The Foundation of the Holy Cross of the Valley of the Fallen, and the Basilica

In 1957, the decree-law creating the Fundación de la Santa Cruz del Valle de los Caídos – the Foundation of the Holy Cross of the Valley of the Fallen – was published in the Official Gazette, enacting the monument’s legal and asset basis. To define the monumental complex and its purposes, the decree is couched in the National Catholic rhetoric typical of Franco’s regime. Christian notions of “forgiveness”, “brotherhood” and the “gospel message” are combined with those of “Crusade”, “Fallen” and military “Victory”, expressing the historical interpretation of the victors in the war and their concept and hierarchy of patriotism, contained in the phrase “our heroes and our martyrs”.

Thus, in this Francoist account, the monument is “destined to perpetuate the memory of the Fallen in the Crusade for Liberation, to honour those who gave their lives for God and the Fatherland, and as an example for future generations”. The decree also specifies that the religious order which will provide “religious worship and prayer” and “run a centre for study” will be the order of Saint Benedict, by means of an agreement with the Abbey of Silos.

According to the decree, the new Foundation – under the “High Patronage” of Franco – would exercise ownership of the monument, ensuring its compliance with the religious and social purposes set out in the decree, and implement the agreement with the Benedictines. The obligations laid down for the abbey included: to hold worship in splendour, to run the choir school and social studies centre, to monitor the progress of social thinking in the world, to compile the doctrine of popes and Catholic thinkers, to create a library on religious themes, to conduct spiritual exercises, to prepare any reports requested and to cater for the monument’s guests. The State’s agreement with the Benedictines was signed in 1958, and essentially contains the obligations set out in the Decree-law of 1957.

On the religious side, on 27 May 1958, Pope Pius XII raised and “for ever constituted the new exempt Abbey, which shall be given the title Abbey of the Holy Cross of the Valley of the Fallen”. In 1960, Pope John XXIII declared the Church of the Holy Cross a minor basilica, after consulting the Sacred Congregation of Rites.

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