Published in 1905, the most autobiographical novel by Emilia Pardo Bazán, The chimera, describes in detail some of the most relevant assets of the Torres de Meirás that are now disputed in the courts by the State and the family of Francisco Franco. Like an imposing crucified Christ, “life-size, with the hair of a woman, also natural, tangled, as if drenched with sweat,” says the writer in her book. It still hangs as it did 120 years ago, “under a canopy of garnet velvet fringed with gold,” as detailed The chimera, on one side of the chapel of the castle with three towers conceived by the literary countess in Sada (A Coruña). The medieval-inspired tomb that he designed to house his remains remains, a century after his death in Madrid, empty, but also in the same place where Doña Emilia had it placed in the small temple of her fortress.
Pardo Bazán as an alibi: the Xunta de Feijóo uses the protofeminism of the writer to reduce the Francoist plunder of Meirás
And also intact remains, until now, its central altarpiece, “from the seventeenth century, authentic, delicately carved in walnut”, relates the writer in Summer Chronicles, Meirás, published by The Northwest in 1902 A remarkable Baroque composition with 14 wooden figures. All of them, together with the 2.55-meter-high Christ and the tomb with feet in the shape of fabulous animals, are included in the list of Meirás assets that the dictator’s grandchildren claim theirs and sent to the judge in their allegations to the State claim. Next October 22, a hearing is called to determine what contents should or should not remain in the pazo after its restitution a year ago, by court order, to the public heritage.
Forced to vacate the property that they occupied for more than eight decades, the Francos claim to be able to take not only pieces and furniture incorporated into the mansion during the almost 40 years of dictatorship in which it functioned as a summer extension of the Palacio del Pardo, according to the two rulings – appealed before the Supreme Court – that recognize their public ownership. The descendants of the caudillo also want the legacy of the first owner and creator of Meirás. Although it involves dismembering the fortress with its chapel as well as its gardens. These, in order to gain ancestry and nobility, are populated with multiple sculptures, coats of arms, sundials, heraldic shields brought from all over Galicia and even from other parts of the country. And the Francos also aspire to put them in the trucks of a removal that, for the moment, is still suspended by court order.
The central altarpiece of the chapel of the pazo, designed with great detail by Pardo Bazán and consecrated to celebrate all the sacraments, is part, with its 14 sculptures, “of the Torres de Meirás since its creation”, in 1900, and “it is possible even that the space it occupies be dimensioned to suit “, highlights an expert report commissioned by the Xunta, and to which elDiario.es had access. Also referred to Court number one of A Coruña, this opinion tries to identify the value and connection with the pazo, from a cultural heritage point of view, of 54 properties in dispute, listed by the Francos in their allegations to the State’s claim .
Assets that “form an integral part” of a property declared, since 2008, As a Site of Cultural Interest (BIC) in the category of historical site, and “are therefore inseparable”, conclude the experts of the Galician Government, Manuel Chaín and Juan Antonio Naveira . In addition to making a visit last July, in which they also checked the condition and anchoring of each of the pieces, and consulted files and experts, the two architects used, among others, historical documents, such as the aforementioned novel by Pardo Bazán whose title is the name of the tallest tower in Meirás, as well as old photographs and video captures of the No-Do, available openly on the Internet to try to contextualize these elements in the mansion and its gardens. “It is not a research work, but rather as graphic evidence to determine the link or permanence of these assets with the historic site of Meirás,” says this expert opinion.
The document highlights that all the pieces and objects claimed by the descendants of the dictator make up sets that are essential in the cultural and functional configuration of the fortress, both during the first stage of its creator that it was conceived as a faithful reflection of her dual status as countess and writer. , as from 1938, after its conversion into the caudillo’s summer residence. His grandchildren, if he could get a legal guarantee to take everything he wanted, would leave little more than the walls of the pazo’s chapel.
They claim for the ownership of not only the 14 sculptures of the baroque altarpiece that presides over it, but also a dozen representations of the Virgin, Saint Joseph or the Pietà as well as the huge Christ with natural hair and the two bronze angels that flank it in the actuality. The Franco list includes the pieces of the chapel designed by Pardo Bazán such as the sepulcher or the holy water font, in which the writer had sculpted, as in the capitals of that temple, scallop shells and “pinecones of Bravo pine, symbols of all the nature of Galicia, the jungles and the coasts “, as explained in The chimera. A tomb and a font that, according to the experts of the Xunta, “have sculptural designs, material and stylistic elements that are similar and coincide with the architecture itself” of the Torres de Meirás. They are “directly related to the figure of Emilia Pardo Bazán, they belong to the pazo since its original construction”, they emphasize.
His opinion does not endorse the claim of the Franco family to acquire other essential and essential elements for “a complete Catholic temple in which all the sacraments can be celebrated”, such as the carved wooden confessional that appeared in the multiple images of Franco praying. in Meirás that spread the No-Do. And there is a great risk of deterioration, warn the technicians, in the Franco’s claim to dismantle the cordovan from the altar, the large piece of tanned leather adorned with gold and painted drawings, like a chalice. It is “a singular piece of decoration devised for the Torres de Meirás chapel by Emilia Pardo Bazán”, underlines the report of the Xunta, “it only makes full sense applied to the piece and position it occupies in the altarpiece.”
From the legacy of the writer, inside the pazo and apart from the furniture and libraries that are not analyzed in this report by the Xunta, there are also large lamps that flank the monumental stairs in the lobby as well as metal wall sconces that highlight this expert opinion, “they seem designed for the place.” They respond “to the romantic and historicist decorative taste of the 19th century” for which the writer felt so much fondness as well as those who, later, were in charge of converting the mansion into the residence of the head of state during the dictatorship. Old photos from both eras testify that these lamps were always there, as seen in the official reception that Franco gave to King Abdullah I of Jordan in September 1946. And although the lighting in that hall has “a unique electrification system that operates simultaneously “all those lamps, which reinforces the theory that it is a set, the dictator’s family also aspire to keep them.
The Countess having tea in 1921
Outside, in the gardens, there are still the stone table and benches “designed by Emilia Pardo Bazán as the area outside the house’s dining room”, according to the Xunta technicians. Some pieces of stonework and style “typical of the construction of the main building”, they emphasize. A photograph from 1921 shows the countess with her family having tea at that table. And although it was repositioned as well as the benches when the caudillo took possession of Meirás, they continued to occupy a preferential place in public events of the self-proclaimed head of state by creating, in front of the facade of the pazo, “a natural room, with a carpet of grass, to receive “personalities and authorities, as seen in multiple sequences of the No-Do.
The stone monolith that commemorates the visit of the Kings of Spain in September 1923, after the death of Pardo Bazán, is also part of the list of properties claimed by the Francs. Although this royal stay has nothing to do with the coup general, who took over the place 15 years later. The monarchs Alfonso XIII and Victoria Eugenia “deigned to take possession of their towers of Meiras”, as recorded inscribed in the monolith, due to the close friendship they maintained with the countess’s children, explains the press of the time. A piece “clearly linked to the historical site”, the experts of the Xunta point out, “conceived and chosen in that specific place with a clear vocation of permanence and remembrance”.
In the gardens, the profusion of ancient shields and sculptures commanded to bring ex profeso of other places to decorate the pazo del caudillo –the one of Bendaña in Dodro (A Coruña) was dismantled stone by stone and taken to Meirás– are strategically placed to give nobility and ancestry to a place that was the scene of multiple official and public acts of the dictatorship. All the stone pieces, “selected for their artistic and antiquity component” such as those representing the saints Santiago, Pablo, Francisco, Cristóbal and Andrés, positioned on the lawn to form “a walk of the sculptures”, are part of ” of a whole at the present time and of the history of the site declared historical “, concludes the expert opinion of the Xunta. And he reviews, before the Franco claim to take them away, that many of those stone or heraldic elements, with undoubted historical and artistic value, “may be considered assets of cultural interest”, protected by a Francoist decree of 1973 and the law Galician Cultural Heritage in force today.
The grandchildren of the dictator claim to tear from murals in the gardens the coats of arms of the Duchy of Franco, “built and configured specifically” for the places they occupy. “They are a later addition” to the creation of the pazo, “but they are part of a whole and of their own history,” insist the authors of the report commissioned by the Galician Government. As for the largest of these emblems, the coat of arms of the Duchy of Franco placed on the Chimera tower, the highest in Meirás and conceived by Pardo Bazán as his literary sanctuary, the family specifies that they will only take it if the current one owner of the pazo, the State, “is going to withdraw it.”