European Interest

Spain to exhume bodies from Valley of the Fallen

Flickr/AE Creations/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
A view of the memorial built by the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco at the Valley of the Fallen (Valle de los Caídos).

A vast mausoleum where Spanish dictator Francisco Franco is buried along with thousands of victims of Spain’s civil war is being inspected by technical experts in preparation for the first exhumations of some of the bodies.

“It’s a historic event. The technicians have entered. It seems that something is going to be done,” Maria Purificacion Lapena, the granddaughter of a man executed by Franco’s forces, told the Agence France-Presse (AFP).

In March 2016, a Spanish court granted Lapena’s request for the exhumation of the body of her grandfather, Manuel Lapena Altabas, and great-uncle Antonio Lapena Altabas so that they could be given a proper funeral.

The two men, both members of an anarchist group, were killed at the outset of Spain’s 1936-39 civil war and buried in a mass grave in the northeastern region of Aragon.

In 1959, their remains were transferred without the consent of their family to the Valley of the Fallen, which became Franco’s final resting spot when he died in 1975.

Built by Franco’s regime between 1940 and 1958 in the granite mountains of the Sierra de Guadarrama, the Valley of the Fallen holds the remains of over 30,000 dead from both sides in the civil war, reported AFP.

Franco lies buried behind the high altar of a vast basilica hewn into the rock, which is capped by a vast 150-metre-high cross that can be seen for miles around.

Last year, a large majority of lawmakers asked, unsuccessfully, the conservative government for the remains of Franco to be removed from the mausoleum, to make it a place of memory for all.

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