Valley of the Fallen

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Valley of the Fallen

This burial place was prepared for the Catholic dead who fell during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), and built by prisoners of war from about 1939 to 1955, when it was finally opened. It consists of a huge underground crypt, hewn out of stone. This crypt is a basilica — a church, maintained by Benedictine monks. The underground basilica is as long as St. Peter's in Rome! — all cut out of living rock. On top of the hill stands a 500-foot cross of concrete faced with stone. An elevator goes up to the top of the cross — but special permission is needed to take it. What visitors can do is to take an elevator up to the base of the cross, from which there is a commanding view of the whole valley. Inside the basilica: the air inside is a full 10 degrees cooler than outside (in the summer), and the softest sound echoes down the chamber. Up at the foot of the cross inside is a simple plaque in the floor commemorating Jose Antonio — the founder of the Falangist Party which triumphed under Generalissimo Franco. A wreath on the plaque honors the memory of Jose Antonio, who fell in the first days of the Civil War. Generalissimo Franco is buried next to him.

The mausoleum is huge: the basilica is actually longer than St. Peter's in Rome. Now Catholic church law states that no church can be longer than St. Peter's. What the builders had to do was to put up a wrought-iron screen at the back of the basilica. They called this screen the "back" of the church, even though the underground tunnel continues for another 15 or 20 feet. But at least this satisfied canon law.

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