El Escorial/Valley of the Fallen

Today covered two ends of Spain’s history, the mid 1500’s of Felipe II and the 1930’s of the Spanish civil war. I started my morning the small town of San Lorenzo. This is where Felipe II built a monastery in memory of his father Carlos V (he was the one who was both Austrian Emperor and King of Spain). Inside the monastery there is a small palace, where from the bedrooms the king and queen could listen to mass, as they adjoined the main altar. Originally, this monastery was home to an order of monks of St. Jerome. Now the monks are of from the order of St. Augustine. The monastery is also the burial place of all but 2 of the kings since Felipe II. Even the father of Juan Carlos (the current king) is buried there even though he was never king. Alfonso XIII, the grandfather of Juan Carlos was king when Spain converted to a republic. The republic lasted 5 years, but many said the Spanish weren’t ready to be a republic and in 1936 Franco rallied his troops, known as Nationalists, and started the civil war, on July 18 to be precise. In the beginning the Republican were winning the war. But as time progressed the Nationalists gained ground and in 1939, Franco took Madrid. Within a year Franco started to leave his mark on the country, his goal being to emulate Felipe II. He built a victory arch on the north west side of Madrid, to celebrate, and a short 3 miles from the Escorial, he started a monastery and basilica known as the Valley of the Fallen. His goal was to memorialize the lives of the Nationalist soldiers who perished during the war; he did later allow Republican soldiers to be buried here. The basilica is a large tunnel excavated into the rock of the Guadarrama mountain range. On top of the basilica, directly above the main altar, he built the largest cross known to Christianity. It stands over 450 feet tall. When Franco died in 1975, he was also buried here behind the main altar. In recent times, this has caused some controversy and there has been discussion about moving his body. So while on opposite ends of Spanish history there are some interesting connections between these two places, one being they are incredibly beautiful.

El Escorial                                                                                          Valley of the Fallen

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