become the queen of Ronda…
Casa 10 – Solid Roman bones
Not far from the town hall, amongst the random network of narrow streets and alleys that make up the towns old quarter or Casco Histórico there is a unique abandoned place. Not much to look at from the outside, this stout building with slightly bulging walls is said to be one of the few remaining edifices in Ronda with Roman origin.
Though Arunda was a Celtic settlement since the 6 century BC, Ronda as we know it was founded by the Romans. A fortified post in the Second Punic War (218-201 BC), Ronda, then Munda, received the title of municipium (town status) during the time of no other than Julius Caesar.
The Roman statue that decorated the front wall when we arrived a few years back is gone and there is little other evidence to see from the outside. All the same, I felt it was a deserving contestant in the abandoned place award.
Stay tuned for more information, or another episode, if I can manage to persuade the town archaeologist into giving us a private tour…
Casa 9 – Niche house without record
In a fork in the road on the exit from our barrio you will find an abandoned home whose demise I have followed for the past couple of years. Not one of Ronda’s oldest or most salvageable residences, the home was at one point split into two, possibly in an inheritance dispute. However, for our purpose, I have given them a shared Casa number 9 award because…
There is nothing quite like an authentic over-the-front-door niche. This one just needs a saint or virgin. Looking out through an open entrance are still the roses that once embellished this rural home. When, in addition, there is an old record player (though no record) in the one-time living area, who can not be enchanted?
Casa 8 – Lilliputian with secrets
You may ask what in heaven’s name is a boring old block like that doing in this distinguished company.
Well, it is easy to judge a book by its cover. Indeed, when it had a For Sale sign a while back, my husband and I thought: Who would want to buy that? It ‘s small, dwarfed by newer buildings and with an apparent ground surface of 10×10 feet.
But this is where one has to think again, as you never know what you will find behind the door of an old Ronda home. This block, for instance, could extend in secret tunnels and hallways way back, possibly all the way to the next street?
Salvageable? Who knows?
But, interesting? Absolutely!
Casa 7 – The mind’s the limit
As far as we know, the owner of this abandoned place is a doubly blessed señor called Jesús María. More of a lot than a home, the front gate should say it all.
With the 15th century Espiritu Santo church always looking over its shoulder, one should never have to worry. The open-plan home leaves the imagination free to create, with only a few fig trees to be ensnarled in.
Casa 6 – Old town classic
Right on the main road going through Ronda’s Casco Histórico towers this once elegant manor. Even without having noble ancestors, living here would automatically provide them, family crest and all. The view from the roof terrace, whether it is accessible or not, must be out of this world. And to be sure, there are ample bedrooms for visitors and a myriad of aristocratic children.
Casa 5 – Fort turned School turned Parking Lot
We see this building every morning from our bed, as the sun hits the eastern wall, making it shine like gold.
Abandoned since the 1990’s, El Castillo (the castle) as the locals call it, has an incredible history. The outer walls were part of the Acazaba or defensive fort built during Andalucía’s 700 year of Arabic rule. After the Catholic re-conquest, it remained a military stronghold, seeing Ronda through the Napoleonic wars in the early 19th Century. In 1885, an Augustinian Order took over the place, tearing down much of the fort, using the same rocks to build the structure we see today. Originally a school for underprivileged children, it eventually ran out of money. A Salesian Order took over in the early 20 Century, making it a profitable resident school for sons of well to do Andalucian families. Today the abandoned building is a ward of the Moctezuma Foundation, which has stipulated that it never can be sold and that any leasers must include an educational portion in use.
Unfortunately, Ronda’s town hall has converted the old armoury and the surrounding area into the town’s public parking lot (where is the education in that?), while allowing winter storms and rains to enter the edifice. Meanwhile, we keep dreaming that El Castillo once again will become a place of learning.
Casa 4 – Birds eye view
Some buildings have to be seen from afar, or as this one, from above, to really appreciate its potential.
Nuzzled in an enclave of old houses also beneath the Espiritu Santo church, this casa will never lack neighbourly intrigues!
With the convenience of almost the entire roof gone, it perfectly shows the divisions of tiny rooms that humans and their domestic animals shared in a traditional Andalucian home. Usually this would include chickens, goats, Iberian pigs and possibly a mule or two, and quite often these types of homes will still have the stone troughs where they fed.
Casa 3 – Worthy of a King
No other building in Ronda is likely subject of more gossip and wild speculations than La Casa del Rey Moro, or the house of the Moorish King.
Apparently, there was never a Moorish King living here, though the mine and the secret underground stairs down into Ronda’s tajo bottom is from the Moorish era. Rumour has it that the house, more of a palace really, has been bought by a foreign woman who wants to restore it into a five star hotel. So far, from what we can see, no permit has been granted…
For all the mumbled gossip, it is a stunning building in a magical setting. Located right on the edge of Ronda’s famous tajo, La Casa del Rey Moro forms an essential part of the rondeño landscape. For this reason alone, it is quintessential that it should be restored to its former stature, before it crumbles and forever alters the historical patrimony of Ronda.
Casa 2 – Corner lot on wheels
I have to admit that this house has always fascinated me. I mean, why the tyres?
Like many abandoned buildings in Ronda, this one has been denied permit to reform, so it has been left to crumble. Located near the lovely Santa Cecilia Church, this corner lot just has a good feel. Once owned by a local baker, I can perfectly visualize donkey drawn carts with flour sacs being pulled into the inner courtyard, though I do not know for sure if it has one… I am considering buying a drone, so I can photograph it from above. In the meantime, here is how it looks like from la tierra firme.
Casa 1 – Chapel for jousting knights
Besides kids using the courtyard as a soccer pitch and the present owner using it as a parking lot (not another one…) this abandoned place, located right across from the neighbourhood plaza, is close to the heart of many ceporreros, or residents of the Barrio San Francisco.
As our neighbourhood was where the Catholic kings started their re-conquest of Ronda in the 1480’s, our square was once a practicing ground for jousting knights on horseback. Since such sports tend to have bloody endings, a chapel was built next to the grounds, for prayers and possibly funerals. It was dedicated to the Nuestra Señora de Gracia (Our Lady of Grace), which was certainly needed if one wanted to avoid being spearheaded…
Fast forward to mid last century, when a poorly constructed school building was added around three sides (the ancient Colegio de San Francisco), while the old chapel was left to decay. The neighbourhood children naturally began to play inside the ruin. According to local legend, when one of these youngsters jumped from the former alter, the floor beneath opened, revealing four bodies. When the kids took the bones, the place became haunted, though it is later thought that the ghostly howls probably came from an owl. As it was finally cemented shut a few years back, I have not had a chance to climb in and check.
And so the local legends continue…
Like the Chapel for the jousting knights, some of these historical marvels deserve their own article, or their very own episode of my Andalucian Extreme Makeover Show. I am still waiting for the right producer to come forth. In the meantime, consider this as a teaser, a taster or a trailer, depending on what the future and the New Year will bring.