Plaza Duquesa de Parcent - Aldea de la Higuera - Hideaway in Andalucia Spain
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Plaza Duquesa de Parcent

By far the loveliest public space in Ronda, this leafy square boasts an embarrassment of monuments. Its star is the Iglesia de Santa Maria del Mayor, whose exquisite belltower suggests Renaissance twinned with Toytown. This is another church commissioned by the Reyes Catolicos, sited with some purpose on the ruins of a mosque, believed to have been the centre of prayer in the Arabic Medina. (This itself is also said, in unproven speculation, to have been built on the remains of an earlier Roman temple.) Some of the Moorish detail remains, notably part of the mihrab, or prayer niche, but that’s largely obscured by an ornamental retable behind the altar.

The church took over 200 years to build, and its three naves and chapels take in both gothic and Renaissance styles. Its greatest flourish, in a church not lacking flourishes, is the elaborate baroque screen of the altar of the Virgin del Mayor Dolor, which probably translates as great sadness but its Spanish curators read as ‘extreme pain’. It is the chief religious site in Ronda, but also fun to be around on the hour, when the quintuple carillon in its fairytale belltower can be heard singing throughout Ronda, ending in a forlorn and, for inhabitants, unintentionally hilarious clunk on its broken fifth bell.


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