Date: Dec, 2014
Location: Ronda, Andalucia, Spain
The project was first proposed by King Felipe V in 1735 to improve an earlier and impossibly steep 16h century bridge, the Puente Viejo, below the Puente Nuevo and, below that, the 12th century Moorish bridge by the Baños de los Arabes. It was designed by architect José Martin de Aldehuela and construction began in 1751 and took 42 years to build during which fifty workers died. There is a chamber above the central arch that was used for a variety of purposes, including a prison. During the 1936-1939 civil war both sides allegedly used the prison as a torture chamber for captured opponents, killing some by throwing them from the windows to the rocks at the bottom of the gorge. The chamber is entered through a square building that was once the guard-house. It now contains an exhibition describing the bridge’s history and construction.
Ronda’s unsurpassed strategic advantages had attracted the dominant forces in the Peninsula since before Rome had an empire, and a change of overlord during the Christian reconquest was not going to change things. Moorish buildings that had remained intact and barred deliberate demolition were simply commandeered and adapted by the incoming Christians. Eventually, Ronda became a magnet for itinerant merchants, anxious for somewhere to show and sell their wares. So many came that space within the town walls was soon at a premium. To ease the situation, a tax was imposed on traders operating inside the city. This drove them to set up their stalls and tents outside the gates. Thus, the districts of Barrio de San Francisco (in front of the Puerta Almocábar) and el Mercadillo (close to the existing bridge across the gorge) were born.
By the 18th Century, el Mercadillo, the “little market”, had long outgrown its homely nickname. It was the living heart of a thriving modern town, and its main street, calle Real, was the commercial centre for the entire Ronda region.