Rising to the Valley of the Fallen

Hitting the Road Again

Starting our day a bit later than expected, there we all were. 19 Americans huddled in a hotel lobby in Spain, people trying to get through the wave of bodies filling the tight area of the lobby. It was not long until we were asked to stand outside to release the congestion. We were soon on our way onto our yellow bus which is not the type of bus you would imagine when you hear “Yellow bus”; similar but taking it up a notch, “yellow coach.” We all gathered and took our seats quickly and were on our way to The Valley of The Fallen. The ride was a sleepy one. Most catching up on sleep, others with headphones in, and some gazing out the window taking in the scenery. The ride was not too long but not short either, about 45 minutes from pick up and before I knew it, we arrived. 

Initial Sighting 

There it was in the distance, the largest Christian Cross in the world, standing 150 meters high! That’s five times higher than the cross in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil! Upon arrival we were welcomed by the beautiful view, warm air, and our lovely tour guide. In no time, we were on our way to the Basilica. The view on the way up was amazing although I was a little worried about a wild bull encounter after being told they are in the area along with squirrels, deer, and foxes. Thankfully we didn’t disturb the peace enough to encounter them, although it would’ve been pretty awesome to see in the distance, however no complaints from me! After the short walk, we made it to the Basilica, where looking at the view made me feel like I was on top of the World! Something so beautiful that does not compare to anything I’ve ever seen before; and of course the cross that looks much bigger close up compared to looking from a distance, with the sculpture right below of Jesus being held by his father that’s the size of a bus leading us to the door made of solid brass.

The Basílica de la Santa Cruz del Valle de los Caídos (Basilica of the Holy Cross of the Valley of the Fallen) 

Inside the Basilica 

After climbing the first of multiple sets of 10 steps which represent the 10 comandments, we got through security and were looking at the halls that made the shape of a cross and amazed at the sculptures of the two archangels placed at the entrance with swords to guard the “House of God” as our tour guide put it. As breathtaking as the sight was, we were not allowed to take pictures. We were first introduced to the 6 chapels each of which had a very simple design and above each one were the beautiful alabaster sculptures of the different virgins. As beautiful as it was to look at, it’s hard to forget about the estimated 34,000 bodies buried, this number is debatable however. Many believe there may even be 40,000-50,000 bodies. However many there are, they all were the lives lost to the civil war under the dictatorship of the infamous Francisco Franco. Aside from the dark turn this took, we approached each corridor and took time to understand the story behind each one and the structures within them.  What intrigued me the most was the tile work of the dome. 4 years and about a million tiny tiles worth of work. The closer we got to being beneath the dome, the more beauty you could see and Jesus in the center on the Cross made of Mahogany added the final touch. It was truly breathtaking. 

The Beautiful Exit 

Leaving the Basilica was the same breathtaking view we saw upon arrival. This time everyone was getting as many pictures as they could. From group pictures, to 0.5, to selfies!! The more pictures the better! Still feeling like I was on top of the world, I was taking everything in. The beautiful scenery and just the thought of being there in that moment felt like a once in a lifetime experience, standing on grounds of such historical meaning. As I was sitting on the ledge looking over the city of Villalba and of course taking more pictures of the greenery and the city in the distance. Knowing what I know about this site, the story, and people behind it, made it a point to see it as a part of history and a remembrance of the lives who were lost, while also taking in the scene and everything that comes with it. This experience has by far been the most visually appealing for me and it’s something I will always remember!

Me looking and taking in the scenery from the ledge feeling on top of the World!!