The Ronda bullring with its history, architecture, character and beauty is the oldest and most monumental in Spain. Ronda is the cradle of modern bullfighting that emerged in the 18th century from a chivalric tradition of equestrian arts.
In 1572 territorial defence requirements led Philip II to create the Real Maestranza de Caballeria in Ronda for the purpose of providing training in horsemanship. They were assigned a space in town for equestrial exercises which dated back to the Middle ages and included games of skill with bulls. The ferocious manner in which these animals charged both horses and riders provided training and became a spectacle for the town.
In the 18th century horsemen's games were replaced by unmounted bullfighters. The Romero family led the establishment of Ronda as a centre of the modern corrida contested on foot, providing three generations of the most outstanding bullfighters of all time. Fransisco Romero invented the killing sword and cape, and his grandson Pedro (1754-1839) perfected the skills of the sober classic Ronda style. Pedro is widely considered to be the father of modern bullfighting and one of the greatest matadors of all time. He retired after slaying more than 5,600 bulls without ever receiving the slightest scratch. His personality gained respect and social dignity for a trade that combined courage with skill.
Pedro and his brother Jose were painted by Goya. As a result of the increasing popularity in bullfighting, the Real Maestranza de Caballeria decided to build the bullring. Attributed to Martin de Aldehuela, the architect who built the Puente Nuevo bridge across the Ronda gorge, the bullring was constructed over a period of six years and inaugurated in 1785 with a corrida featuring Pedro Romero and Pepe-Illo.
Conceived as a monument in sandstone, the grandeur of the design with its double gallery of arcades lends the bullring the spirit of cloisters. The arena has a diameter of 66 metres, surrounded by a passage formed by two rings of stone. There are two stories of seating, each with five raised rows, and 136 pillars that form 68 Tuscan arches. The royal box has a sloping roof made from Arabic tiles and a spectacular interior.
In the 20th century Ronda produced a second dynasty of bullfighters, the Ordonez family, further contributing to the history of bullfighting. The two main figures were Cayetano Ordonez (1904-1961) and his son Antonio (1932-1998). Their particular approach to bullfighting caught the attention of Ernest Hemingway who dedicated his works 'Fiesta' and 'Death in the Afternoon' to them. Corridas of Ronda are still undertaken with decorations, costumes and instruments in the style of the Goya period.
The corridas take place at the beginning of September and coincide with another of the three main ferias of Ronda.
A Bullfight museum is housed under the terraced seating.