I often pass by the Granada Cathedral, a huge pile of stone in the old city centre. I notice things. On the side of the cathedral I pass by I first noticed one thing, looked more closely and saw more. Slowly I came to understand that I was looking at what I believe to be an undocumented but still visible relic from the horrors of the Spanish Civil War.
First I noticed the iron railing fence protecting every entrance.
Interesting, I thought. Why does a church need such barricades?
Then I noticed how they were anchored to the building.
That little alcove would have once contained a holy statue. Gone. In fact large areas of the exterior of the building showed many such alcoves, all similarly empty.
Scanning further, I discovered that all the windows, stained or plain glass, were screened off with steel mesh.
Note the smashed pane in the lower part of the window.
By now the penny had dropped: the Civil War. It is a matter of history where the Church stood in that conflict – firmly on the side of Franco and his Nazi supporters and against the socialist Republicans who had been elected to power – the legitimate government, in fact. The Church in Spain had been thoroughly compromised for centuries, comfortably in bed with the aristocracy, bleeding the peasants and working people white with their stranglehold on the hearts and minds of this deeply Catholic country.
The church and its fat, authoritarian clergy were in the sights of the Republicans from the beginning. Attacks on churches were legion, priests who stood by their power and privilege often put to death, either through the sentence of courts or by vigilante action.
I realised I was looking at the scars of this onslaught. The icons pulled down and smashed. The cathedral barricaded.
It gets worse.
The exterior of the building forms a series of bays demarcated by triangular buttresses.
But the bay next to the gate I was looking at was special – it is cordoned off with ‘decorative’ chains.
I wondered why. Then I noticed something unusual – at a consistent height between one and two metres from the ground the stones were pockmarked by something I recognised.
These are bullet marks in the ceremonial gate to St Stephens Green in Dublin – the epicentre of the Easter uprising. They appear to be larger, either because the stone is softer (unlikely) or because they record the impact of the heavier ammunition from the Lewis machine guns the authorities deployed in the upper stories of buildings facing the College of Surgeons where the rebels were holed up.
All between chest and head height of the average Andalusian man in the 30s (they were smaller then).
This, I am almost certain, was an execution site. Sacred ground, chained off. And unmarked by any overt signs.
They are gradually refurbishing the exterior of the cathedral. This, I expect, will be gone in five years.
There is no point trying to confirm this. To this day, I was warned by an Andalusian friend, a hood of silence hangs over the events of the war. My gitano guitar teacher spoke of it, but only inside our house and when we were alone. Raise the question in a bar, in conversation and someone will quickly and forcibly change the subject.
Repression in the south was swift and extreme. Neighbours dobbed in neighbours, who quickly disappeared. Of course, old scores were settled, and I sense in the often grim expressions of the very old that consciences remain troubled. It is dark territory.
Compare the pictures. This section of the cathedral wall is alone in bearing ambiguous, semi-legible graffiti. Look at the second-to-last picture above. Like the two or three other semi-erased graffiti, they consist of three letters.
Ireneo Antonio Torres, perhaps? Initials of somebody’s name, anyway.
They remember all right. And so they should.