9th August 2020: The Cross-Roads {Spain, summer 2020}

When driving around Madrid, a great cross can be seen from several kilometres on the road. It belongs to the monument to the fallen during the Spanish Civil War, the so-called Valle de los Caídos (later, in 2022, the name would be officially changed to Valle de Cuelgamuros). It was built during the dictatorship times, and the regime forced political prisoners to do so.

During the last couple of decades, the site has been the centre of a lot of polemics, and in 2019 Franco, buried there, was exhumed and taken somewhere else. There is no doubt that it is a symbol of… something. Of course it is. More and more voices, however, claim it should be torn down and in case they ever succeeded I thought that I should, at least, have visited it once. It is after all a piece of history.

And it was literally a ten-minute detour away on our way back. After we left Astorga, there was nothing else on the route plan, so it was a good stop for a quick visit. The monument stands in San Lorenzo del Escorial, in the valley of Cuelgamuros and it is comprised of a basilica, a monastery, and a 150-metre-high monumental cross

The valley is mainly accessible by road. You drive into the valley through a barrier-gate where you buy your tickets (at the moment, only through credit card), then you go up some curves and you can turn left for the monastery and right for the abbey. There used to be restaurants and cafés but at the moment only the toilets are in working order. The monastery has a hostel but I’m not sure whether that works.

As of 2020 the access to the cross, both on foot and by cableway are closed. The basilica, built into the rock, is where the main core is. Entering the basilica there is X-ray security and there are no pictures allowed. We visited between masses so there were lots of people.

The project in itself is… megalithic. I was asked if it was what I had imagined and I said no. The basilica is bare and huge and after walking through a damp-feeling tunnel with some chapels to the sides, you go up some stairs and reach the pews and altar, with two chapels to the sides.

The outside esplanade is made of white granite, and it was scorching hot, but at least I can bring you some pictures of it, along with the cross.

After that, we just took the car and drove back home.

Driving distance: 405 km
Walking distance: 4.37 km

All in all… no, this was not the greatest trip ever, but we were lucky to be able to take it. Of course, there was the stress about the virus. We tried to be careful, overused hand sanitizer (my poor nails), never let go of face masks except when strictly eating, and there were extra stress factors involved that made it hard to enjoy. But although I would very much have preferred taking my trip to Greece, I am grateful that we were able to at least take a bit of a breather this summer. And got myself some stamps.