Kevin Doyle Blog

Writing and activism

Barcelona’s El Fossar de la Pedrera

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El Fossar de la Pedrera

I first read about El Fossar de la Pedrera (“the Quarry grave”) in Michael Eaude’s excellent guide to Barcelona. Writng in 2008, Eaude points out that there is no mention of “the Quarry grave” in any of the standard guides to Barcelona, and then goes on to describe his encounter with Barcelona’s Tourist Office who proclaimed no knowledge of the “the Quarry grave”.  It was exactly the same for me when I went looking September last (2010).  Like Eaude I was directed to El Fossar de la Moreres, which is a monument related to the siege of Barcelona in in 1714!  Despite repeated efforts to explain to the guide at the tourist office about El Fossar de la Pedrera and its connection to the Spanish Civil War, I had no luck.   However El Fossar de la Pedrera is marked clearly on many of the good maps of the Barcelona area.  I used Michelin’s current Barcelona map and made my way there on foot.  It is a long walk admittedly but I got there.  For more information see my post Getting to El Fossar de la Pedrera.

El Fossar de la Pedrera was the location for Franco’s bloody revenge against those who had stood against him in the Civil War and afterwards.  It was a place of execution and is now the site of a mass grave exclusively connected to the Spanish Civil War.  As a place of execution it was chosen for a number of reasons.  Firstly because of what it was – the quarry was the ‘common’ or paupers’ grave in Barcelona and for this reason it provided the executioners with an easy and reliable method for the disposing of the bodies of their victims.  On execution the dead fell down into cut away section far below and were left there to be buried in unmarked common graves.  Something like 4000 people died, and are buried, at El Fossar de la Pedrera – resistance fighters of all hues, from anarchists to republicans; residents of Barcelona who had stood up to Franco and fascism; prisoners of war from the Civil War itself.  Indeed many who just showed defiance and resistance to the dictatorship ended up here.  The second reason why the ‘Quarry grave’ was chosen was due to its remote location – being on the south side of Barcelona’s Montjuic Cemetery (or Cementiri del Sud-oest in Catalan).  Lastly, the execution site was within easy reach of Montjuic Castle where many were held before their execution.

El Fossar de la Pedrera

Today El Fossar de la Pedrera is maintained as a memorial to those who fought Franco.  Entry is via the main cemetery, but the ‘Quarry grave’ itself is in its own remote corner pinned between cliffs – separated from the main cemetery.

The entrance is marked by steps and rows of tall, square columns.  On closer examination one can see the names of the thousands who were executed here, chiseled into the stonework.  After you pass through these stark columns one can see the scene of execution clearly ahead.  At the very back, the cliff is high above the base of the quarry floor.  The executed were shot up there and their bodies fell downwards.  Even now it is not difficult to see why this place was chosen – it is remote and quiet and detached from the bustle of Barcelona.

It is a very sad place, of course.  When one dwells for any length of time on those who breathed their last here, one cannot escape the sadness that defeat in the Civil War heralded.  For many individuals, this place was a lonely, ugly end to years of struggle and vision.

At the same time the “Quarry grave’ today is quite welcoming.  It has to be kept in mind that this is one of the few memorials in Spain to the Left and republican cause.  It is beautifully arranged and maintained.  The floor of the quarry was evened out and landscaped; there are trees and shrubs and the grass is green (unusual in Spain) and well maintained.  Different aspects of the Civil War are marked here by different memorials.  Given that this is Catalonia there is a special place reserved for Luis Companys, who was buried here until his family reclaimed his body.  There are memorials to the guerillas who fought Franco; there is also a memorial to the Holocaust victims; there are numerous others too.

At the very back, at the base of the cliff, are a series of randomly placed individuals plaques.  Like miniature tombstones these bear testimony to the grave site of the fallen.  Some have the names of individuals written on them, while others are from memorial committees set up to remember the various contingents who went to Spain in 1936 to help with the fight against Franco and international fascism.

 

El Fossar de la Pedrera

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