Once hidden amongst trees just a few hundred metres
from the mountain road linking Xàbia and Dénia, a tall stone cross marks the
location of a macabre tale in the modern history of the region: the “Night of
the Abyss”. The cross has remained more or less unknown to many, visited faithfully
by relatives and friends who came to lay flowers against the stone. And then
the devastating fire of September 2014 destroyed the trees behind which the
cross stood for many decades out of sight from passers-by and it can now been
seen from the road.
On the night of November 2nd 1936, a group of people
from Dénia were driven onto the bleak emptiness of La Plana and were shot,
their bodies thrown into a natural chasm almost 70 metres deep, known as ‘L’Avenc
de Xàbia’. The perpetrators were left-wing militant unionists, most from the CNT,
a confederation of anarchic-syndicalist labour unions which supported the
Republican side of the Spanish Civil War.
At the outbreak of the war, the Marina Alta region,
including Xàbia, lay in territory loyal to the Republican cause. After the fateful
coup of July of that year, which aimed to overthrow the Second Spanish Republic
but instead drove the country into the tragedy of civil war, Nationalist troops
quickly took control of around one third of Spain and within four months General
Francisco Franco was confident enough to declare himself head of state and Generalísimo. By November, the
Republican government had fled Madrid and based itself in Valencia.
As Nationalist forces battled to take Madrid,
reprisals, many uncontrolled and unusually violent, took place in Republican
territories and the Marina Alta did not escape. Extremists took their targets
to remote areas where they could be killed and their bodies deposited, never to
be found. Prominent people with Nationalist sympathies were targeted but so
were innocents with no obvious political leaning in acts that would be considered
as uncontrolled personal revenge, pitting neighbour against neighbour.
On that fateful night at the beginning of November,
a collection of unfortunates from Dénia including land-owners, lawyers,
businessmen, farmers and even students, were taken up on to La Plana to the
opening of a deep chasm just above the Barranco de Fondo, located just 130m
from the junction with the road to the end of Cap de Sant Antoni. They were
shot and their bodies thrown into the abyss; some reports suggest that at least
three were still alive.
After the end of the Civil War in April 1939, the
abyss was sealed and turned into a natural tomb, a cross erected with a plaque
dedicated to those who had been murdered. (Numbers range from 13-21 but it is
now thought to be 15.) It remained closed until July 18th 1953 when a team of
cavers from Alcoy broke through the reinforced concrete slab that covered the
abyss and descended into the darkness. They discovered human remains along with
animal bones as well as a shotgun, shoes and other objects, some of which were
brought back to the surface. Sixty years later, cavers from Xàbia made the
descent along with municipal archaeologist Joaquim Bolufer and journalist Eduard
Torres and they found bones, tattered clothing, shoes and other remains buried
under stones. They returned to the surface and sealed the abyss once again.
The cross can be easily reached on foot from the
junction of Carretera de Dénia with Carretera del Cap de Sant Antoni. There is
space to leave a car parked safely by the side of the road and a narrow path
leads off south (back towards Xàbia), marked irregularly by stones painted
white, for about 200m to the cross.