Valle de los Caidos !!

And continuing to update revise my old posts, a good idea in these times, and very rewarding it has been indeed for me. Many wonderful finds that were not written well or at all before saw a new light. This is the case of my next update. This is still a very complicated issue in still divided Spain, and I like to condense my posts into one with the latest information. I like to tell you about the Valle de los Caidos or the valley of the fallen!!

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This is a historical site, again first came in 1972 with my dear Mother Gladys , and later a few times more. Never with the family, but eventually, I took it as well. A controversial site now still in the new Spain but one that must be remembered for what it is, a resting place of the brave. The Spanish Civil War was viscious and deadly on both sides , and it is time to have it remembered as a thing never to happened again. However, it must be mention ,and talk about it, so future generations understand and do not make the same mistake. A must for the history seeker to understand better our world, and especially the things happening in Spain today. 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.

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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 town of San Lorenzo de El Escorial in the autonomous community of Madrid, less than 50 km north-west of Madrid.  The emblematic sign is a huge Cross  at a height of 150 meters of which  25 meters are for the base of the evangelists, 17 meters the corp of the virtues and 108 meters of the Cross. The rock base is also 150 meters in addition to the Cross and the arms of it are 46,40 meters wide. Impressive from a distance!

We came here from San Lorenzo de El Escorial on the M600, and easy free parking at the place. We had lunch here in the cafeteria by the Basilica side, with mahou beers, chorizo frito, omelette or tortilla, ice cream etc nice quiet place and just next to the Cross and cable car entrance.

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There is a funicular or cable car to climb it at a height of 1258 meters to 1383 meters to avoid the unleveling of 125 meters with a trip long of 278 meters at a  43,44% angle with a maximum of 53,1%. The wagons have a window on top to see the views and on the side of the cable car there is a stair of 738 steps for emergencies. There is way up the ramp with stairs that is accessable on foot, and there is an elevator/lift by the interior of the mountain.

The Basílica has 262 meters long and a height of 41 meters, with 6 lateral chapels. Capilla de la Inmaculada (immaculate chapel), Carmen, Loreto, Africa, Merced, del Pilar. between the spaces of the Chapels you see 8 tapestries of the Apocalypse a flamand copie from the 16C acquired by king Carlos III and brought to Spain by king Felipe II; the orginals are in the Palacio de la Granja de San ildelfonso. Behind each Chapel and the other Chapels of Santisimo and Sepulcro on the lateral sides rest in peace almost 34 000 fallen according to the existing registry or more than 50 000 or even 70 000 according to other estimates. These are fallen from both sides of the conflict from all regions of Spain in a sign of brotherhood and reconciliation.

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There is a monastery here too. It was set up in 1955 by a monastic order, the Benedictines. The monks came from a demand to the Abbey of Santo Domingo de Silos (Burgos) that was restored in 1880 by monks that came from France by the Congregation of Solesmes. It is run by Benedictines monks now of the Comunidad Benedictina de la Abadía Santa Cruz del Valle de los Caídos.

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Subsequently, in 1958, the Spanish government (still under Franco) decided to make it a mausoleum for all the dead fighters of the Spanish 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. And these are the biggest controversies.

The construction of the Basilica, in the heart of Castilla, in the north-west of Madrid, a few kilometers from Monastery of San Lorenzo de 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).

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The largest cemetery of the Spanish Civil War was opened only three times. In 1980, following the request of the towns 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 continue bringing more bad memories and remorse, and division instead of unity but that is the credo essential Spanish behavior which only improves when you live abroad. Finally, on August ,the rulling government in Spain adopted a decree that established the remains of Gen Franco need to be exhume before the end of 2018.  On September , the Spanish Supreme Court authorised the exhumation of the remains of Gen Franco, so that they be transfered and this was done eventually on October 24

The coffin was carried by eight members of his Franco’s family including his great-grandson Louis de Bourbon, a distant cousin of King Felipe VI of Spain and considered by legitimists to be the claimant to the throne of France as Louis XX (also by his mother’s side a grandson of Gen Franco!) . He was re buried at the small Mingorrubio or El Pardo Cemetery, 15 km from Madrid, where the dictator’s wife rests.

Even after this event, some are not satisfy and now the controversy continues as to what to do with the Valle de los Caidos or Valley of the Fallen! The issue bringing back old wounds is that Nationalists (Franco’s fascists) are buried there with the honors and especially the agreement of their families. The Republicans (communists, and others) were taken from mass graves without obviously asking for anyone’s consent. So as typical in my Spain, the arguments left right continue….!

The official site of Valle de los Caidos: http://www.valledeloscaidos.es/monumento

The monument is part of the National Heritage of Spain: https://www.patrimonionacional.es/visita/abadia-benedictina-de-la-santa-cruz-del-valle-de-los-caidos

There is an association for the defense of the Valle de los Caidos as a national monument in Spanish: https://www.elvalledeloscaidos.es/portal/

The tourist office of San Lorenzo de El Escorial on the Valle de los Caidoshttps://www.sanlorenzoturismo.es/visitar/abadia-de-la-santa-cruz-del-valle-de-los-caidos/

So now I feel better fully updated revised text and pictures of a wonderful national monument that should remain sacred and a memorial to all the fallen, never to happened again. Hope you enjoy the tour

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

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4 Comments to “Valle de los Caidos !!”

  1. I tried to visit this place in November 2010.

    We had read that the monument was closed but the gate was open so we swung inside anyway and pulled up beside the pay kiosk at the entrance where a middle aged lady explained that the monument wasn’t open and we should leave. I followed some cars and drove on expecting to find a turning point but after a kilometre it was obvious there wasn’t one and the cars we were following were authorised to be there so I did a three point turn instead next to two vertical granite columns at either side of the road.

    What we hadn’t known about was the significance of the 20th November and being only a week away this must have been making the people on the gate a bit nervous because as we drove down we passed the woman from the kiosk who was pursuing us in a red Seat and who waved frantically to us as we drove by.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. An emotional place, thanks for the historical reminder, let us indeed hope that it will serve as a lesson for the future.

    Liked by 1 person

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