i've been in madrid a few times and seen most of the highlights there...or so i thought. i went outside of the city proper yesterday to a place called El Escorial where there's a giant monastery and the royal tombs since the 1600s. El Escorial was very cool, and i enjoyed it. but the site on the mountain to the north was the real deal as far as sites go. el Valle de los Caídos (Valley of the Fallen) is a monument for two important things in spain's history. one, it's a monument to the fallen soldiers of the spanish civil war (1936-39). two, it's the final resting place of the late "dictator" francisco franco who died in 1975 and ruled from the end of the civil war until his death.
lets start with the monastery San Lorenzo to be chronological.
these are all royal tombs. the first photo being in the kings and queens room that was a round and very dark room with lots of gold. the second photo contains tombs of family members.
next is the basilica of the monastery which was surprisingly interesting architecturally. whereas most churches will have columns or pilars supporting the weight, this one had only 4 massive pilars that were at least 30 feet thick.
the library of the monastery was close to the coolest part. there were lots of old astrological/astronomical globes and several old globes of the world that were probably made a few decades after exploring the new world.
ok, on to the other place. it probably helps that Valle de los Caídos is certainly not the first basilica that i've seen or else it wouldn't have been so impressive. but the fact that i've seen cathedrals and basilicas and all kinds of religious buildings before helped me see how amazingly unique this basilica is. the monument itself is impressive enough from the outside, i had no idea what lay beneath the exterior.
we opted for the 7k hike up to the monument instead of the more expensive bus that takes you there, so we got some extra views of the monument on the way.
the monument is really cool to look at. it's out in the middle of the mountains northwest of madrid and basically in the middle of nowhere except a few dotted towns around it in the hills. when you walk into the basilica, you are confronted with these awesome-looking guardian angels that seem to ward off irreverence.
the basilica is just a long vaulted tunnel, but much deeper than any basilica i know of. the atmosphere here is not anything less than creepy, scary, or even evil. with decorative rugs hanging on each wall depicting scenes from the apocalypse, and dark robed sculptures with no faces gazing down from the ceiling, the basilica commands attention like none other.
the center piece of the basilica is one lone decoration. jesus hanging from a ragged tree trunk, with one stream of light falling down to illuminate only him. it was pretty spectacular.
this is looking back down the basilica from behind the center piece. franco's tomb lies in the foreground.
that isn't all though. the coolness continued with the tram that took us up to the cross.
this is the back side of the monument that you wouldn't even know existed from the front side.
the cross was so big from up there. everything was so big. the scultures were SO big. i don't know how to describe them.
see what i mean?? that big toe you see is as big as my entire body. these scultures hung over the edge of the cross' base and seemed to be falling on top of me as i walked under them.
holy cow that place was cool.