Monda is a village in the Serranía de Ronda, on the southern edge of the Guadalhorce River region, 71 kilometres from the provincial capital of Malaga.
With numerous terraced vegetable gardens at its feet, especially attractive because of their contrast with the whitewashed houses that make up its landscape, located halfway up the slope of a small hill, on the top of which, flattened by the passage of ancient winds, stands an ancient Moorish castle like a crown.
It is known from the chronicles of the time that Malaga, along with all the fortresses that defended it, fell into the hands of the Catholic Monarchs in 1485. One of these fortified towns was Monda, whose castle was taken possession of on behalf of the monarchs by Captain Hurtado de Luna, who was appointed its first Christian governor.
Later, in 1508, the regent Don Fernando, at the request of his daughter Doña Juana de Castilla, who was already ill with madness, granted the lordship of the towns of Monda and Tolox to Diego López Pacheco, Duke of Escalona and Marquis of Villena, who confirmed Hurtado de Luna as warden of the town.
Hurtado de Luna was the father of Beatriz, a young woman whose singular beauty was matched only by the goodness of her soul. Beatriz was devoted to helping the less fortunate, offering solace for their troubles and relief for their suffering; she was, in short, of an angelic attraction.
The young girl lived happily with her family in the fortress commanded by her father, which, from the time of the Muslim domination, was called El Mundhat. Under Castilian rule, the local people began to call it Castillo de la Villeta, which explains why the people of the town then nicknamed Beatriz “La Buena Villeta”.
One day a young man of slender stature and bizarre figure appeared on the road to Tolox, the other town of the lordship, who answered to the name of Arturo. Already alighting from the white steed that served as his mount, the gallant man claimed to be the son of Sancho de Angulo, governor of the neighbouring town, and that he was the bearer of a dispatch from the Duke of Escalona destined for the governor of Monda. The young man was received with the protocol required by his lineage and was invited to stay for a few days in the castle.
From the very moment they saw each other, Arturo and Beatriz were so passionately and deeply attracted to each other that they promised each other eternal love, an engagement that received the approval of both families.
The few days that Arturo stayed at the Castillo de la Villeta were spent devoted to his beloved, strolling through the fields of the town together. They had a special fondness for a place where the locals had placed a Virgin, as an altar, on the trunk of an almond tree, the image was known as the “Virgen del Almendro” (Virgin of the Almond Tree).
But the young couple’s happiness was unexpectedly disrupted.
At the time, Charles V was at war with the Turks, who were threatening the walls of the imperial city of Vienna. To avert disaster in Europe, the Emperor had called up all young men of noble lineage who wanted to be defenders of the Christian faith.
On one of his visits, Arturo told his beloved that his double condition of believer and subject of the king had prompted him to form part of the military contingent, that had been formed in the very noble city of Malaga to fight against the invader, and the day of departure had come.
The separation was hard and cruel for the two lovers, but both were aware of the great danger to Christianity and accepted the pain of parting. Before saying goodbye, the young couple visited the Virgin, who had witnessed their great love for each other.
It was spring and the almond tree was in blossom. Arturo raised his hand and took a flower from the tree, a white, pearly blossom, and after kissing it, he gave it to Beatriz, saying, “This flower is my heart”. She kissed the flower and placed it in the hands of the Virgin.
During the years of agonizing absence, Beatriz went every day to pray before the Virgin, took the almond blossom, which was as fresh and luxuriant as on the day of Arturo’s departure and gently brought it close to her to inhale its fine fragrance and returned it to the Virgin’s hands.
One fateful day, as the lover picked up the flower, she noticed a drop of blood flowing from one of its petals. A strange cloud veiled her eyes, her complexion turned white and she fainted. It was Arturo’s blood…!
After a few days, the heart-rending news came, which only deep love can foresee, that Arturo had been killed in an armed clash with the Turks on the banks of the Danube.
Beatriz fell suddenly ill and her grief was so great that she died only a few days later. To everyone’s surprise, that year the almond tree bore redder blossoms than ever before.
It is said that the shadow of the Good Villeta wandered for a long time in the castle’s rooms, and even today, after midnight at certain times of the year, the people of Monda claim to have heard, amidst the moaning of the wind on its battlements, the sorrowful voice of that unfortunate young woman who died of lovesickness.
This article first appeared on Gibralfaro, here.