Madrid, Oct 24 (IANS) Spanish authorities on Thursday began arriving to oversee the process of transferring former dictator Francisco Franco’s remains from the grandiose mausoleum where he was interred over four decades ago, to rebury them in a more modest cemetery next to his wife.
Once Franco’s remains are removed from the basilica at the Valley of the Fallen, a colossal monument hewn into a mountain in the countryside some 50 km north of Madrid, they will be transffered by helicopter to the Mingorrubio cemetery in El Pardo, where it will be buried next to his wife, Carmen Polo, in a private ceremony, reports Efe news.
The process of removing the coffin from the tomb itself is to be overseen only by a small group of funerary specialists, 22 of Franco’s relatives and a three representatives from Spain’s socialist government, including the justice minister, Dolores Delgado.
All those allowed inside have to pass through strict security controls and metal detectors to ensure that nobody takes in hidden camera or audio devices and the tomb itself will be cordoned off by a tarpaulin screen.
The process of removing his remains is expected to take around one hour, although it could be delayed depending on the state of the coffin.
First, funerary specialists must remove the 1,500 kg concrete slab covering the military dictator’s tomb.
Then they will assess the state of the remains. Franco’s body was laid to rest inside a sealed zinc coffin encased within a larger outer casket made of wood.
The process is set to cost the State some 63,000 euros ($70,132).
Franco’s State funeral took place on November 23, 1975, three days after his death aged 83.
His body has lain in the Valley of the Fallen for a longer period of time than that of his dictatorship (1939-75).
In 1936, Franco led nationalist troops in a coup d’état against the Republican government at the time, leading to a bloody civil war that lasted three years.
The pharaonic Valley of the Fallen monument was partly built by Republican political prisoners after the Spanish Civil War and is the biggest mass grave in Spain, housing nearly 430,000 corpses of combatants from both sides killed during the fratricidal conflict.