Sunday, February 12, 2012

Valle de los Caídos

I would like to begin this post by pointing out that this was actually the first time I saw snow. Ever. Of course I took pictures of everything like a madwoman.

El Valle de los Caídos, which translates to the Valley of the Fallen, is a monument built by Francisco Franco between 1940 and 1959 in order to honor the fallen in the Spanish Civil War.

The entire complex, composed of a Basilica, a Benedictine Abbey, a hostelry, the valley, and the Juanelos, four cylindrical monoliths dating from the sixteenth century, covers an area of over 3,360 acres, and is over 3,000 feet above sea level.

The monument's most prominent feature is this cross, which measures 150 meters (500 ft) in height and is visible from over 20 miles away. It was, however, undergoing restorations, and so we weren't able to actually access it.

The basilica, formally known as the Basílica de la Santa Cruz del Valle de los Caídos (Basilica of the Holy Cross of the Valley of the Fallen), holds the tombs of Franco and José Antonio Primo de Rivera, the founder of the Spanish Falange, a fascist political party from the 1930s. It also holds the bodies of 33,872 combatants from the Civil War, both republicans and nationalists. Unfortunately, the building isn't open for tourist visits, so photography wasn't allowed inside. Thankfully, the internet is a wondrous thing.

This is the main altar, located directly beneath the dome, which is itself directly beneath the large cross I spoke of before (I forgot to mention that the basilica is actually carved into the mountain).

The Archangels Raphael, Michael, Gabriel, and Azrael.

Beautiful as it is, the structure is wrought in controversy. There are records which speak of republican prisoners (20,000, by some sources) who lessened their sentences through this employment, following the formula "1 day of work = 2 fewer sentence days." Additionally, many of these political prisoners did not, in fact, ever have the opportunity to enjoy freedom, as the nature of the construction meant that there were numerous accidents every day, many of them fatal. If you'd like to find out more, simply click here.

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