Valle de los Caídos

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Valle de los Caídos

The Valle de los Caídos (complete Monumento Nacional de Santa Cruz del Valle de los Caídos, "National Monument of the Holy Cross in the Valley of the Fallen") is a monumental memorial with a Catholic church at about 1000  m altitude near Cuelgamuros in the Sierra de Guadarrama in the center Spain . Until October 24, 2019, it contained the tomb of the dictator Francisco Franco , and the founder of the Falange fascist movement , José Antonio Primo de Rivera , is still buried here. The monument is considered to be one of the largest modern mausoleums in the world and the most important architectural testimony to the Franco dictatorship . From 1940 onwards, Franco had it built by forced laborers from his concentration camps in order to continue to glorify his dictatorship. The monument is administered by the State Cultural Property Authority ( Patrimonio Nacional ). In the summer of 2018, the government under Pedro Sánchez , Franco and Primo de Rivera decided to relocate and exhume the previously nameless dead.

Construction and description

The monument, designed by architects Pedro Muguruza and Diego Méndez , consists of a 152 m high and up to 46 m wide concrete cross (the tallest free-standing cross in the world) on the top of the Risco de la Nava , flanked by the four evangelists and the four cardinal virtues , a large parade ground, the Benedictine Abadía Benedictina del Valle de los Caídos and the Basilica de Santa Cruz .

The Basilica , a huge artificial cave, was from 1940, when Franco decreed the construction of 20,000 forced laborers - mostly political prisoners , where a detention time reduction was promised - under the most difficult conditions in the rock of the Sierra de Guadarrama driven. 15 workers died. The work dragged on for 19 years because there was a lack of machines after the Spanish Civil War . The monument, which cost over a billion pesetas , was inaugurated by Franco on April 2, 1959, twenty years after the end of the civil war. In 1960 Pope John XXIII exalted the church of the 120th minor basilica in Spain, it is the ninth of the autonomous community of Madrid .

The graves of Franco and Primo de Rivera were erected under the 42 m high dome. Holy Mass is celebrated daily by the monks of the monastery directly above Franco's former grave .

The bones of 33,847 civil war dead rest in an adjoining shrine; of which 21,317 have been identified. In the monastery there are files with the life data of about half of the buried. They belonged predominantly to the anti-republican party of Franco, the Movimiento Nacional . The bones of republican dead were also brought into the monument after the intercession of the Catholic Church - primarily through reburial from mass graves with unidentified dead from both camps, which took place from the end of the civil war until 1983. As far as identified republican dead were buried, this only happened if the family of the dead could prove his Catholic faith.

The walls of the nave are covered with tapestries depicting scenes from the Apocalypse of John .

Usage history

The Valle de los Caídos is the fifth most visited property of the Spanish cultural administration (Patrimonio Nacional) with over 283,000 visitors in 2017. It is about 14 km (driving distance) from the Escorial , a monastery residence where many members of the royal family - including Alfons XIII. - are buried. Among the visitors to the memorial complex are numerous supporters of the Franco regime and the Falange . The Spanish right commemorated here until the ban in 2007 in events of Franco and the younger Primo de Rivera, especially on the occasion of the death of the two on November 20 (" 20-N ").

The Spanish state incurs over 1.8 million euros annually for ongoing maintenance , of which around 340,000 euros are subsidies for the abbey, which holds daily masses. Repair work is pending; their costs were estimated at at least 13 million euros in 2011.

On April 7, 1999, a bomb by the Grupos de Resistencia Antifascista Primero de Octubre (“Antifascist Resistance Groups of October 1”) exploded between the graves of Franco and Primo de Riveras and caused property damage.

From 2004 to 2014 Anselmo Álvarez Navarrete was Abbot of the Benedictine Abbey; he was considered an ultra-conservative supporter of Franquism . So Álvarez put the crimes of Franco into perspective and called today's knowledge that Franco's supporters murdered over 200,000 people as a "complete lie".

Political discussion and future

The memorial site is part of the generally controversial Spanish culture of remembrance . While the site was rarely discussed in public after the end of the Franco dictatorship and, in the words of the historian Belén Moreno Garrido, was “frozen” in the Francoist state, it was often discussed in the media from the turn of the millennium and debated about how to deal with it generally more intensive coming to terms with the past is associated. In 2005, associations of the victims of Franquism suggested converting the site into a documentation center for the Francoist dictatorship. Corresponding proposals were unsuccessfully discussed in the Spanish government and in the Council of the European Union . The establishment of a research center at this location was considered unenforceable. In 2007 the Constitutional Commission, with the consensus of all parties, decided to depoliticize the memorial and to ban all kinds of political actions, demonstrations and expressions of sympathy. This provision was part of the Ley de Memoria Histórica (Law of Historical Memory).

The government in office since 2018, led by the social democratic PSOE , announced in July 2018 that it would transfer the remains of Franco and Primo de Rivera to the bed. The Valle de los Caídos should become a place of reconciliation. This is intended to implement the expansion of the Ley de Memoria Histórica, which the Cortes Generales voted unanimously in 2017 . The approximately 114,000 fallen from both sides, who are buried in this area, are to be exhumed and identified. The government decided to implement the measures on August 24, 2018. The exhumation of the body, scheduled for Whit Monday 2019, was stopped by the Madrid Supreme Court; there was an appeal by the family of the former tyrant. On September 24, 2019, the court dismissed the family's appeal. The government then decided to move to the Pardo cemetery before the parliamentary elections in November . On October 24, 2019, Franco's remains were finally exhumed and transferred to a family crypt in the Pardo State Cemetery.

The redesign of the memorial is still politically controversial; While the PSOE and the left-wing collective movement Podemos are campaigning for the creation of a memorial similar to the concentration camp memorials, the liberal Ciudadanos are calling for a cemetery of honor for fallen soldiers similar to the one in Arlington .


  • Daniel Sueiro: La verdadera historia del valle de los Caídos. SEDMAY Ediciones, Madrid 1976, ISBN 84-7380-215-2 .
  • Eva Feenstra: Valle de los Caídos: Valhalla of National Catholicism . In: Kunsthistorisches Jahrbuch Graz , published by the Institute for Art History at the Karl-Franzens University Graz, vol. 29/30 (2005), pp. 173–187.
  • Belén Moreno Garrido: Medios, images y memoria. El Valle de los Caídos. Dissertation, Complutense University Madrid, 2016 (PDF) .

Web links

Commons : Valle de los Caídos  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b c Pauline Perrenot, Vladimir Slonska-Malvaud: The dead give no rest - the historical processing is far from over with Franco's reburial . In: Barbara Bauer, Anna Lerch (Ed.): Le Monde diplomatique . No. 11/25 . TAZ / WOZ , November 2019, ISSN  1434-2561 , p. 20th f .
  2. El Valle de los Caídos en cifras y fechas. In: El Mundo , August 24, 2018 (Spanish).
  3. ^ Basilicas - Spain, Andorra (121). In:
  4. ↑ From 33,800 people enterradas en el Valle de los Caídos. In: El País , June 29, 2018 (Spanish).
  5. a b Luis Sanz: El Valle de los Caídos, los numbers de un monumento de futuro incierto. In: La Vanguardia , 7 July 2018.
  6. ^ Juan Francés: Los GRAPO hacen estallar una bomba junto a la tumba de Franco. In: El País , April 8, 1999.
  7. Interview with Anselmo Álvarez as part of the documentation Mari Carmen España - el final del silencio , on Retrieved October 30, 2017.
  8. Spanish demons live long. In: Neue Zürcher Zeitung , October 20, 2007, Belén Moreno Garrido: Medios, imágenes y memoria. El Valle de los Caídos. Dissertation, Complutense University of Madrid, 2016, see the English-language summary on pp. 9–11 (PDF) .
  9. Sören Meschede: The cross with Franco. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung , November 19, 2006.
  10. Barry Hatton, Ian Sullivan: Spain sets in motion plan to dig up former dictator Franco. In: Associated Press , August 24, 2018.
  11. Court stops exhumation of the remains of dictator Franco , accessed June 11, 2019
  12. Court stops Franco's exhumation , accessed June 11, 2019
  13. Spain's highest court declares Franco exhumation lawful. Der Standard , September 24, 2019, accessed on the same day.
  14. ¿Y ahora qué pasará con el Valle de los Caídos? In: La Vanguardia , August 24, 2018.
  15. See Presentación de "La verdadera historia del Valle de los Caídos". In: El País , December 21, 1976 (book review).

Coordinates: 40 ° 38 ′ 31 ″  N , 4 ° 9 ′ 19 ″  W.