Thursday, October 28

Dismantling a Roca washbasin, rugs and an old door: Franco’s plans for Meirás in the hands of the judge

The sink in Franco’s personal bathroom. The “corridor” rugs placed on narrow interior staircases. And even the carved solid wood access door from the lobby. In the litigation that confronts them with the State and other public administrations (Xunta, Diputación de A Coruña and the municipalities of Sada and A Coruña) for the assets that treasure the Pazo de Meirás and its gardens, the heirs of Francisco Franco claim not only power take away pieces and objects of marked noble, historical or artistic character, but also elements of the singular property that are apparently more vulgar or anodyne but essential for it to be functional and habitable.

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The judicial hearing to determine which assets are an integral part and which are not of the property that now, by judgment, is in the hands of the National Heritage is set for October 22. The State claims a total of 133. The dictator’s family, who occupied the unique three-tower castle designed by the writer Emilia Pardo Bazán for more than 80 years, lists 54 in their allegations against the state claim. Ask with this list to be able to take, in a move for the moment suspended by court order, that basin with a pedestal and hand-painted floral decoration that is installed in the bathroom of the bedroom that Franco used during the almost four decades in which the Pazo de Meirás was the summer residence of the self-proclaimed head of state. A basin sink from the well-known Roca brand, an old model decorated with pink and ocher flowers that is no longer sold. The list is completed by numerous sculptures, coats of arms, shields, lamps and other noble objects.

But, for the Xunta de Galicia, it is also an integral part of the mansion, protected after its declaration in 2008 as an asset of cultural interest (BIC) in the category of historical site. This washbasin has “a cultural value”, “it goes directly to meet the needs of use and habitability of the property”, argue the experts appointed by the Galician Government to carry out a technical report on the connection with the historic site of Meirás of the 54 properties that they claim as their own the grandchildren of the caudillo. The expert opinion, to which you have had access, was sent to court for the court hearing on October 22 and concludes that all those assets claimed by the Franks are an integral part of the property, “contribute to shaping its cultural and historical value.”

The report recalls that the Pazo de Meirás, in the resolution that declared it BIC, has “an outstanding importance as a place of memory, a reflection of a bourgeois, cosmopolitan, noble and political past, undoubtedly associated with two historical personalities of great notoriety” such as They are Pardo Bazán and Franco. And that both, by designing, inhabiting and using the mansion and its gardens, gave the site its symbolic and historical character. The two architects who made this report for the Xunta emphasize that all the assets claimed by the Francs, no matter how bland they may seem, are not “a casual grouping, nor a simple accumulation” of objects and furniture, but a selection of elements that proceed From the time of the writer or the time of the dictator, they respond, by how and where they were placed in the mansion and its gardens, to the desire of both personalities to configure, use and interpret the Torres de Meirás as a “symbolic and representational space of status, power, dignity and significance “.

Both Pardo Bazán and Franco, when constructing, decorating, adorning and inhabiting the property “did so with the aim of ennoblement, enrichment and building a certain character that identified the place, the fiefdom with a concrete intentional meaning”. The Countess conceived Meirás as “a romantic chimera, a ‘neopazo’ of noble character and of representation of an elitist society”. Acquired and renovated in 1938, in the midst of the civil war, by the Junta Pro Pazo del Caudillo, made up of businessmen and politicians who are fervent followers of the coup general, it became “the idealization of a palace that brings together those elements that illustrate the meaning, the power and the ideology of the head of the State, as well as the vassalage and certain cult – demanded and forced – of the citizens “. Those 54 assets, the attorney for the Xunta emphasizes in the letter that accompanies this expert report, has an “anchor” in Meirás “from the perspective of cultural heritage.” And he warns of the loss if the Franks are finally allowed to take them away: “Although the physical separation may seem simple, from the historical and cultural point of view it can be dramatic.”

The sink in Franco’s bathroom, in addition to being a functional element of the residence essential for its use and habitability, was decorated “with a clear intention of decorating a space in a special way, distinguishing it”, since it was a room staff of the dictator’s bedroom, highlights the technical report of the Xunta. In the same register are the two “corridor” rugs placed on the narrow stairs of the pazo that the caudillo’s grandchildren claim. Both are made to measure for the space they wear, they do not stand out especially for their quality. One, “hand-knotted”, has “replica drawings of ancient Persians.” The other is “thick, with apparently woolen hair.” For the experts of the Xunta, they are aesthetic elements that should not leave Meirás. “They have functional reasons that make them necessary in this type of building: they muffle noise, provide security in a busy space, facilitate the conservation of noble or old wood on the stairs, which could suffer excessive wear due to frequent traffic” .

More value has the access door from the hall of the pazo that the dictator’s heirs also want to take away. Made of solid wood carved into squares with fittings, it is part of the mansion as conceived by Pardo Bazán. This is attested by photos of the property at the time of the Countess, kept in the archives of the Royal Galician Academy. There are four other interior doors similar to the one claimed by the Francs and all were “conceived, built and expressly arranged in the distribution of spaces in the historic site,” emphasizes the Xunta’s expert report. Both its material and its ornamental formalization correspond to the general style of the pazo as designed by the writer, at a time, at the beginning of the 20th century, in which it was essential to delimit spaces with doors, especially from the public part of a house to the most private.

“The basin sinks, the carpentry and doors, and also the corridor carpets installed for the use of stairs”, conclude the experts of the Xunta, “directly meet the needs of use” and, without them, the pazo “does not it would be habitable, or sufficiently functional both in housing conditions and as a property dedicated to the functions of the head of state “.

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