|The Merced Carmelite Convent|
Walk up the hill from the bullring, and you will soon find yourself at the foot of a wide flight of stone steps leading to the imposing wooden doors of the Merced Carmelite Convent.
The first Carmelites were male hermits, former pilgrims and crusaders who gathered together in 1155 AD at Mount Carmel in Palestine, close by the fountain of Elijah, and dedicated themselves to a life of austerity, poverty and prayer.
As an alternative to wine, women and song it would appear to be an absolute non-starter so far as the wider public was concerned, but the life attracted enough devout seekers after salvation to make the order one of the largest and most influential mendicant brotherhoods of the Middle Ages.
Whatever the men could do, women could do better. Almost from the beginning there were women who wanted to emulate the stark unforgiving lives of the Carmelite monks. Eventually the clamour for equal rights to the unflinching severity of sanctified poverty grew too great to ignore, and in 1452 John Soreth, prior general of the Carmelites, officially affiliated the first nuns with the order. It was a hard won battle. Many of the old guard objected, in much the same way as Church traditionalists today reject the concept of women priests. They wanted the order to remain exclusively male, but it was too late. The walls were down: the citadel had fallen.
The sisters in the convent at Ronda, established in the 16th Century, belong to the Mercedarian order. It is a cloistered order devoted to prayer, penance and perpetual abstinence. Visitors are welcome, but care should be taken to respect the nuns' privacy and the enveloping tranquility of their home.
GPS Location: 36º 44' 39"N 5º 10' 03"W View on Google Maps