The Mayor of Seville, Antonio Muñoz, today chaired a meeting of the Sectoral Council of Democratic Memory of the City Council of Seville to address the home stretch of the works of exhumation of the mass grave of Pico Reja in the cemetery of San Fernando , as well as the construction project of a memorial ossuary and a columbarium which will house the remains of the victims of Francoism and will serve both as a tribute and as a memory. “We are about to complete one of the most important historical memory projects that have been developed in Spain. The works, carried out by the Aranzadi company at the request of the municipality, discover that the reality was much worse than what had been estimated in the initial forecasts. Meanwhile, DNA studies continue to be carried out and a decisive step has been taken to achieve truth, justice and reparation,” Muñoz emphasized.
Concretely, since the start of exhumation work in 2020, the remains of more than 8,000 people have been located to date, including 1,661 with clear signs of repression and assassination. The exhumation is nearing completion, with the expectation that the work will be complete by the end of this year. Thus, today’s meeting of the Memory Council served to advance new projects.
On the one hand, the contractor for the work, Aranzadi, will build a memorial ossuary and a columbarium in memory of the victims of Francoism. It will be the largest in the country to deposit, in a classified manner, the remains of the thousands of bodies recovered from the mass grave, which family members will be able to access quickly. In addition, a monumental columbarium has been designed and will adapt to the limits of the mass grave, with three rows of columbariums made of reinforced concrete blocks and forming a triangular square with access to corridors located at each of the corners. . Due to the number of bodies recovered, it will be the largest columbarium in Spain for the victims of Francoism
This place will be isolated, thus generating a gathering space for all those who will frequent the cemetery. The Ossuary-Memorial of Pico Reja maintains the triangular idea of a summit. A peak with three edges and three entrances and its axis of intrigue rests on three pillars: truth, justice and reparation. It will also have a memory tree, a cypress, in the middle. In each of the rows of the columbarium there are individual niches in which a maximum of 3 skeletal remains can be deposited. In addition, each of the niches will be duly sealed and numbered.
Juantxo Agirre Mauleon, Secretary General of the Aranzadi Society, explained in the presentation before the Council of Democratic Memory that “the function of this ossuary-memorial is to have a place where the remains can be preserved and classified in an adequate way in order so that relatives can access the same tomb quickly and efficiently. In addition, a monumental columbarium has been designed to fit the boundaries of the pit, delimiting the pit as a space of memory, reflection and respect”.
The technical report presented explains that the Ossuary-Memorial of Pico Reja is not a container, but a space, an enclosure for reflection. Anartz Ormaza, architect director of the project, explained for his part that “the ossuary-memorial of Pico Reja is an austere and powerful space. Simple but crude. A place of raw memory, as much as the reality it brings to light”. Ormaza also specified that “this space is intended as a meeting place, structured around a living element: a tree. The tree as an earth-sky connection. A tree as a central point of reference, as a natural monolith”.
“And we’re not going to stop there. The City Council of Seville will always be with the just requirements of the Democratic Memory and the content of the recent national legislation. In the years 2016 and 2017 we marked three large mass graves in the cemetery based on studies by José Díaz Arriaza. These were Pico Reja, Monumento and Antigua. I want to announce that once we have finished the work on Pico Reja, we will go further and start the file and the studies for the exhumation of the Monument’s grave in 2023”, as transferred by the Councilor of Seville to the members of the Council of Democratic Memory, and where he was accompanied by the delegate for citizen participation, coordination of neighborhoods and digital modernization of the town hall, Juan Tomás de Aragón.
Muñoz also advanced that work is underway on a large public act of homage “and reparation” to the victims of Francoism once the work on the mass grave of Pico Reja is completed with the entities that participate in the Council of Democratic Memory. , and also commented that the rehabilitation works of the income pavilion of the former prison of La Ranilla for its conversion into a center dedicated to democratic memory will end in a few weeks, so that throughout 2023 the project of museum.
Pico Reja is the largest open-air mass grave in Western Europe since Srebrenica (Bosnia and Herzegovina). The intervention for the exhumation, conservation and safekeeping of bone remains and biological samples from the tomb of Pico Reja in the San Fernando cemetery in Seville, carried out by the Aranzadi Scientific Society, is promoted by the Seville City Council. The works also have the participation of the Spanish government, the Junta de Andalucía and the Diputación de Sevilla.