Earlier this year, in a piece about Benidorm’s many myths and truths, we looked at how the resort got permission from General Franco to become the first resort in Spain to allow women to wear bikinis in the 1950s
Benidorm’s visionary mayor—Pedro Zaragoza—was the man who approached the murderous fascist dictator directly and asked for permission to allow bikinis. Surprisingly, Franco, a staunch Catholic, readily agreed, but Zaragoza’s determination to unleash “immodest” swimwear on the resort’s beaches horrified the Catholic Church, which at the time had enormous power in Spain.
So angry was the RCC that it threatened him with excommunication. The mayor explained:
In those days excommunication was a form of civil death. You became a leper in society.
In addition to threatening excommunication, the then Bishop of Orihuela—Pablo Barrachina Estevan—also threatened to put up signs up outside the town, branding Benidorm “El Infierno” (Hell!).
And as part of a “Day of Forgiveness” back in 1961, the faithful carried a huge wooden cross from the church of San Jaime up to a high point overlooking this “sinful town.”
The cross was toppled in a storm in 1975. So another cross, this time made of metal, was put in its place … and that’s the one that stands today on a hill—the Serra Gelada—at the end of Levante beach.
Be aware that, if you have a mind to visit it, prepare yourself for a marathon hike, lasting 45-50 minutes. No refreshments are offered at the site, so bring your own.
The View from La Vila blog—which provides a map showing how to reach the site—says that the cross has since become a kind of unofficial shrine for mostly Brits. They leave photos, flowers and tributes to dead friends and family.
The scrawled graffiti on the cross and its base is definitely on the tacky side though.
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