Valley of the Fallen
Hello everybody, here is another very powerful place in Spain. The following description of this place is from Rick Steve’s guide to Spain. It describes the Valley of the Fallen very well. The pictures outside of the basilica are mine. The ones showing the inside of the basilica are from Google Images.
Six miles from El Escorial, high in the Guadarrama Mountains, is the Valley of the Fallen. A 150-metre-tall granite cross marks this immence and powerful underground monument to the victims of Spain’s 20th-century nightmare-the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939)
In 1940, prison workers dug 220,000 tons of granite out of the hill beneath the cross to from an underground basilica, then used the stones to erect the cross (built like a chimney, form the inside). Since it is built directly over the dome of the subterranean basilica, a seismologist keeps a careful eye on things.
The emotional pieta draped over the basilica’s entrance is huge-you could sit in the palm of Christ’s hand. The statue was sculpted by Juan de Avalos the same artist who created the dramatic figures of the four Evangelists at the base of the cross. It must have had a powerful impact on mothers who came here to remember their fallen sons.
A solemn silence and a stony chill fill the basilica. At 300 meters long, it was built to be longer than St. Peter’s… but the Vatican had the final say when it blessed only 262 of those meters.
Franco’s prisoners, the enemies of the right, dug this memorial out of the solid rock from 1940 to 1950. Interred behind the high altar and side chapels are the remains of approximately 34,000 people, both Franco’s Nationalists and the anti-Franco Republicans, who lost their lives in the war.
Franco takes the central stage. His grave, strewn with flowers, lies behind the high altar. Today, families of the buried Republicans remain upset that their kin are lying with Franco and his Nationalists.
Our guide explained that there are people in Spain who would never visit this monument. They are offended by its existence and symbolism. However, there are those who support the right wing and who come here every year, on November 20, to commemorate the date of Franco’s and Jose Antonio’s death. A special mass is celebrated on that day.
Here is an interesting article from The Telegraph, written on November 19, 2010 by Fiona Govan:
The Federation for Historical Memory said that it considers the 500ft high granite cross a “symbol of death and vengeance” and is demanding it be “blown up as a public apology to the victims of Francoism.”
The complex, which includes a Benedictine monastery, was built by political prisoners during the Franco era as a memorial to those who died fighting for the dictator’s cause during the 1936-39 Civil War.
But among the estimated 50,000 bodies buried alongside the generalissimo and Jose Antonio Prima de Rivera, the founder of the fascist Spanish Falange party, are those of Republican supporters whose corpses were added in order to fill the huge crypt.
Campaigners have long called for the exhumation of graves at the site and for the remains to be returned to the descendants of those who were killed fighting for democracy.
The Historical Memory Law, introduced by Jose Luis Zapatero’s socialist government in 2007 in an attempt to heal the wounds of the past, banned political demonstrations on the square in front of the monument, where loyal followers of Franco gathered each year to commemorate the anniversary of his death.
But victims’ associations claim the law has not gone far enough and say the continued existence of the memorial is “an insult to modern democratic Spain”.