About 45 kilometers (28 miles) northwest of Madrid, in the heart of an area of memory, is the Basilica of the Holy Cross in the Valley of the Fallen.
Basilica and abbey make up the landmark under the high cross.
To pay tribute to the soldiers who died on both sides during the Spanish Civil War, the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco ordered the construction of the building.
The corpses of at least 30,000 victims are buried in the compound.
As well as removing the cross at the memorial site – other public crosses in Spain have already been removed – a new rule aimed at ‘eliminating Francoist symbols’ could also expel from the monastery the Benedictine monks who tend to the monument. since 1958. next to the basilica.
The final resting places of martyrs and victims of the Spanish Civil War are in danger as the government intends to exhume their graves.
Three additional martyrs will be honored by the Catholic Church in November, bringing the total number of victims buried at the memorial site to 66.
In addition, the process of beatification of more than 40 servants of God is in progress.
Many relics of saints are exhibited in the side chapels of the basilica which rise up to the high altar.
Father Santiago Cantera, who was the former administrator of the Benedictine community, said in an interview with CNA that “the problem is people’s great indifference and ignorance, but I think there are more people who oppose the destruction of this place than people who are in favor of such a movement.
On August 3, he continued, “A lot of people are tired of [the government] stir up military problems when what we really have in Spain are economic, social and employment concerns.
The prior, a former university professor with a doctorate. in medieval history and author of 21 books, believes that society needs to be made aware of the aesthetic, cultural and religious aspects of the Valley of the Dead.
These ideals are more important to Father Cantera than any political objective.
The Benedictine remarked: “We cannot continue to use the civil war of almost a century ago to support political forces that have no plan for the future and seek to use the past to support a Constitution for a new Republic”.
The Congress of Deputies enacted the “Democratic Memory Law” in July. The Senate will discuss it in September.
The more than 33,000 civil war victims on both sides could be exhumed under the new legislation.
According to some estimates, the numbers could reach 50,000 to 70,000. A substantial part of the basilica would be destroyed in addition to the exhumation.
212 families with relatives buried there form the Asociación por la Defensa del Valle de los Cados (Association for the Defense of the Valley of the Fallen).
They are Civil War veterans on both sides. However, they are united in rejecting the exhumation of one of their deceased loved ones.
Pablo Linares, president of the Association and fervent protector of the Valley, comes from a communist who worked in the Valley under Franco during the Civil War.
Father Anselmo lvarez Navarrete, abbot emeritus of the monastery, is buried there next to his father, his sister and his uncle.
The bill would require the creation of a “national DNA data bank of Civil War victims” and the demolition of all organizations that “exalted” Franco’s rule, such as the Holy Cross Foundation of the Valley of the Dead. .
The legislation will make it illegal for instructors to promote Franco.
Additionally, the name of the location will be changed from “Valley of the Dead” to “Valley of Cuelgamuros”, which is the official name of the region.
Regarding the Valley of the Dead
A forest area of 3,360 acres has an underground church called the Basilica which was cut into a mountain. In addition, the property has a guest house near the basilica and a Benedictine monastery.
To soothe the scars left by the civil war, Franco ordered the construction of the basilica and the monastery.
At the basilica, the monks celebrate mass every day in memory of the deceased and in support of the unity of Spain.
L’Escolana, a residential choir school for boys, run by Benedictines, provides Gregorian chants for services.
Gregorian palaeography, the oldest type of Gregorian chant reading, is taught exclusively to young people at the Escolana.
The Tetragrammaton and two even older pneumatic scripts are used to teach them to sing.
There are now 50 students, aged 8 to 18.
According to historian Alberto Bárcena Pérez, Franco asked for help from city councils and relatives of the deceased in order to bury as many dead as possible in the basilica.
Despite claiming he never asked, Franco was buried under the altar.
On October 24, 2019, the government dug up his corpse in defiance of Franco’s family and the monks.
Because of the way authorities behaved during the ceremony, Bárcena claims the exhumation was part of a Freemasonic ritual.
Thereafter, the monks performed several private masses and acts of atonement.
The government will exhume José Antonio Primo de Rivera, the founder of the Falange, whose remains are buried in front of the altar, when the measure is approved.
Republicans shot him when he was 33.
Despite decades of separation, Franco and Primo de Rivera passed away on November 20.
The basilica’s cross was named the largest free-standing cross in the world by Guinness World Records earlier this year.
Its height was determined to be 152.4 meters (500 ft).
The basilica, which is the longest building in the world at 260 meters (853 feet), is also included in the record books.
The construction of the church, which took place between 1940 and 1958, cost approximately $229 million.
In April 1960, the church was given “the honor and dignity of a minor basilica” by Pope John XXIII.
It also contains an underground gravity and tidal laboratory in two of its basements due to the region’s remarkable geological stability and isolation.
It is used by scientists around the world to research absolute gravity, gravimetry, and earth tides.
The responsibility for fundraising lies with Patrimonio, who do so primarily by selling access tickets at the main gate at the foot of the valley.
According to the legislation, part of this money must be sent to the monks in order to pay the salaries of the Escolana and the hotel staff.
The monastery is currently preserving the area using private contributions and other finance after Patrimonio stopped paying the monks four years ago, putting it under financial pressure.
According to the architects, it would take several million dollars to restore the monastery and the basilica.
Patrimonio also prohibits any maintenance project financed by individual contributions. The whole establishment is run down.
After a “fierce harassment” for fifteen years.
Tensions between the government and the religious community have grown since the administration of José Luis Rodrguez Zapatero approved the “Historical Memory Law” in 2007.
Pr. Cantera said that “we were violently harassed”.
Four years ago, I went through a difficult moment, but I experienced it as a purification from which I emerged strengthened.
“I was called before the Senate about the exhumations, and it was all due to media harassment and wanting to make a public spectacle of me,” he said.
“At that time, we (the monks) were forced to intercede and appeal, and the courts imposed a series of preventive measures postponing the process, because there were families who opposed the exhumation of the remains of other dead, as is the case today,” he said.
As soon as they realized they were legally defeated in the first fight, they started attacking me in the media and badmouthing me personally.
Despite its challenges, the city continues to attract many young professionals.
There are six monks under 30: two in solemn vows, two in temporary vows and a postulant who will soon join.
In addition to their vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, Benedictines also take a vow of stability.
They usually live there for the rest of their lives after arriving. This has led to many people being martyred throughout history.