Francoist usage of the monument

On 29 May 1958, the Government signed an agreement with the Congregation of Silos for a group of Benedictine monks to reside in the future abbey. They would be responsible for receiving and guarding the mortal remains of the Spaniards who died twenty years earlier and would be interred in the crypt chapels. The first entry in the Records Book is 17 March 1959. The name recorded is José Hernández Molina, who had been brought from Madrid’s Almudena Cemetery. He was assigned number two on the list, perhaps because of the priority accorded to José Antonio Primo de Rivera, who was to be buried twelve days later, and appears as number one. The operation of identifying, collecting and transferring the remains in individual or collective coffins involved local councils, prefectures and undertakers from all over Spain.

Generally speaking, the dead on the rebel side were interred with their full parental details, the unit to which they belonged in the case of the military, as well as the cause of death and place of burial, all of which feature in the Records Book. The headings on the official documents are “Fallen for God and Spain” and “Martyrs of the Crusade”. None of the terms used in the register suggest the operation was designed for the dead on both sides. Indeed, nobody loyal to the constitutional Republican Government was buried with honours. Most are simply marked ‘unknown’.

The administrative processing was subject to numerous variables making the decision to send remains to the Valley piecemeal, especially in the municipalities of origin, and was often done without the knowledge or consent of the families.

The abbey church of the Holy Cross of the Valley of the Fallen was awarded the distinction of minor basilica on 6 June 1960. The Appointed Prefect of the Sacred Congregation of Rites, Gaetano Cicognani, consecrated the building on behalf of Pope John XXIII. During the nineteen sixties, the Valley was the backdrop for a number of incidents involving both Falangists and anti-Francoist groups.

For years, official propaganda portrayed an image of the monument based on the rhetoric of winners and losers. However, this changed in the mid-Sixties in a Spain which now needed to open up to the outside world. In this developmentalist Spain, the Valley was sidelined in public life. Indeed, it caused Franco discomfort on certain occasions, as it was a frequent choice of meeting place for sectors of the regime who opposed his dictatorship.

The opening of the funicular railway on 7 July 1975, however, gave it a new lease of life as a place of religious pilgrimage and a tourist attraction in the Sierra de Guadarrama.

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