• Morgan Fagg

Spain's Modern Day Pyramid

Not since Howard Carter’s 1922 dig, has the world seen any monument to a leader like Franco's tomb.

Step inside General Franco’s tomb which is guaranteed to cause political problems and controversy as the Spanish Supreme Court decides unanimously to exhume his remains from the enormous monument where he has been interned for over 40 years.

Look out the window of your Ryanair flight as you circle Madrid before landing at the Airport and you might see a large religious cross on a mountain top. Below the 500 ft cross in a hollowed out cavern is the body of General Francisco Franco who ruled over Spain for almost four decades.

El Valle de los Caídos (Valley of the Fallen) is located in the most beautiful natural surroundings outside Madrid but few Spaniards want to go to the peaceful national park nor pay their respects to the Spanish dictator.

In order to understand the situation in Spain, I think that Franco must be looked at in two ways. Firstly he is the one who allowed the Luftwaffe to bomb his own people and secondly he is the man who united Spain albeit through a dictatorship and in 38 years he must have been both a dictator and a statesman.

His state isolated Spain from the rest of the world but Spaniards will remember certain positive elements of his lengthy reign and surprisingly some would even like to see the return of a strongman rather than the political stalemate they see today.

For me, I don’t think we can cherry-pick history and I must first remember that thousands died during the civil war and political prisoners were housed in concentration camps and labour camps. Some would argue that those who built the Valle de los Caídos complex were slaves while others say that they were political prisoners that volunteered to work on the extraordinary monument but even after all these years many families still haven’t been able to identify the bodies buried in mass graves as it is seen as literally digging up the past.

Unlike other European dictators, Franco survived World War II. He died in his bed of natural causes whereas Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini who supported his Civil War and leadership both died at the end of April 1945.

When Mussolini was murdered, his body was brought to Milan and hanged upside down from a service station so people could see that Italy’s dictator was really dead.

Five days later in the Führerbunker in Berlin, Adolf Hitler is believed to have taken his Walther pistol and shot himself after poisoning his wife. Their bodies probably burnt so that they would not face the same fate as Mussolini and his mistress, Clara Petacci.

I imagine General Franco mellowed in his later years and relaxed laws and many people will remember a benevolent leader but 38 years before he died, back in 1936, General Franco along with Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler blitzkrieged the town of Guernica in Northern Spain.

This paved the way for carpet bombing of cities that was seen in World War II and the Blitz and most aerial campaigns since then. The combined forces of Italy, Germany and Spain were used to a devastating effect that has never been forgotten and was immortalised by Pablo Picasso’s painting ´Guernica.´

When Franco died he was interned in the magnificent monument of Valle de los Caídos which is located 60kms from Madrid near the town of El Escorial where Spanish kings are buried.

Like a location from ´Lord of the Rings´, a hollowed out mountain in the middle of a national park houses a basilica bigger than the one in St Peter and Pauls in Rome where giant sculptures like Templar Knights guard the entrance within the mountain and tapestries adorn the walls leading to the altar where General Franco is buried.

Due to his involvement in founding the religious site, Franco was entitled to be entombed there but the problem with this incredible tourist destination is that many people refuse to step inside a fascist monument nor pay the €9 entrance fee that pays for the upkeep of the Generalissimo’s grave and final resting place.

Well, we will see if it is his final resting place as the Supreme Court in Spain has decided to green-light his exhumation from El Valle de los Caídos.

Italians and Germans do not remember Il duce or der führer with the same reverence that is shown to the Generalissimo and there are no markings in the car park in Berlin to show people the location of the Führerbunker beneath where Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun committed suicide.

General Franco, was entombed in this beautiful place but his presence there makes me question if El Valle de los Caídos was built as a remembrance of all those who died in the Spanish Civil War or if the mountain with it’s giant 500ft cross isn’t more like a modern-day pyramid.

Nearly fives times the height of the Papal Cross in Phoenix Park, this monument towers above all other tall crosses in the world but is overshadowed by the man buried beneath it.

The cross alone is almost ten meters taller than the Great Pyramid of Giza and like the Egyptian monument, some Spaniards believe it was built on the backs of slaves.

Spain never officially entered the war but the Blitzkrieg attacks left a lasting legacy long after the bombs fell on the marketplace in Guernica and his treatment of Catalans and their culture is still a cause of concern for those seeking independence from Spain today.

The decision to bury him in the Valley of the Dead was apparently made after he died but making the Civil War monument about a dictator in postwar Europe was always going to make SOME CROSS.

World's Tallest Crosses: http://miratico.com/worlds-largest-crosses-reach-high-for-the-sky/

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