The final resting place of the late dictator Francisco Franco continued to make headlines in Spain throughout October. In the last days of September, the Supreme Court rejected an appeal by Franco’s family to leave his remains in the huge basilica at the Valley of the Fallen near Madrid.
The socialist government of acting prime minister Pedro Sánchez has made moving the remains to a more discrete location a priority, arguing the country could not “continue to glorify” the dictator who died in 1975. Plans to move them to a family tomb in June were suspended by the Supreme Court after receiving an appeal from his family.
The Court ruled that the work planned by the government is constitutional, and does not infringe planning laws or local legislation. The exhumation could therefore proceed, it concluded, with Franco’s remains to be reinterred alongside those of his wife in the family tomb at Mingorrubio El Pardo, a state cemetery which lies 20 kilometres north of Madrid. Franco’s family said they planned to challenge the Supreme Court ruling, first in Spain’s Constitutional Court and then in the European Court of Human Rights.
In early October, the prior of the mausoleum had warned that he would prevent the remains from being exhumed, even although the courts and the Church have approved the project. Santiago Cantera, a candidate for the fascist Phalange party during Spain’s 1993 general election, invoked in his letter “moral and religious principles” and the “inviolability of places of worship.” However, he later relented and agreed to hold a special mass.
The presence of Franco’s remains at the Valley of the Fallen has been an uncomfortable reality for many Spaniards over many years because the basilica was built to honour those who died in Spain’s Civil War. However, there are also those who believe that he should remain buried there.
Finally, the mausoleum in the Valley of the Fallen closed to the public on October 11 to allow the exhumation to proceed a few days later. It was anticipated the remains would be reinterred, under conditions of extreme secrecy, before the end of the month.