Tuesday, July 5

A Sacred Heart paid for with public money and that historians and the opposition consider Francoist crowns the Vigo estuary

The original project for the hermitage of A Nosa Señora da Guía, on a small and beautiful peninsula that juts out into the Vigo estuary and is a leafy urban park, was left unfinished in 1951. It didn’t seem like it, and hardly anyone remembered it, but One detail was missing: the religious image that crowned the bell tower. The original architect, Manuel Gómez Román, had designed a Sacred Heart of Jesus for the place. Seventy-one years later, two administrations governed by the PSOE and the Bishopric of Vigo have completed the work and unleashed opposition criticism from the left, memorial groups and lay people or historians, who frame the Sacred Heart within the reactionary symbology used by the Franco dictatorship.

The Francoist concentration camp at the mouth of the Miño through which almost 5,000 prisoners passed

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Not only. The professor at the University of Vigo, José Ramón Rodríguez Lago, is an expert in the relationship between the Franco regime and the Catholic Church. His genealogy of the image of six meters high and six tons of weight that the City Council of Vigo and the Deputation of Pontevedra have installed through an agreement of 106,000 euros -84,000 the saint, the rest lighting- refers to the French Third Republic . “The Sacred Heart of Jesus spread mainly in France in the 19th century and is directly related to Catholic fundamentalism. It served as a battering ram against the secularism that was spreading at the time”, he explains to elDiario.es. Its origin can be traced back to biblical texts and be based on the seventeenth century. In Spain it spread, above all, thanks to the order of the Jesuits.

And to the dictatorship of Miguel Primo de Rivera. “The regime connects with traditionalism and incorporates the Sacred Heart into its repertoire. From there it goes to Francoism and what it understood as a national Catholic crusade”, says Rodríguez Lago. But between Primo and Franco there were episodes that ratify the reactionary use of the image. The one in Bilbao, for example, studied by another historian, Joseba Louzao. Ten meters high on a 30-metre pedestal and inaugurated in 1927, in the midst of the primoriverista stage, the Bilbao municipal corporation – chaired by Ernesto Ercoreca, from Republican Action – voted for its demolition in 1933. The opposition of the PNV and a contentious administrative appeal paralyzed the decision of the plenary session. The fall of the Second Republic at the hands of the fascist coup of 1936 restored its centrality.

According to Rodríguez Lago, the Sacred Heart in Spain became a “traditionalist and Spanishist” symbol. “In Paris, the secular symbol was the Eiffel Tower. The Catholic, the Sacré-Coeur de Montmartre. They were both built at the same time,” he adds. And yet, in Galicia he did not have much luck. “Here the traditions were more local, the popular saints like San Roque. Further, the Santiago Apóstol or the Marian theme, the virgins. But the Sacred Heart did not take root”, he affirms, “that is why it is surprising that, at this point in the film, governments of a non-denominational State -without going into its political color, which would go a long way- pay for something like that”. The initiative commanded by Abel Caballero in the hermitage of A Guía has also caused a political brawl.

Gómez Román, the Galician architect

Caballero has relied on the figure of the original architect, Manuel Gómez Román, to defend himself in the midst of the controversy. “We are delighted to complete this work of art from an architect with an impeccable democratic track record,” he said. Gómez Román (Vigo, 1875-1964), a disciple of the celebrated Antonio Palacios, was one of the main exponents of so-called architectural Galicianism. Significant militant of the Galeguista Party, of which he became secretary general in his hometown, he circumvented the Civil War without moving from his positions. When Galician nationalism began its cultural rearticulation at the end of the 1940s with the founding of Editorial Galaxia, he was there. In fact, the same year that he abandoned the A Guía project without having crowned the hermitage with the statue of the Sacred Heart, he entered the Royal Galician Academy.

The socialist mayor of Vigo described Gómez Román as exceptional and the sculpture of the Sacred Heart made by the Escola de Cantería de la Deputación de Pontevedra, governed by a coalition of PSOE and BNG, was wonderful. Neither the political and ideological affiliation of Gómez Román nor the presumed aesthetic benefits of the image of Jesus Christ in granite have convinced the active Republican Assembly of Vigo, a memorial group with weight in the city. “No to the use of public money in the placement of a religious image. No to the participation of public representatives in religious acts. Let us defend the non-denominational nature of the State”, he declared. The parties that form the left-wing opposition to the 20 councilors out of 27 from Caballero, two mayors from Marea de Vigo and one from the Bloque, supported the republican position.

“A councilor who calls himself progressive cannot rescue confessional projects made by the political structures of the Franco regime,” said Rubén Pérez, from Marea de Vigo -a coalition of United We Can and the nationalists of Anova-, “flagrantly violating the non-denominational nature of the administrations public”. The BNG, through Xabier Pérez Iglesias, expressed himself in analogous terms and recalled that the Sacred Heart functioned “as a symbolic element to legitimize by the grace of God the national crusade and the regime of terror that Franco’s dictatorship entailed.” The nationalist also referred to the “skyline reactionary” of the city due to two monuments favored by the successive governments of Abel Caballero, the “fascist cross” of O Castro and the Sacred Heart of Monte da Guía.

The Falangist cross of O Castro

The cross of O Castro is 12 meters high and stands on a staircase at the base of which there is a fountain. It is located not far from Vigo’s town hall and 16 years ago, the municipal corporation withdrew the elements most visibly related to the exaltation of fascism: the Falangist yoke and arrows, a laurel wreath and an inscription in honor of the fallen from the coup side. In 2014, following a lawsuit filed by the Asociación Vigo pola Memoria do 36, a court ordered it to be demolished. But the Superior Court of Justice of Galicia paralyzes, a year later, the sentence. He argues that the cross recalls that people were persecuted for political reasons and allows reflection on the past once the initial context in which it was erected has disappeared. The Constitutional Court did not even admit the appeal of the memorial group.

The construction of the cross dates back to 1961, at the initiative of the local leadership of the Falange Española Tradicionalista y de las JONS. It was adorned with the emblems of the fascist party, the Requeté and the legend “Fallen for God and for Spain. Presents! 1936-1939”. It cost 85,000 pesetas at the time and was inaugurated by Franco himself.