Image: Executing Christ January 3, 2011Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary , trackback
The Spanish Civil War… the junction of the twentieth century. Often sold as the beginning of the Second World War it was, in reality, the last blast of an older nineteenth-century battle, the battle between left and right. Once Barcelona had fallen international relations resolved themselves into the far simpler bust-up between the western democracies and the totalitarian states – at least until the breaking of the ‘crusading sword’ in 1941, and Britain’s despicable but perhaps necessary alliance with the Soviet Union.
This superb photograph was taken in the summer of 1936 (late July, early August) at Cerro de los Ángeles (often claimed to be the geographic ‘heart’ of Spain) and was subsequently published in Britain’s ‘White’ Daily Mail as well as in various ‘Red’ Spanish papers.
There have been some allegations about fakery – claims even that the picture was staged.
Anything is possible, of course. What is though well established is that in late July red militiamen first ‘executed’ the Christ of the Cerro de los Ángeles with rifle shots and then finished the job off with dynamite. The monument was only restored after the Civil War by public subscription – a subscription doubtless drummed up with the ‘freedom’ that we associate with Franco’s Spain.
Beachcombing must here rush in a number of disclaimers. He is neither Christian in any sensible sense of the word, nor would he defend the appalling record of the Catholic Church in Iberia in the century before the Civil War. Nor, indeed, can he find it in his, admittedly straightened heart to be warm about el generalissimo.
But the antiquarian or perhaps the stunted medievalist in him is terrified by twentieth-century man turning with such savagery on the talismans of his parents and grandparents so that he can: ‘by industrious valour climb, To ruin the great work of time, And cast the Kingdoms old, Into another mould’.
At least when in 2001 the Taliban were blowing up the Bamiyan Buddhas (another post another day) they acted against a tradition that was alien to them and to Islam: theirs was an honest-to-God form of bigotry. In fact, Beachcombing well remembers the Taliban spokesman’s frankness about his government’s act of cultural genocide and his frustration that the international press corps did not understand the logic behind their act.
The heroes of the Spanish revolutionary left who burnt monasteries and churches and killed almost 6000 members of the clergy and religious orders in the months before and after the beginning of the Spanish Civil War were indulging in something quite different. This wasn’t honest to God bigotry – it was to hate what incest is to sex: solipsistic and not particularly good for the gene pool. Their acts didn’t lose the Republic the war, but they are a reminder that even had the White Revolt failed, then Spain would have been cast into another version of hell, one that would have been more interesting but perhaps rather warmer than Franco’s sterile tundra-like España.
Beachcombing dedicates this to Paloma, who he knows will tear out her hair when she reads it, and her new-born twins.
Any other information on this photo or other memorable images do let Beachcombing know: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com
18 Dec 2013: Open Sesame writes ‘Beach I was reminded of you and your post on kiling Christ by this incredible photograph of grinning Republicans posing with a mummified nun at the height of the Civil War in Spain.’ Thanks OS!