The Valley of the Fallen attractions have to do with history, art and nature. This spectacular place is located in the heart of Guadarrama Mountains, at 910 metres over the sea level and not very far from El Escorial (10 kilometres) and Madrid (50 kilometres). In this article we will explain to you what to see in the Valley of the Fallen and why you should visit it in your Escorial tour.
First of all, it must be said that this place is still linked to extreme right-wing supporters. The tomb of Francisco Franco, the dictator who ruled Spain for almost 40 years, is located here. Up until a few years ago, every November 20th, the day of Franco’s death, a group of radicals gathered here to commemorate it. Its time for this amazingly beautiful place had a change in thought with its association to Franco. It’s deserving of more accolades than that. In fact, the administration is working towards turning the Valley of the Fallen into a neutral monument to honor all the victims of the Spanish Civil War.
This place was built during the 40s and the 50s of last century. After winning the Civil War, Franco decided to build a mausoleum for himself. Political and war prisoners were recruited to build it, but there is controversy over just how many there were, how many died and what working conditions they suffered through.
The truth is, that this place is worth visiting. Besides its historical interest, the main Valley of the Fallen attractions are related to art and nature. This huge mausoleum was designed by the architects Pedro Muguruza and Diego Mendez in a Neo-Imperial style, which was a trend followed within the Dictatorship. It was intended to revive the features of the architecture developed in Spain during the 16th and 17th century, the time when this country was the biggest Empire in the world.
The Cross and other suggestions about what to see in the Valley of the Fallen
There is a lot to see in the Valley of the Fallen, as its enclosures are 3,360 acres of woods and hills. Clearly, the construction that stands out most is the Cross, which can be seen from 30 kilometres away. It is 152 metres high and it is considered to be one of the tallest Catholic crosses in the world. It has also giant sculptures designed by Juan de Avalos. The whole complex is made of granite, the most abundant stone in Guadarrama Mountains.
Apart from the cross, all of the Valley of the Fallen attractions are related to religion. The Basilica, which is in fact an underground crypt, is a big temple designed in the same Neo-Imperial style, with iron gates and art-decò sculptures. In the center, you will find Franco’s tomb. This Basilica was consecrated by Pope John XXIII in 1960. On the other hill of the complex, there is also Benedictine Abbey, whose priests are in charge of praying for all the victims of the Spanish Civil War.
In front of the Basilica, it spreads a spectacular esplanade, where you have an amazing view of the Cross and of the surroundings. The element which dominates this side of the monument is a gallery of arches that serves as a Basilica’s porch. The esplanade is used for religious events such as popular masses
Finally, the visit won’t be complete until you are transported on the special funicular. This way of transport connects the Basilica with the foot of the Cross and takes you to the highest visitable point in the complex. Of course, the panorama that you will enjoy on the top and during the journey is great and peaceful, surrounded by Mediterranean pines and other landrace trees.
This is all you need to know about what to see in the Valley of the Fallen, but if you have time you should visit El Escorial as well and complete the Imperial Tour to discover another great monument in this area that has to do with Spanish power and history, the Royal Monastery of El Escorial.