THE TALLEST CROSS in the world is in Spain.
Erected on a mountaintop eight miles north of the monastery of El Escorial, the massive cement cross soars a bewildering five hundred feet in the air above a barren valley, where it can be seen from more than a hundred miles away.
The rocky gorge beneath the cross—aptly named the Valley of the Fallen—is the final resting place of more than forty thousand souls, victims of both sides of the bloody Spanish Civil War.
What are we doing here? Julián wondered as he followed the Guardia out onto the viewing esplanade at the base of the mountain beneath the cross. This is where my father wants to meet?
Walking beside him, Valdespino looked equally confused. “This makes no sense,” he whispered. “Your father always despised this place.”
Millions despise this place, Julián thought.
Conceived in 1940 by Franco himself, the Valley of the Fallen had been billed as “a national act of atonement”—an attempt to reconcile victors and vanquished. Despite its “noble aspiration,” the monument sparked controversy to this day because it was built by a workforce that included convicts and political prisoners who had opposed Franco—many of whom died from exposure and starvation during construction.
In the past, some parliamentary members had even gone so far as to compare this place to a Nazi concentration camp. Julián suspected his father secretly felt the same way, even if he could never say so openly. For most Spaniards, the site was regarded as a monument to Franco, built by Franco—a colossal shrine to honor himself. The fact that Franco was now entombed in it only added fuel to the critics’ fire.
Julián recalled the one time he had been here—another childhood outing with his father to learn about his country. The king had shown him around and quietly whispered, Look carefully, son. One day you’ll tear this down.
Now, as Julián followed the Guardia up the stairs toward the austere facade carved into the mountainside, he began to realize where they were going. A sculpted bronze door loomed before them—a portal into the face of the mountain itself—and Julián recalled stepping through that door as a boy, utterly transfixed by what lay beyond.
After all, the true miracle of this mountaintop was not the towering cross above it; the true miracle was the secret space inside it.
Hollowed out within the granite peak was a man-made cavern of unfathomable proportions. The hand-excavated cavern tunneled back nearly nine hundred feet into the mountain, where it opened up into a gaping chamber, meticulously and elegantly finished, with glimmering tile floors and a soaring frescoed cupola that spanned nearly a hundred and fifty feet from side to side. I’m inside a mountain, young Julián had thought. I must be dreaming!
Now, years later, Prince Julián had returned.
Here at the behest of my dying father.
As the group neared the iron portal, Julián gazed up at the austere bronze pietà above the door. Beside him, Bishop Valdespino crossed himself, although Julián sensed the gesture was more out of trepidation than faith.在线读书：http://www.yueDu88.coM/