Visiting Valle de los Caídos (Valley of the Fallen) - Spanish Sabores

Visiting Valle de los Caídos (Valley of the Fallen)

A Place of Contradictions: Valle de los Caídos

 I recently had the opportunity to visit one of Spain’s most controversial memorials, Valle de los Caídos (Valley of the Fallen). Tremendous, impressive, and ominous, I’d recommend that anyone making the popular day trip to nearby San Lorenzo de El Escorial also try their best to visit Valle de los Caídos.

Valley of the Fallen

What is Valle de los Caidos?

Nestled in the lovely Sierra de Guadarrama, and located only 15 kilometers from UNESCO World Heritage Site El Escorial, Valle de los Caídos is a place of contradictions. Composed of a basilica, abbey, and an enormous cross, The Valley of the Fallen was commissioned by Spanish dictator Francisco Franco in 1940 to supposedly honor the fallen of the Spanish Civil War. In theory, it was intended to be a memorial to commemorate both sides, but many believe this to be ironic and that it was actually Franco’s shrine to victory and a place of mourning exclusively for his followers. Objectors point out the greatly unequal number of victims buried in the valley– it is estimated that of the more than 11,000 people buried there in 1959 (the year construction finished) a very small percentage were Republicans while the great majority were Nationalists. Since 1959 the number of people buried has increased to at least 34,000 (although some estimate it to be much higher) and the number of Republicans has likewise increased, as mass graves were opened in other parts of Spain and bodies were sent to be buried in Valle de los Caídos. This decision created heartache for families who have never been able to locate their relatives and have eternal doubt as to their final resting place.

Valley of the Fallen

Further Controversies

Another source of tension among relatives of those buried here is the fact that their loved ones share the site with the tomb of Francisco Franco himself, as well as with José Antonio Primo de Rivera, founder of the Spanish Fascist Party. In recent years there has been a lot of talk about removing Franco’s body from the basilica and reburying it in a place of his family’s choosing. The last Commission of Experts for the Future of Valle de los Caídos, which met on November 29, 2011, did recommend that Franco’s body be moved, arguing that the memorial was intended for (and should be exclusively for) the fallen of the Spanish Civil War. Yet it is not quite as simple as the government deciding to move Franco’s body. Ultimately, it is the church’s decision as the basilica is an official place of worship and, therefore, the Catholic Church has the legal power to decide.

Valley of the Fallen

Additional controversy and a widespread source of misinformation regards the people who constructed the impressive monument. My research showed enormous contradictions among sources. I came across accounts of 20,000 Republican prisoners being forced to risk their lives constructing the monument. Thousands of prisoners were estimated to have died in the process claim these sources. Yet other accounts declare that only 243 prisoners were involved in the site’s construction (of 2,643 workers in total). These prisoners, it is alleged, chose to be involved in the labor and worked in exchange for a lighter sentence, fair wages and benefits for their families.  In an eighteen-year period fourteen prisoners were said to have died.

I was shocked by these discrepancies and the overall lack of solid information. Even only has a three-paragraph explanation of the memorial’s history. That is unacceptable! After reading at least thirty articles about Valle de los Caídos in both English and Spanish I was almost as confused as when I first started my research. It is certainly a reflection of how Spain sometimes tends to ignore the past— a hot topic today among Spaniards themselves.

Visiting Valle de los Caídos

We drove up the mountains to visit the memorial on a bright Sunday morning. Approaching the exit on the highway, we could already see the cross, the largest memorial cross in the world (152.4 meters), looming in the mountains. It is impressively tall and I was surprised that I didn’t know more people who had been to visit this monument, being so powerful and so close to Madrid. 

Valley of the Fallen

Certainly the first thing that strikes you is the size of the cross. It’s enormous. Then there are the lovely views of the mountains. But for me, the real emotional impact and the creepiest part of the monument is definitely the basilica.

Valley of the Fallen
The lovely view of the Sierra de Guadarrama

Entering the basilica is downright eerie. You pass through its heavy doors and into the long, narrow nave. Dark statues of sword bearing angels stare down at you from both sides as you slowly make your way to the altar. Being a Sunday morning mass was in session, making the irony of the place even stronger in my eyes. As we listened to the angelic voices of the local children’s choir, we waited for the service to finish in order to see the rest of the basilica. As about seventy-five people exited the service, they shuffled past the fifty or so tourists ready to take their place.

The narrow hall leading to the altar.


This is where things get even weirder. Walking around the basilica were at least twenty-five priests, talking to people and praying. As we approached Franco’s tomb we could see some people standing over it and saying a prayer (fresh flowers adorned the stone) while others tried to sneak in a photo as the woman in charge screamed charges of disrespect to these rule-breaking tourists. I kept my camera in its case. It wasn’t long before a priest approached our small group of four. He made small talk and congratulated us for being well-intentioned, young, Catholic youth. As if. I honestly don’t know if this man is really so naive to think that everyone who visits this site is religious, or if he was intentionally trying to make us feel pressured.

Regardless, we were a bit uncomfortable, and we soon left the dark despair of the creepy crypt. Back into the blinding sunlight, I was again struck by the contradictions– was this place beautiful, open, and sunny, or dark, creepy, and claustrophobic? I’ll have to settle with deciding that it is a complicated and emotionally charged place, and a little bit of both.

Valley of the Fallen
Back into the light!

 El Valle de los Caídos Today

So what is the future of this place? And should you visit? Well, the future seems to vary with Spain’s leading political party. To move Franco or not? To exhume bodies or not? To rename the memorial or not?

As an outsider and only recently educated on this period of Spanish history I tend to think that no one should ignore the past. The memorial shouldn’t change its name and instead of erasing its history, however painful, I think that it is necessary to educate and promote dialogue about the place’s history. I believe it is essential to establish a few reliable and easily found sources on the internet to find more information about the memorial. After seventy years there shouldn’t be such widespread contradictions and misinformation as the page one google results in both English and Spanish.

For me, moving Franco’s body is also like erasing a piece of the past. As a non-religious person, I see his body as an important reminder of history— he did some terrible things that should be remembered as a way of honoring those affected. If we forget all of the bad people and things in the world, no matter how difficult it is to face them, we are doing our future generations and ourselves a disservice. Valle de los Caídos has the enormous potential to educate people about the events of the Spanish Civil War, but the government needs to be able to provide basic facts and information about the site that are not opinionated and skewed.

Overall, I think that everyone visiting the area should make a stop in Valle de los Caídos. Despite its contradictions and the lack of information found at the site, it is truly an impressive place and worthy of some reflection.

Hours: Every day except Mondays from 10:00-5:00 (Mass at 11:00)

Click here for more pictures of the basilica’s interior.

I really hope that this post conveys the care I took in writing about this issue. I checked my facts as much as possible so if you find any discrepancies or have a different opinion, please leave me a comment. 


  1. Have to admit, I am completely maccabre and really wanted to visit this summer, but the PSOE closed it off just weeks before we made it there. What’s more, Kike and I were in Ferrol thisorming and walked by Franco’s childhood home remembering this fact just this morning. Haunting, dire, but an important reminder of the past.

      1. Hi Lauren,
        I found your article extremely interesting. My family are planning to visit the Valle next week (10.04.12) and can’t work out if we will actually be able to walk around. The website says it;s closed to visitors.

        Do you know anything about this?

        I’ve many books on the Spanish Civil War and have also visited Guernica. We are also planning to visit Salamanca next week to check out the University for our eldest Daughter…did you by any chance do any studies there? As i understand many American students do.

        Hope to hear from you….I am English but live in France

        Jackie Clarke

        1. Hi Jackie,
          As far as I know it should be open, however I’m not sure how much they will let you explore. When I went in February we were able to see the Basilica and walk around the front of the memorial, but we didn’t try going into the Valley or around the grounds. Unfortunately I haven’t yet been to Salamanca. It’s on my list for places to see ASAP! I hope you enjoy your visits. Comment/email me with any other questions!


          1. Thanks Lauren,

            I would just ask if you know anyone who has been to Salamanca uni – a contact would be really helpful.


          2. I don’t know anyone believe it or not! I’d check out twitter or facebook for advice maybe, and if not there is always tripadvisor and lonely planet websites! Also, Christine in Spain recently posted about Salamanca, but I think she has only visited…

          3. Hi Lauren,

            Just to thank you for your encouragement to keep going on our planned visit to the Valle, despite the website saying it is closed to visitors!

            It was open and we were speechless and completely moved.

            It was a bleak day which gave the setting even more meaning, if that’s possible. The clouds rushed past over the head of the cross and gave me a deep sense of time moving on above the tragic history of the past.

            Hard to describe to anyone who has not been there, but suffice it to say that I have only felt quite so overwhelmed in one other place…Omaha beach and the American Cemetery behind it.

            I would thoroughly recommend Salamanca, jaw dropping buildings which are beautifully presented. Friendly people despite the terrible effects of the recession on their population of 165,000 with 36,000 unemployed. You have no sense of this as you wander around amongst the students and tourists.

            Thanks again.

          4. Hello Jackie!

            I’m so glad that you guys went and that you enjoyed your time. It sounds like you had a really special day. I can’t wait to make it to Salamanca– soon! How long are you in Spain for?


          5. Hi Lauren
            Sadly, the end of the school holidays came and we had to go home. But the SW of France is a lovely place to live, so I’m not complaining.
            Our next trip to Spain is planned for mid-June when we will be walking in the Pyrenees national park at Torla.
            If you haven’t visited I would recommend Cerler, a beautiful old skiing village set high above Benasque. A beautiful part of the world.

      2. Not much contradictions here if you go to books written by the most respected historians on the Franco period. “Google results in both English and Spanish” is no good strategy, to say the least, when trying to find out about such controversial issues. Paul Preston is widely recognized as the world leading expert on Franco and the Spanish Civil War and he puts it quite clear. I site from Paul Preston’s latest book “The Spanish Holocaust”:
        “The most extreme example of the exploitation of Republican prisoners was Franco’s personal caprice, the gigantic basilica and towering cross of the Valle de los Caidos. Twenty thousand were emloyed, and several were killed or badly injured, in the construction of this mausoleum for the Caudillo, a monument to his victory which was intended, in his own words, ‘to have the grandeur of the monuments of old, which defy time and forgetfulness’.” (p. 509)

        Anthony Beevor, another one of the world’s most respected war historians, about the Franco killings and the myths promoted by the Brotherhood of the Valley of the Fallen towards the end of this video clip:

  2. hey lauren! it’s been a while since i went there (actually, it was during my EF Tour in high school), but i do remember it being a place of contradictions. Mind if i share this article with the teachers i work with who are deciding whether or not they want to add this excursion to their package?

    so sad that i missed you when you were home last week! are you coming back at all this summer?
    un beso!

  3. I’ve visited the Valle de los Caidos a couple of times and find the contradictions your mention really unnerving, but perhaps that’s a fitting characteristic for such a place. Personally I find it hard to believe that Franco’s intentions were altruistic; the mere fact that it is the largest memorial cross in the world screams of delusions of grandeur. But, like you said, no clear facts exist.

    I, also, recommend that people get out to see it. I found the basilica, and in particular the relief sculptures honoring the branches of the military, to be quite beautiful.

    I appluad you for such a well-written post!

    1. Hi Amy, thanks for commenting. I think the contradictions definitely make sense, given the place and its surrounding controversy. I am personally convinced that Franco intended it to be a means of gloating about his victory– not to mention a monument that would carry his name into the future. I just really believe that 70 years since its inception people should agree on at least basic facts, and more information on the memorial and its history should be available to those visiting. I agree that some of the basilica was definitely beautiful… but always in a slightly creepy way!

  4. Lauren, I can tell your really put a lot of work and research into this piece. Spain’s dark history is difficult to tread through, but you wrote about it masterfully. Great work.

  5. Wonderful article! I have not been but had looked into doing a trip to El Escorial and here-most info. was cursory and did nowhere near the job you did covering the history, contradictions and ongoing questions. I think it is as essential to study and try to comprehend Spain’s more recent history as it’s ancient past, sites etc.

  6. Really great post, Lauren. I can tell you did your research. I read Ghosts of Spain and the part about the Valle was really intriguing. It seems like a fascinating place, historically and religiously. I’m glad you’re doing your part to share about it and its history.

  7. I was there over 30 years ago on a tour with the group of students in my program while studying in Madrid. I was an ignorant student then and just enjoyed the architecture and scenery. I have learned so much more since then. I too read that chapter in Ghosts of Spain(and have found it a difficult book to get through) and learned a bit more and with your post here, even more! You’ve written an excellent account and you’re right, lots of contradictions. My opinion is that Spain may never come to terms with that awful period of history.

  8. Interesting post and a difficult subject. I visited el Valle de los Caidos in 1978 and it was impressive and depressing. I ma not sure either whether the Spanish will ever come to terms with that part of their history as people say here.
    The Civil War is interpreted according to which political leaning you have or your family.It is interesting to note if you speak to PSaniards about the CV they rarely have read many of the best and most impartial books on the war yet they normally have very strong views one way or the other. Ghosts of Spain is indeed a good take on the Spanish attitude. Hugh Thomas’s The Spanish Civil War,although dated in my opinion is still one of the best history books on the CV; I remember it giving an interesting account of the story of the Valle.

    1. Thanks Patrick, I’m going to have to read some of these books, at least they seem to contain solid information from what people are telling me. Thanks for the recommendations.

      1. Civil War. I came acroos this while trying to wrap my head around another subject I have read about but don’ t quite get it. The other person bury there: jose Antonio Primo de Rivera, quite a fascinating personality. I asked my tour guide Why was Jose Antonio buried there? And she did not have the foggiest idea. Contrary to opinions here, I am not an Spaniard but of Hispanic descent and understand the culture and deep religious feelings Franco has. I believe he wanted to honor both sides’ dead as all were Spaniards. He was a very strong religious believer, Catholic and thought as many of them Spain is Great, a patriot in his own terms and believes. He fought to rescue his country, other people think different and is allowed. The Cross was an expresion of his Catholic Faith, not delusion of grandeur. Many old fashioned Spaniards respect what he did, about unity, the current King etc. The thing that is a big dissapoinment is his Fascist inclinations, he met with Hitler, and almost jointed the War, but remained neutral. Spain’ history is chaotic and now with the economic crisis, it’ a heartbreak for a beautiful proud people and country.

        1. José Antonio is buried there as a victim of the Civil War, like all the rest of people buried there except for Franco. As to the preferential place he is occupying within the Basilica, this was just a political decision by the Franco’s regime and most likely a personal decision by Franco. In the same way that the decision to bury Franco in the Valle de los Caídos was a personal decision by King Juan Carlos I, taken against Franco’s will to be buried with this family.

          As founder of the party in Government during the Franco era, the Falange, José Antonio was constantly honoured by the regime. He was killed and buried in the prison of Alicante when the war started. After the war, his body was carried on the shoulders by volunteer falangist walking from Alicante to El Escorial. Images of this march can be seen in YouTube. The regime had Jose Antonio as their most important martyr and there was a lot of propaganda about him.

  9. Hi Lauren,
    My little family and I are trading Boston for Madrid this summer (may-end of august) and I am so happy to have found your blog. Reading it is making me even more excited (if that’s possible) for our time there.

    1. Hi Jamie! That’s awesome! How old are your children? I’m also from Mass.– Sutton in Worcester county. I’d be happy to give you any advice about Madrid/Spain and maybe we could even grab a tapa when you guys get here 🙂

      1. I have a boy and a girl, 3 and 2 years old. I’d love any advice you have. We’ll be staying in La Latina, my husband will be doing an internship while we’re there so the majority of the time I’ll be on my own with the kids.

  10. Hi Lauren,

    First of all, congrats on the great post. You have documented yourself so well and I actually love the way you talk about your impressions on the place. But then again, I am a spaniard and I guess I’ll never come to terms with what Franco did to the country. My only reason for visiting would be to honour all those republican men forced to work on the site that enshrines the dictator (because that’s what it does, to me at least)… plus, it would be a very painful reminder of all the wrongs he did (and he did plenty of them, even though the republicans were no angels, at least they had been elected, when he never was)…

    All in all, great post! If any time you venture to the Catalan countryside, please let me know and i’ll give you some “insider tips” 😉

  11. Interesting post Lauren and a tough one to take on. I can´t speak from the experience of being there since the day we went it was shut – if I remember correctly to consider what to do with it. However, I have a couple of things clear. It is a monument to dictatorship and to those who usurped power by force and as such stands as a painful reminder to those who were repressed. It was built by a dictator with an immense ego in order to glorify himself for posterity. A project of those dimensions is usually carried out by slave labour (or quasi- slavery) and I´m sure that was the case here. As far as I´m concerned, it´s all bad, right down to the religious denomination of the place, Catholic, of course, those same Catholics who colluded with the dictatorship and who continue to fight to make Spain a theocracy instead of a democracy. While it is a historical monument, it reflects an erroneous, incomplete and twisted version of Spanish history and as such does the Spanish people a disservice. In my view, Franco should be removed, the Republicans brought there should be given a burial in their own towns and the place recast as (what´s often called) a Centro de Interpretación Histórica in which the period since the Civil War to the Transition to Democracy is studied. This might have happened under the Socialists – though they had little will to do it – but it won´t happen now with the PP and its Opus Dei allies in the government, particularly now that they´ve silenced Garzón. Glad you brought up such a complex topic and gave it such a good analysis. Mo x

  12. I’ve been near Valle de los Caídos but have yet to actually visit it. Now that I’m more informed about the Civil War and Franco, visiting is a must for me. Should be much easier to do if I’m teaching in Madrid next year, as I hope to do!

    Disrespecting Franco by taking photos of his grave. Funny. I’d say his actions were, you know, just a bit more disrespectful than taking a photo of a tomb. It’s amazing to me that so many people are still convinced he was a great leader.

    I really wish Spaniards were more open about talking about their history. I swear from the reactions I get, saying his name is like saying Voldemort’s name. I’d love to chat with older people about their experiences under his dictatorship, but most people are quick to change the subject.

    1. Hi Kirstie, It is actually a tough subject to broach with old people, especially with all those that lived the Civil War. Especially because most of them have dead relatives (from one side or the other) and it is still today heartbreaking for them. My grandad is almost 100 years old and lived through all the conflict… From time to time he might say something, but not too often. I still wish he were more open about it… but remembering my grandma’s recollections of the bombings, of the dead people on the streets and of all the repression after the conflict makes me sort of understand his silence…

      Still, you could try visiting some home for Republican Veterans. There are still some that are alive and that would tell you loads of stuff. VEry interesting people 😉

      Cheers, xxx

    2. Kirstie. I would have a more critical approach than the simplistic approach that is usually taken to all these facts. I come from family of business people. My great-gand-dad, as liberal democrat attorney and entrepreneur hated the state oriented economy of fascism and communism. He just believed in freedom in all areas of his life and hated any dictatorship. As a liberal, he refused to negotiated with trade-unions, believing that salaries should be determined by the market. A few days before the war started, he was put the first one in the list of people to be killed by trade-unionist communist militia, just because of his refusal to negotiate the salaries with the trade unions. The night before the war started he was given a tip, by a person he had defended for free before, that in a few hours he was going to be taken for a walk and killed by the militias. Aged 58 at the time, he took his family to Gibraltar and escaped that night in silence. He was lucky, because most of the people in the list were killed by the republican parties militia during the first days of war by the party and trade-unions militia. The border full of people escaping from the parties and trade-unionists militias, the British did not want allow the refugees to enter. An Indian family, with whom he had done business before, took responsibility before the British Authorities, took them in their house, and the British Government granted the family asylum. Most of the others stayed in the border shouting and crying afraid of the repression of the militias. A weeks later, when the subversive military arrived to area, my family went went back to Spain. Then suddenly the border was full of Republican supporters escaping from the repression of the advancing military and the Falange. The British did not allow the Republican refugees to enter as they did not allow the other ones before, unless they had connections with Gibraltar. As you can imaging, this liberal democrat great-grand-dad became a strong and thankful supporter of Franco for the rest of his live, even tough he remained ideologically liberal. Things are never that simple in a civil war where two halves of the population are will kill each other.

  13. Dear Lauren Aloise

    It seems to me that you dont have the foggiest idea of the reasons for the building this necropolis, because it is in the first place a necropolis , do you really know the meaning of this word? In the second place, Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera founded a party called spanish phalange , which has nothing to do with Mussolini,s party.
    Evidently, many foreigners like you probably scorn and lash out against this monument and necropolis just because they would like to have something like this in their own country but they do not.
    In the third place , if you have really explored the basilica carved out in the mountain , you would have entered a small chapel on the left of the altar where you can read , in memoriam of the FALLEN in the spanish civil war , not only, in memoriam of those who fell in action fighting on Franco,s side,
    So apart from your slanted and biased views, it is not possible to read anything of genuin interest in your post ,. and what is more there is not any political symbol in the whole complex but the official emblem of Spain in the time when all this was erected , You also said that it is necessary to educate and promote dialogue about the place,s history, Well , this is something that concerns Spaniards only , not you ,
    Lastly , to say that that book by Hugh Thomas is enlighting about the history of this place is more or less to say he knows Spain,s recent history better than many spanish historians which is preposterous
    It would be a must to have a dekko at Mr Thomas personal political views and concerns first before preaching this book to the skies , Neverthelles nice try , Lauren , next time better¡¡

  14. we only need now that you gave us classes in our own history. by stating …. The memorial shouldn’t change its name and instead of erasing its history, however painful, I think that it is necessary to educate and promote dialogue about the place’s history. I believe it is essential to establish a few reliable and easily found sources on the internet to find more information about the memorial.

    Look , lady, mind your own bussiness and let us mind our own

    1. I think Bert forgets the 40 to 50,000 people from 50+ countries, from all over the world, who went to Spain and joined the International Brigades and Anachist collectives to defend the Republic, in combatant and non-combatant roles, also the role of the USSR.
      On the other side, the North African Foreign Legionaires, European Fascist volunteers, the Italian and German milatry assistance to the Nationalist/Falangist Rebels in troops and weapons, which without Franco would not of won.
      My point is that the Spanish Civil War was fought by many nationalities on both sides, so any memorial should reflect that, and so Lauren Aloise has every right to an opinion, perhaps one of her relatives fought with the Abraham Lincoln Battalion!


  15. Spot on Robey. Bert is wrong. As La Pasionaria said many years ago in relation to the International Brigades….”Your cause, Spain’s cause, is ours. It is the cause of all progressive mankind.”

    1. Well, now you put you4 hand inside the hurting wound. La Pasionaria? I think y’ all a bunch of Liberals, who think Franco was a murderous thug but adore Fidel Castro and Che. And before you get your thoughts together I will inform you I am Cuban born.

      1. Absolutely correct Ana. Yes I am a “liberal” ” a rojos” or whatever you wish to call it. Yes – history tells me that Franco was a fascist thug. Yes, I greatly admire Fidel, Che and Commandante Chavez as well.

  16. Is it the case that we tell you what to do with your memorials in your respective countries? no .we do.nt
    then why do you tell us what to do with a necropolis that is ours not yours.? Do W e tell you what to do with these two blots on the landscape, called BIG BENG or liberty enlighting the world ? aka statue of liberty ?
    of course not¡ just because we have no right to.
    then why do you tell us what to do with our listed monuments? do you lose sleep over this_?
    The valley is open and will remain so, even when you all are pushing up the daysies.
    A s for pinky MR Mo,, or what he may call himself( sorry Mr taliban next time perhaps lucky) I would advise him not to crawl at the feet of these know -it all , prospective holidaymakers who like to give themselves a lot of airs

  17. Problem with the valley is that you would like to have something like this in your respectives countries . and above all , I am referring to those from the UK ,since it is the biggest construction of the last century, and this peeves you a lot, and obviously,, you dont want us to have it

  18. it was Pedro Muguruza who was commisioned to start work on that mountain,it was juan de Avalos who gave shape to the four evangelists and the four cardinal virtues , it was spaniards who erected this complex , or were there any foreigner among them? the necropolis is 100% spanish , therefore you have no voice or say in this matter
    and instead of giving you undivided attention to what Lauren can , or Mr pinky can claim, please visit the webpage asociacion para la defensa del valle de los caidos , , you will find thereon ,many enlightening facts you are not acquainted with about how and by whom the valley was erected

      1. TO MR Graham the moron, you just concern yourselves about your own monuments, if any , and we will concern ourself about ours, dont poke your nose in and you will not get it pricked

  19. if the valley of the fallen is controvensial and an uncomfortable experience is none of your business. Do we express our opinions about that blot on the landscape called BIG BENG?

  20. This was a really well-done post, Lauren. I appreciate that you were very frank about where you stand on Franco’s regime but still went to the monument anyways. Right now, I’m in the middle of reading Giles Tremlett’s book “Ghosts of Spain” and in one of the chapters he recounts visiting the Valle de los Caídos on the anniversary of Franco’s death, when all the fascists come out of the woodwork and everything. Crazy stuff. I’m not sure if I’ll ever make it here because it’s a good half-day’s journey from Madrid (and the PSOE might close it again if/when they win the next elections) but this post was extremely informative and I enjoyed reading about your experience.

  21. Hey Lauren, the 1st pic is the very definition of awesome. Wow.

    I often find that when information is purposely confused or ‘unavailable’ (14 or 1,000’s) then you should expect the truth to lean closer to the negative, unfortunately. I’m currently planning a trip to Spain myself and will have to add the basilica as a must view.

  22. I visited Valle de los Caidos many years ago while on an art tour of Europe. My knowledge of it’s history was limited at the time and the purpose of the tour was to view the architecture of Spain. Our tour took in El Escorial, Valle de los Caidos, and Toledo all in one day. Certainly a very full day. We arrived early on a foggy morning and the fog made it appear as though the mountainside just dropped off into nothingness and looming out of nowhere was the massive crucifix and the basilica. The contrast with El Escorial, which we had left a short time before, was astonishing. Impressive! I viewed the monument as a monument to all, from both sides, who had fallen in the civil war. It was not only impressive but emotional and I would recommend that anyone visiting Madrid not miss visiting Valle de los Caidos. Regardless of how one feels about the Spanish Civil war this monument is an architectural gem.

  23. Whatever people think of Franco the facts are that he stopped communist ambitions in Spain and saved the Catholic Church in Spain, the communist dominated “democratic” republican government murdered their political opponants from the right and left of the political spectrum – like Calvo Sotelo, Jose Antonio and Andres Nin – with a “nod & a wink” while killing hundreds of workers & socialists in Barcelona in May 1937, when Franco`s power was challenged by falangist chief Mauel Hedilla he didn`t execute Hedilla – he imprisoned him – Stalin`s NKVD ( KGB ) operating with the veiled concent of the republic executed Andres Nin for defying the communists – that is the difference between Franco`s dictatorship and the republics “democracy”.

  24. I would like you to make that rushmore memorial into a zoo park , for example , or that big beng into another Disneyland this time l,ocated in London London for example, and then we could do something about the valley of the fallen, do you all accept this proposal?


  26. Thank you for posting your experience at Valle de los Caídos. I plan on seeing this monument in the future… hopefully the People’s Party stays in power and keeps the monument open.

  27. i qrrive in madrid the 11 th of mars
    could you qnswer to me the duration and price to visit from the city center of madrid the place vallee de los caidos

  28. Me parece una falta de educación y respeto ir a un país que no es el tuyo y ponerte a criticar cosas que ni sabes ni has vivido. Los datos que das en tu blog NO son nada objetivos, parece que los has sacado del partido comunista…
    Me parece una verguenza que un extranjero de una nación tan jóven tenga que venir a juzgar y a criticar monumentos nacionales que para la mayor parte de los españoles simbolizan un monumento a la reconciliación (aunque a la izquierda española y a ti no os haya gustado que en vez de tener una hoz y un martillo, hay una cruz, ¿no?. Especialmente dañando sensibilidades hacia una religión, (por que no lo haces en las mezquitas musulmanas, supongo que no hay huevos ¿no?. Por mucho que no te guste Franco (que lo habrás escuchado “de oidas”) porque no tendrás ni p+++ idea de lo que ocurrió en España en la primera mitad del siglo XX deberías informarte un poco más de las causas y motivos de la guerra civil española. Yo no voy a tu país a recordarte el genocidio que hicisteis con la gente de color y con los indios nativos americanos, ni a criticar al norte o al sur de vuestra guerra civil, ni lo que hizo el sur con los negros…
    Yo no voy a tu país a juzgar como tratais a las minorías ni critico vuestra politica, tampoco voy a tu país a faltar el respeto de ningun monumento y ninguna religión. Por cierto, que tampoco sabras que es el comunismo, supongo que lo llamarás “democracia” como muchos hacen (tu tal vez?).
    Más respeto, más cultura y más educación es lo que necesitas y si no, vuelvete a tu pueblo, que os creeis el ombligo del mundo y torres más altas han caido…

  29. If you remove the mortal remains of that cigar smoking fatso called Churchill aka Mr Toffee nose , from that abbey , perhaps we could consider removing the wreath of flowers from Franco,s tomb

  30. First of all I have to say that you have understood the opposite of the story of the spanish civil war. Nobody havn’t tell you that the spanish republic was implemented a communist regime???. Nobody havn’t tell you that there were around 4.200 priest were killed??? nobody havn’t tell you that the spanish republic allowed the most radicalized parties set fire to thousands of churchs with a great artistic heritage??? or maybe the ¡¡¡10.000 PEOPLE !!! murdered by the reason of not being socialist or anarchist or communist??? In Spain BEFORE the civil war, People killed each others who didn’t think the same. the americans or the british don’t know NOTHING about that because you have not suffered a communist regime, because you have a false romantic idealism like people that wears T-shirts with the image of “ché Guevara”…
    The Spanish rebublic was not a democracy in 1934, the communism took the power using the “revolutionary way” Killing everybody who did not think like them. The communism commited the worst crimes last century. You must read about it!
    José Calvo Sotelo was a Spanish politician that was the leader of the right wing during the Second Spanish Republic. His murder by the government police force known as the Assault Guard and several socialist aroused strong suspicions of a government involvement in the crime and contributed greatly to precipitate the Spanish Civil War.
    Thank you for your time.

  31. Hi there!

    very interesting and Great article! I am visiting Madrid at the end of August and I’ll make sure that “Valley of the Fallen” is on my to-do list. I am planning to tajke the bus from Madrid to Cruce de Cuelgamuros and walk up to the cross. You mentioned that the hours of visit is 10:00-17:00 except on Mondays. Do you know at what time does the gate “Cruce de Cuelgamuros” opens? Because if it opens before 10:00, I planned to arrive at the gate at 09:00 or even before and walk up there… I think the walking distance is 3-4 miles. Do you know how long it takes to walk the distance approximately?

    Thanks for any help/input!

    1. Hi Eric, I wish I could be more helpful, but don’t have any additional information. They’ve changed the hours and opening times often over the past years, so hopefully it will be open when you’re here!

  32. A group of us, including Spanish family visited the Valle de Los Caidos only the other day. The location, views and height are beautiful, the Cross is stunning as is the stonework at the foot of the Cross.
    However, the Basilica is chilling in its formation out of rock. The roof scultures are a beautiful form, but you then remember why it was built, as a cathedral to General Franco? Not as a genuine memorial to all the fallen in the Civil War.
    But as visitors we can only comment, without the deep knowledge of the Spanish. It has caused us to read, The Battle for Spain and The Spanish Holocaust to inform us of the Civil War’s history.

    1. Just my two cents. It was never planned that Franco would be buried there. It was a personal decision by King Juan Carlos I. Works had to done quickly, including plumbering, etc, to built the tomb for Franco, because it did not existed and nothing was prepared for that. Franco’s will was to be buried with his family.

      As for Paul Preston’s views as a historian. Nobody refuses that the number of victims by the subversive side was bigger than those of the government side. But Preston does not take into account what would have been the number of victims if the government had been winning the war and advancing steadily as the subversion was. Preston ignores what happened in government side by saying that it was “spontaneous repression”. This is refuted everywhere and it has been proved that it was organised repression. As an example, it is now proven in foreign archives that the Paracuellos killings were organised by the Adminsitration with the help of the soviet advisers sent by Stalin. Preston says that it was all done by the comunist party and the soviet advisers, the Government been just ignorant. I would suggest that you read the research and books by Oxford’s scholar Julius Ruiz, a critical of Franco’s repression, who proves that Preston is sometimes bias in his book of the Spanish Holocaust. We had that experience in my family. My family was going to be killed by the reds militia when they managed to escape to Gibraltar. When they came back to Spain, all their friends had been executed.

  33. Interesting post. I came across it looking for tourist information as i would like to visit it.
    It is really nice to read that people objectively appreciate the monumental value of the place, despise the controversy behind it. I wish it was the same in Spain. It has surprised me however the recommended literature about the Spanish civil war. In my opinion, if someone really wants to have a well formed opinion, at least two different points of view should be used as a source of information. On one side, Preston can be a good choce, on the other I would like to suggest Stanley Payne, whose review on Preston’s book can be found in this link.

    A book like Ghosts of Spain cannot be considered a real source. It is just literature , not academic work.

  34. When I lived in Madrid I wanted to make a day trip of it, but numerous friends had shared strong feelings of embarrassment and disdain—even worry of danger or less-safety at certain times of year. So I decided not to go—and I tend to agree with them that it deserves only to be remembered were it like a concentration camp memorial instead of a Roman Catholic basilica.

    I did visit El Escorial, which I also heard much negative said about it from Spanish friends, but never that one ought not to visit. Thanks for adding a voice to the complex background behind this monument.

  35. Thanks for the article. We visited the sight with my wife this September and were very impressed. We travelled the whole Spain ant this was the most impressive place. To the people judging Franco I recommend to put the events into context. As a person who has lived most of my life under commusnist regime I would like to suggest to imagine communists and anarchist had won. Try to apply the pattern of regimes of Soviet Union, P.R.C., Cambodja, Cuba… Spanish people should be grateful to Franco they did not suffer the consequences of WWII. Had the communists won it would have been impossible not to make the coalition with USSR. Stalin was the main supplier of arms and personell to the communists. In Estonia we have the museums of Soviet terror. Interestingly enough I did not find much information about communist atrocities in Spain. Based on history of communist movement it is absurd to imply they did not happen.

  36. Thanks for the article. We visited the sight with my wife this September and were very impressed. We travelled the whole Spain ant this was the most impressive place. To the people judging Franco I recommend to put the events into context. As a person who has lived most of my life under commusnist regime I would like to suggest to imagine communists and anarchist had won. Try to apply the pattern of regimes of Soviet Union, P.R.C., Cambodja, Cuba… Spanish people should be grateful to Franco they did not suffer the consequences of WWII. Had the communists won it would have been impossible not to make the coalition with USSR. Stalin was the main supplier of arms and personell to the communists. In Estonia we have the museums of Soviet terror. Interestingly enough I did not find much information about communist atrocities in Spain. Based on history of communist movement it is absurd to imply they did not happen.

  37. Thanks for the article and considerations – these came up on first page of a google. The big problem is that it is still a memorial to Franco who imposed death and suffering on the Spanish (compared to what the had under democracy before the Civil War) Truth is that in Spain there was a Law for Forgetting, that effectively prohibited public mention of the arbituary killings by the Francoist regime and so after he died the regime allowed a fragile democracy the guaranteed the privileges of those who committed crimes against humanity. Its not like the Auswitz memorial where this is kept as a memorial to the victims. Quite the opposite.

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