Visit the General Franco Tomb
This is one bizarre and eerie sight not to be missed even on a pleasure trip to Madrid: General Franco’s Mausoleum (El Valle de los Caidos), a looming cross and vast tunnel cut into the granite of Madrid’s Sierra de Guararrama mountain range. Created to be a monument to those who died in the Spanish Civil War, you’ll see that the Franco Tomb has more to do with only one bloke who never got that near the front line. Imagine St Peter’s Cathedral in Rome mocked up in the studios of Flash Gordon.
This is neo-classicism gone seriously comic book. The Franco Tomb is generally regarded as a crude piece of monumental self-aggrandisement in the awful architectural taste of the twentieth century’s most crackpot megalomaniacs and dictators. It’s a Must Visit when in Madrid!
The architect, Diego Mendez (who went on to become a household name…in his household) aimed to blend potent symbols of the two pillars of Franco’s doctrine: Catholicism and military might. That’s why you’ll see grotesque angels with swords, cowled biblical figures (with hands like Sepp Maier – with gloves on), and vast eagles built from granite blocks (amongst a catalogue of other faux pas). Death is certainly evoked, but at the hands of the Ming Dynasty! And Franco himself was anything but Flash (see below Who Was General Franco?)
Franco Tomb – a chilling reminder of the old Spain
Walk the 250 metres into the basilica that was chipped out of the granite by prisoners of war (officially the world’s longest Catholic Cathedral) and you’ll see Franco lying at rest. Above him towers an equally bizarre and oversized granite cross (about 100 metres high) that points towards Madrid and can be seen from the city itself.
Even today there are apologists for Franco in Spain. His images are still being removed from the streets and the minds of modern Spain. Although he didn’t get the trains to run on time, some argue he held the Spanish nation together under the threat of political and moral fragmentation. Also, Real Madrid won the European Cup six times under “Tio Paco”. Judge for yourself!
Defunct Dictator’s Day – Typical schedule (timings are flexible)
- 12:00 Pick-up from your hotel with your Spain Event guide. Into your private coach for transport to the site.
- 12.45 Arrive at the Valle de los Caidos. Start with either the Basilica/Cathedral, or head up in the cable car to the cross. You’ll spend around 20 minutes at each. There are plenty of places around to get a beer!
- Enjoy the amazing view through the mountains to Madrid City. Walk back down from the cross to get back on the bus.
- 14.15 If you chose the meal option, enjoy a hearty lunch served sizzling from the griddle in one of our favourite mountain eateries. A couple of cold beers or a heady wine will aid reflection on the true horrors of Francoism.
- 16.00 Back on the bus. A quick stop to see the amazing, monolithic El Escorial monastery and then back to Madrid centre by 1700.
Franco Trip Madrid – What is included:
- Return coach travel with our rep. Pick up and drop off from accommodation / convenient meeting point
- The Spain Event guide with in-depth knowledge of the history of the Valle de los Caidos.
- Lunch with drinks is optional.
- Entrance to all sites visited.
Franco Tour in Madrid – What else do I need to know?
- Part of the enigma is that General Franco is still a touchy subject in Spain, and seldom mentioned, so careful with comments to the locals.
- Drinks are available throughout!
- Yes, don’t worry that means beer too!
- Bring your camera – although there are some areas where you are not allowed to use flashes
- Remember this is a Roman Catholic Cathedral, so silence and respectful behaviour are required.
Who Was Franco? (Read about Franco in wikipedia) Only 7 years before hosting the 1982 World Cup Finals, Spain was still a dictatorship. Francisco Franco was the military general who prevailed in the Spanish Civil war (1936-1939) aided by Hitler and Mussolini, and who ruled as Spain’s Dictator until his death in 1975. Catholicism was the main tenet of his regime. Franco was a slight man, staunchly Catholic, of no great oratorical power or charisma. One political commentator said: “Everyone had smelly socks under Franco”. Franco was a paternalistic ruler and made Spain insular, conservative and uniform – no diversity of political or artistic thought was permitted (although the Fiesta spirit never died). Free elections were restored in Spain at the end of the 70s, and the transformation began. Strolling through Sol or La Latina tonight, drinking in the spirit of diversity and tolerance, you might feel tempted to tip your hat to Modern Spain!
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