A reminder on the Valley of the Fallen!

Still a controversial issue in controversial Spain, is a must for the history seeker to understand better our world. This is the Valley of the Fallen or Valle de los Caidos. A memorial to those who died in the Spanish Civil War 1936-39, the practice fields of WWII.

I came as a young teenager with my dear late mother Gladys to see it and help understand it. We must do so from whatever side of the political spectrum you may come in so that all sides learn never again. This is why it is important to visit it with family and children of reasonable age such as more than 10 in my opinion. This is my previous blog post on it here: My previous post on the Valle de los Caidos

The Valle de los Caídos for short  or more precisely in Spanish the Abadía de la Santa Cruz del Valle de los Caídos (in English: Benedictine Abbey of the Holy Cross of the Valley of the Fallen) is a gigantic Spanish monument, located in the Cuelgamuros Valley (Sierra de Guadarrama ), in the municipality of San Lorenzo de El Escorial in the autonomous community of Madrid, less than 50 km north-west of Madrid.

It was intended to be done to pay homage to the “Heroes and Martyrs of the Crusade”, thus designating the nationalist fighters who died during the Spanish War (1936 – 1939).
Subsequently, in 1958, the Spanish government (still under Franco) decided to make it a mausoleum for all the dead fighters of the Civil War, including the Republican fighters, as long as they were Catholics. Thus, nearly thirty-five thousand fighters, mainly Nationalists but also Republicans, rest in the crypt, not far from the central nave where the graves of Gen Francisco Franco and the head of the Falange party, José Antonio Primo de Rivera are buried.

The construction of the Basilica, in the heart of Castilla, in the north-west of Madrid, a few kilometers from the El Escorial began in 1942. The inauguration takes place, in the presence of General Franco, on April 1, 1959. This tribute to the dead of the Civil War is officially built to reconcile Republicans and Nationalists, allowing all the regions of Spain to send the remains that were deprived of formal burial, ten years after their Burial.

The complex as for lack of a neutral word has a wonderful monumental staircase leading to the entrance of the complex, which also includes a Benedictine monastery since 1958. The Fifteen mysteries of the Rosary are depicted on the massive 10 meters high bronze entrance door, and just below, the Twelve Apostles. The ensemble was made in 1956 the Basilica was consecrated by Pope John XXIII on April 7, 1960. The main architectural feature of the Basilica is that it was dug under a hill in the Sierra de Guadarrama. The total length of the crypt is 262 meters underground. The long tunnel (entrance shaft) that leads to the crusader and transept is divided into several parts. The first part includes access with vestibule (11 meters long), the second vestibule and an intermediate space, while the second part is the high and wide nave of 22 meters with on each side three chapels. A final stretch leads to the crossroads and the transept (41 meters long). Four great characters on either side of the last stretch and dressed as the middle-aged mourners recall the mausoleum of the transept. These allegories represent respectively the army, the air, the navy and the militias. On either side of the crossroads are located the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament and the Chapel of the Holy Tomb. The sacristy adjoins these two Chapels while the graves of Primo de Rivera and General Franco are located on either side of the crossroads, one facing the entrance axis and the other towards the choir of the monks. A stone cross of 150 meters high, the largest in the world, surmounts the mountain. Built between 1950 and 1956, it is located above the crossroads. Eight monumental statues are represented at the four corners of its base (the four Evangelists and the four cardinal virtues).

San Lorenzo de El Escorial San Lorenzo de El Escorial San Lorenzo de El Escorial

So far the largest cemetery of the Spanish Civil War was opened only three times. In 1980, following the request of the municipality of Lodosa, 133 bodies were exhumed. Then ten years later, in 1990, the monks made the transfers of remains after infiltration into the sacristy caused too much moisture.  This was done without informing the families. Finally, the last time was in 2010, during a visit of the Committee of Experts created by the Zapatero government after the approval of the law of historical memory.

For the moment, the only signs emitted by the Franco family are rejection of the exhumation and transfer of the corpse. However, both Moncloa (the current government) and the PSOE (ruling political party of Socialists) suggest that the saga of the Franco’s does not have a monolithic position and that the conversations continue.
The government, however, will wants to remove the body of Franco from the Valley of the Fallen, even if he does not have the approval of the family. In spite of this, sources of the executive admit that this negative complicates the process; which is long going on as everything in my beloved Spain.

The actions were done and it will be futile to change the burials thinking that it will permit a better passing when in reality will just re opened old wounds and more division. My personal opinion.

Some webpages to help you plan your trip here ,and it is a must to understand the history and the mentality in today’s Spain are

The official Valley of the Fallen page in Spanish : http://www.valledeloscaidos.es/monumento/paso

The Natinal Monuments of Spain org. in English : http://www.patrimonionacional.es/real-sitio/monasterios/6258

Spain tourist office on the abbey in English: https://www.spain.info/en/que-quieres/arte/monumentos/madrid/abadia_benedictina_de_la_santa_cruz_del_valle_de_los_caidos.html

San Lorenzo de El Escorial tourist office on the abbey: http://www.sanlorenzoturismo.es/es/abadia-de-la-santa-cruz-del-valle-de-los-caidos

Hope it helps understand the issues and learn history as well as beautiful architecture. The area is surrounded by a beautiful natural park great for families as well.

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!




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3 Comments to “A reminder on the Valley of the Fallen!”

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