Over on Kyte TV I uploaded some pictures of the Valley of the Fallen, which is located in Spain, to the North West of Madrid.
I first visited Spain when I was 7 and that was when I first went to see the Valley of the Fallen. If you look at the pictures you can see the incredible scale of the building and the sculptures. The reference person in some of those pictures is me at my current height of 5' 4". It is meant to be an emotionally impressive place and it is.
So what is the Valley of the Fallen? After Francisco Franco won the Spanish Civil war he decided he wanted a monument and thus he had the Valley of the Fallen built. He used the captured prisoners from the war to build this massive building. How is it built? It is built into a mountain side. The interior shape is in the shape of a cross. In the center is a chapel area and in the floor of the center is where Francisco Franco is buried. To the sides of the cross are crypts with the "fallen" of Franco's soldiers.
If you look at panorama outside photo you can see the hint of the sculpture that is above the door. It is a sculpture of the scene of Mary holding Jesus after his removal from the cross. If you could look up (and it was snowing slightly less), above this incredible place built into the mountain is a cross, 3 football fields high and 2 football fields wide. At the base of the standing cross are yet more impossibly huge sculptures.
The work that went into the building is amazing. That it was forced "free" labor adds more to the impact and more to the meaning - a civil war, who's outcome is etched into the mountainside writ large.
My view of Spain as an American is no doubt one of an outsider, but as I grew up staying for short periods of time with families I always feel a close connection to the country. I was there while it was under the last years of Franco. I was there as the struggles ensued as power was transferred to King Juan Carlos. And I remember coming back to a quite transformed Spain which had seemed to in 4-5 years to have gone from a reserved somber country seemingly in a 1940's/50's time frame to the present which at the time was the mid 1980's. I often wonder what Spaniards think of the Valley of the Fallen with its brutal past and austere physical beauty.