sant felip de neri square: spanish civil war scars in barcelona

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The Spanish Civil War [1936-39], was a military revolt against the Republican government of Spain, supported by conservative elements within the country. When an initial military coup failed to win control of the entire country, a bloody civil war ensued, fought with great ferocity on both sides. The Nationalists, as the rebels were called, received aid from Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. The Republicans received aid from the Soviet Union, as well as from International Brigades, a great number of volunteers who came from other European countries and the United States.

The leadership of the Nationalists was gradually assumed by General Franco, leading forces he had brought from Morocco. On Oct. 1, 1936, he was named head of state and set up a government in Burgos. This ultimately led to a Franco dictatorship that lasted until his death in the 1970s.

The number of persons killed in the Spanish Civil War can be only roughly estimated. Nationalist forces put the figure at 1,000,000, including not only those killed in battle but also the victims of bombardment, execution, and assassination. More recent estimates have been closer to 500,000 or less. This does not include all those who died from malnutrition, starvation, and war-engendered disease.

To this day the scars of the civil war can be seen in many Spanish cities. In Barcelona, at Sant Felip de Neri square, prominent scars can be seen on the church of Sant Felip de Nero.

In the Medieval period the square was the location of a Jewish cemetery. During the Renaissance two buildings were erected, the casa dels Calderers, the former headquarters of the calderai corporation, and the casa dels Sabaters, the house of cobblers, which now houses the Museu del Calçat. Between 1721 and 1752 the baroque church was constructed. The church comprises only one nave, an element that serves to focus the visitor’s attention on the magnificent high altar, which dates from the end of the Eighteenth century. The façade of the church, however, remains disfigured by one of the many bombardments that took place during the Spanish Civil War, partially destroyed and it has plenty of traces of shrapnel.

There are 2 versions for explaining this damage. The first claims it was a bomb explosion during Spanish Civil War, that killed many children who were at the church at that moment. A commemorative plaque states that in this square on the 30th January 1938 a bomb fell that was to cause the collapse of the underground part of the church of Sant Felip Neri, causing the death of 42 civilians, including 20 children, who were taking refuge here

The second theory states that the scars are the remnants of many firing squads during Franco’s dictatorship.

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