The Valle de los Caídos (Valley of the Fallen) is one of Spain’s most iconic and controversial sites. Located in the Sierra de Guadarrama mountain range near Madrid, this monumental basilica and monastery was built between 1940 and 1958 by Francisco Franco, Spain’s dictatorial leader from 1939 to 1975. The huge complex is dedicated to the thousands of lives lost during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939).
History of the Valle De Los Caídos
The Valley of the Fallen was built as a memorial of reconciliation and peace, but it has been highly contested since it was constructed. Franco ordered the construction of the valley in 1940 to commemorate the thousands of lives lost in the Spanish Civil War, including both Nationalist and Republican forces. As a symbol of unity, Franco had members of both sides work together to build the site.
The construction of the valley was highly controversial and it was seen by many as a way for Franco to further solidify his power and promote his nationalist agenda. It was also extremely expensive, costing an estimated 400 million pesetas (the equivalent of €2.4 billion today). The site was finally completed in 1958 and was declared a National Monument in 1975.
What to See at the Valle De Los Caídos
The Valley of the Fallen is one of the most impressive sites in Spain. The most striking feature of the complex is the 150-meter-high Cross of the Fallen, the tallest memorial cross in the world. The cross is made of granite blocks and is visible from miles away. It stands atop a basilica that was dug into the mountain and is surrounded by a huge esplanade.
The basilica is designed in a neo-Romanesque style and is adorned with sculptures, paintings, and frescoes. At the entrance of the basilica is a crypt containing the tombs of Francisco Franco and José Antonio Primo de Rivera, founder of the Spanish Falange party. In addition to the basilica, the site also includes a museum, a library, a refectory, and a hostel.
Visiting the Valle De Los Caídos
The Valley of the Fallen is open to visitors and is a popular tourist destination. Guided tours of the complex are available, as well as audio guides for those who wish to explore the site on their own. The site is open all year round, with the exception of December 25th and January 1st.
The entrance fee is €9 and the site is easily accessible by car or public transport. It is located just 50 kilometers from Madrid and can be reached by taking the Cercanías commuter train from Atocha Station to San Lorenzo de El Escorial.
Criticism of the Valle De Los Caídos
The Valley of the Fallen has been highly controversial since its construction and is seen by many as a symbol of Franco’s oppressive regime. In 2007, a law was passed to transform the site into a space for reconciliation and a center for learning about the history of the Spanish Civil War. However, the site still contains a monument to Franco and his regime and is a reminder of the atrocities committed during his rule.
In recent years, there have been numerous calls to remove Franco’s tomb from the site. In 2018, the Spanish government announced plans to exhumed Franco’s remains but this has yet to happen. In the meantime, the Valley of the Fallen remains a controversial and powerful symbol of Spain’s past.
The Valle de los Caídos is one of Spain’s most iconic and controversial sites. Built by Francisco Franco to commemorate the Spanish Civil War, the site is an impressive monument to the thousands of lives lost during the conflict. The complex contains a basilica, a museum, a library, a refectory, and a hostel and is open to visitors all year round.
The site has been highly contested since its construction and is seen by many as a symbol of Franco’s oppressive regime. In recent years, there have been numerous calls to remove Franco’s tomb from the site. Until this happens, the Valley of the Fallen will remain a powerful reminder of Spain’s turbulent past.