Arch of Victory
The Arch of Victory in the Moncloa district of Madrid was erected to commemorate the Francoist victory in the Civil War. This triumphal arch, which explicitly recalls the Roman tradition of erecting such monuments to commemorate military conquests, is the centrepiece of an urban landscape remodelled to imprint the Francoist victory upon the fabric of this section of the city of Madrid. The arch itself was completed 1956, on the 20th anniversary of the military coup, although it was never officially inaugurated. Its Latin inscriptions celebrate the Francoist victory and the arch is topped with a statue of a chariot of Minerva.
To the north west lies the University City. In the early 1930s, the construction of a series of faculty buildings had begun and by mid 1936 several, notably the Faculty of Medicine, were more or less completed. With the arrival of rebel troops in the outskirts of Madrid in November 1936, the University City became the front-line in the bloody battle for the capital. A month-long fight would see the destruction of many of the new buildings. Fighting was especially intense around the Medical Faculty, which still bears the scars of battle.
To the south of the current arch had stood Madrid’s Cárcel Modelo, which had opened in the late 19th Century. During the Civil War, the prison was controlled by the anarchist CNT militia. By August 1936, some 30 prisoners, many of them prominent military and political figures, had already been killed. A Popular Front Control Committee took charge of the prison shortly afterwards. At the time of the Nationalist advance on the city, the prison held thousands of political prisoners, many of them professional soldiers. It was feared that if the prison fell to the rebels, these military men, many of them senior officers, would quickly enrich the enemy army. Throughout November and December, between 2200 and 2500 civilian and military prisoners were transported to Paracuellos de Jarama, where they were shot and buried in mass graves. The prison was razed at the end of the war, and a new Air Ministry constructed in a style closely reminiscent of Felipe II’s Escorial Palace.
Today the Arch of Victory is in a poor state of repair, graffitied and with its future debated in the context of Spain’s greater attention to the implications of retaining inscriptions of the Francoist victory within the fabric of towns and cities. The Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory has suggested that the arch be resignified as a monument to the defence of Madrid. Novelist Antonio Muñoz Molina reimagined the ongoing construction of the nearby University City at the outbreak of the Civil War in 1936 in his novel, In the Night of Time. The novel’s protagonist is one of the architects involved in the campus design.