Guided tours to Valle de los Caidos – Valley of the Fallen

The Valley of the Fallen is a great monument from Spain’s recent history, which is a short distance from Madrid and barely 10 kilometres from one of the country’s great jewels of historic and artistic heritage: the Escorial Monastery. In fact, the Valley of the Fallen is included in the municipality of San Lorenzo de El Escorial.

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It’s a place that was created between the years 1940 and 1959 by direct order of Francisco Franco practically after the immediate end of the Civil War. The original monument was conceived as a place of reconciliation for the two opposing sides, although it is undeniable that it has always been a clear symbol of the Franco dictatorship. In fact, Francisco Franco is buried here, as well as the founder of the Spanish Phalanx, José Antonio Primo de Rivera, and tens of thousands of those who died in the Civil War.

Independent from its politic significance, it’s true that the Valley of the Fallen became a great work of art in its time. The architects of the project were Pedro Muguruza and Diego Méndez. Here they created the Benedictine abbey excavated in rock, giving shape to a great underground Basilica for the tombs. And in its external part, access is through a great arched plaza, and over the excavated building is a towering cross carved from granite, which is the most emblematic image of the site, and it can even be seen from many kilometres away since it is more than 150 metres high.

In addition to the cross, the varied sculptural repertoire is also highlighted, which can be seen both inside and outside of the Basilica. Various artists created the sculptures, particularly Juan de Ávalos, one of the most celebrated sculptors in Spain in the mid-20th century.

In short, a visit to the Valley of the Fallen is interesting to see the monument and its natural surroundings, and overall for being one of the places that best reflects the history of Spain in the 20th century.