Above: a few young monks on their evening walk at the feet of the world’s largest cross. Photo credit Valle de los Caídos @hospederiavc.
Editor’s note: as part of Hispanidad, our series on the glories of Spanish Christendom, we turn to this critical monument of 20th century Spanish history in the struggle for the Faith against the Marxists and national healing after the brutal Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). Stay tuned for the Monday podcast in which we will discuss all these things with OnePeterFive contributor Luis Medina.
This story first appeared at CNA here and is published here with permission.
Spain’s government could finish passing a law this autumn to turn the Basilica of the Holy Cross of the Valley of the Fallen – the world’s longest basilica – into a “museum of the horrors of Franco” and to destroy its cross – the world’s largest – due to its association with general Francisco Franco.
The new law also aims at kicking the Benedictine monks, its custodians since 1958, out of the Basilica’s adjacent abbey and at exhuming the bodies of the thousands of martyrs and victims of both sides of the Spanish Civil War buried there.
The Catholic Church has already recognized 66 of them as martyrs and three more will be recognized in November. There are also over 40 Servants of God whose beatification process is underway. This means the walls of the Basilica’s side chapels of the barrel vault leading up to the main altar hold relics of numerous saints.
During an interview with the prior administrator of the Valley’s Benedictine community, Father Santiago Cantera, he affirmed “the problem is people’s great indifference and ignorance, but I think there are more people who are opposed to destroying this place than people who favor that.”
“Many people are fed up with (the government) stirring up issues about the [Spanish Civil] war because what we really have in Spain are economic, social and employment concerns,” he added on Aug. 3.
According to the prior, a former university professor with a PhD in medieval history and author of 21 books, society needs to “become aware of (the Valley’s) artistic, cultural and religious value, which is supra-political.”
“We cannot continue to use the War of almost a century ago to argue in favor of political groups that do not have a project for the future and want to use the past to back up a Constitution for a new Republic,” he underscored.
The ‘Democratic Memory Law’ was approved in July by the Congress of Deputies and will be debated by the Senate this September. Anglo readers will recognize these textbook Marxist tactics of the “memory hole” from Orwell’s 1984.
The new law will enable the exhumation of the nearly 34,000 fallen from both sides of the Spanish Civil War (although other estimates believe the real numbers are 50,000-70,000). This means the destruction of half of the basilica.
The Asociación para la Defensa del Valle de los Caídos (Association for the Defense of the Valley of the Fallen), composed of 212 families of people buried there from both sides, are firmly opposed. Its president and fierce defender of the Valley, Pablo Linares, is from the family of a Communist who worked at the Valley under Franco after the War. The father, sister and uncle of the monastery’s abbot emeritus, Father Anselmo Álvarez Navarrete, are also buried there.
The law will mandate the creation of a ‘National Bank of DNA of victims of the Civil War,’ the eradication of foundations that “exalt” Franco’s regime (including the Foundation of the Holy Cross of the Valley of the Fallen), and will prohibit teachers from speaking positively about Franco – an attack on academic freedom. It will also demand changing the name from Valle de los Caídos (Valley of the Fallen) to Cuelgamuros.
Although it is not specifically outlined in the law, there have been numerous talks of also destroying the basilica’s cross, accusing it of being a symbol of “national Catholicism.”
About the Valley of the Fallen
The basilica is an underground church carved inside a mountain, within a precinct that covers 3,360 acres of woodland. The site also contains a Benedictine abbey and guesthouse, adjacent to the basilica.
Franco ordered the basilica and abbey’s construction in order to reconcile the wounds of the Civil War. The monks offer daily Masses at the basilica for the souls buried there and for Spain’s unity, accompanied by the angelic Gregorian chants of the Escolanía, a boarding choir school for boys which they run. The opening of this video features the boys’ choir as well as excellent aerial shots of the Cross:
The Escolanía is the only place in the world that teaches children how to read Gregorian chant in its oldest forms, Gregorian paleography. They learn to sing by reading the tetragram and two even older pneumatic scripts. It currently has about 50 students, aged between eight and eighteen.
According to historian Alberto Bárcena Pérez, Franco wanted to bury as many victims as possible within the Basilica and obtained the help of town halls as well as written authorization from the victims’ families.
Franco was buried there behind the altar, although he had never requested it. The government exhumed his body, despite opposition from Franco’s family and the monks, on 24 October 2019. Bárcena claims the exhumation was part of a Masonic Scottish rite due to the way the authorities positioned themselves at the event. The monks privately celebrated numerous Masses and acts of reparation afterwards.
After the law is passed, the government wants to exhume the body of José Antonio Primo de Rivera, founder of the Falange, who is buried in front of the altar. He was shot to death by the Republicanos aged 33. Both Franco and Primo de Rivera died on Nov. 20, though decades apart.
Earlier this year, the Guinness World Records recognized the Basilica’s cross as the world’s “largest free-standing cross” measuring 152.4m (500 ft) tall and its Basilica as the longest in the world with 260m (853 ft) in length.
The basilica is located 45km (28 miles) west of Madrid and took 21 years to build (1937-1958) at a cost of about €211 million euros ($229 million USD). It was elevated “to the honor and dignity of a minor basilica” in April 1960, under Pope John XXIII.
Due to the area’s great geological stability and isolation, it also has an underground laboratory of gravimetry and tides in two of its basements. Researches from around the world use it to study earth tides, gravimetry and absolute gravity.
The whole precinct operates through the Fundación de la Santa Cruz del Valle de los Caídos (Foundation of the Holy Cross of the Valley of the Fallen). The Foundation is owned by both the Government of Spain, managed previously by the Head of State but now by the government’s Patrimonio Nacional (National Patrimony), and the Benedictine monks. Patrimonio is in charge of managing funds and of the maintenance works of the buildings, which it does mainly by selling entrance tickets at the main entrance gate at the bottom of the Valley. The law states that it has to give part of this money to the monks so they can maintain the employees of the Escolanía and of the guesthouse.
But Patrimonio stopped paying the monks four years ago in an attempt to strangle them economically. The monks are now maintaining the precinct themselves with private donations and other funds, but Patrimonio blocks any maintenance works even through private donations. Patrimonio was paying them €340,000 euros ($350,000 USD) annually for all their expenses. So the government currently owes them €1,360,000 euros ($1,400,000 USD).
As a result of the lack of funds and the obstacles placed by Patrimonio, the upkeep of the grounds and monuments have been neglected. Architects have estimated the damages of the abbey and Basilica to be in the millions.
Fifteen Years of Ferocious Harassment
Ever since the government of Zapatero passed the ‘Historical Memory Law’ in 2007, the government has made its special mission to make life hell for the monks.
“Ever since the time of Zapatero, we’ve been ferociously harassed,” stated Fr Cantera.
“I had a very hard time four years ago, but I took it as a purification from which I came out strengthened,” revealed Fr Cantera. “It was all because of the media harassment, the attempt to make a public mockery of me in the Senate when they summoned me on the subject of exhumations.”
“Since there were families who opposed the exhumation of the remains of other fallen, as is currently the case, at that time we (the monks) were forced to intervene and present an appeal, and the courts decreed a series of precautionary measures suspending the procedure,” he continued. “From then on, as they had judicially lost the first battle, they began harassing me in the media and denigrating me as a person.”
Despite the struggles, the community has been receiving numerous young vocations. There are six monks under the age of 30: three who have professed temporary vows, two with solemn vows, and one postulant that will soon be joining.
The Benedictines take a vow of stability added to those of poverty, chastity and obedience. When they go to a place, they park themselves there come hell or high water. Many have been martyred for this very reason throughout history.
If the world remains apathetic to the current events surrounding the Valley and the Taliban-like government, Spain may have martyrs once again in the not so distant future.
Note: To help the monks you can donate at: valledeloscaidos.es/colabora , scrolling down to where it says “Continuar” or through a transfer to the following:
Beneficiary: ABADIA SANTA CRUZ
IBAN: ES34 2100 4074 27 1300142701
This story first appeared at CNA here and is published here with permission.
 The Guinness record says that construction began in 1937, but this an error. Everything was planned from 1940 and the works began shortly after.
Estefanía Aguirre is an experienced journalist who has lived in several countries and speaks five languages. She holds a Master’s degree in international journalism from Falmouth University.