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Much of the shrine was hewn in the rock during the 9th and 10th centuries. SUR
A shrine looking over El Tajo gorge in Ronda for more than 1,000 years
Treasures of Malaga

A shrine looking over El Tajo gorge in Ronda for more than 1,000 years

The Ermita de la Virgen de la Cabeza is another of the icons of the town famous for its bridge and bullring

Javier Almellones

Ronda

Friday, 1 March 2024, 16:31

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Anyone walking along the Alameda del Tajo promenade or crossing Puente Nuevo (the bridge linking old and newer halves of the town of Ronda) cannot help but look at the extensive landscape all around with a mountainous backdrop, part of the Sierra de Grazalema natural park. As your gaze moves down El Tajo gorge, in the distance your eyes are drawn to a cavity in the rock. This is easily identified as the Virgen de la Cabeza cave shrine that is, along with the gorge itself and the Real Maestranza bullring, one of the great symbols of Ronda. Rightly so, as it was constructed long before the bullring and the aforementioned Puente Nuevo. Neither can the Arab Baths nor any of the Christian churches in the city boast of being much older than 1,000 years.

It is worth noting that current opinion states that this shrine, also known as Cuevas de San Antón (San Antón caves) was hewn from the rock between the 9th and 10th centuries at the height of the Al-Andalus reign. Today it is one of the most symbolically religious places for the people of Ronda. The Virgen de la Cabeza statue is carried there every June in a massive pilgrimage, in which 'Rondeños' demonstrate their devotion to their patron saint, also known as the 'Queen of the Serranía'. This cave shrine has three well-defined spaces: one for worship, another for housing the monks who originally lived there and a third that was used to store food and keep livestock.

Diputación de Málaga
Imagen principal - A shrine looking over El Tajo gorge in Ronda for more than 1,000 years
Imagen secundaria 1 - A shrine looking over El Tajo gorge in Ronda for more than 1,000 years
Imagen secundaria 2 - A shrine looking over El Tajo gorge in Ronda for more than 1,000 years

The area that serves as a place of worship occupies 272 square metres, comprising a central nave leading to an altar embedded in the rock. Beside it is a smaller space used as a sacristy. From the entrance to this primitive church you have a privileged view of Ronda and its famous El Tajo gorge. Below there are fertile lands where vineyards predominate to produce some of Ronda's excellent red wines. The shrine is currently closed to the public, except during the pilgrimage, the image of the patron saint of Ronda is left there until the end of summer. This does not stop you reaching the entrance itself via a path well known to pilgrims and also now approved as a trail.

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