The Valley of the Fallen in Spain. Between National Catholicism and the Commodification of Memory

A popular destination for thanatourism can be found in Valle do los Caídos, or the Valley of the Fallen in Spain. It lies within the municipality of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, in the valley of Cuelgamuros in the Guadarrama mountains. It is home to the massive Monumento Nacional de Santa Cruz del Valle de los Caídos (The National Monument of the Holly Cross of the Valley of the Fallen) – this cross is considered to be the tallest of its kind in the world and has become the site’s signature mark.

The monument is in a fine setting to tower over its surroundings due to its location on the hilltop of Risco de Nava, facing the Benedictine monastery. The main feature of the complex is an underground basilica carved into the rock in a form of a colossal and long crypt lavishly decorated with Francoist symbols. The crypt opens out onto a vast square consistent with the majestic aesthetics of the complex as a whole. The basilica houses the graves of Francisco Franco and José Antonio Primo de Rivera, as well as the remains of 33,847 civil war casualties, according to the data available on the official website of Patrimonio Nacional. Urns of soldiers who fought for Franco and were buried as heroes sit side by side with those who fought in behalf of the republic.