The City Council of Santiago de Compostela has requested today in a trial that the family of Francisco Franco return two sculptures of Master Mateo that were part of the Portico de la Gloria of the cathedral of the Galician capital, when estimating that it was an "expropriation" and an "abuse" of the dictator. For their part, the Franco have asked the judge of First Instance number 41 in Madrid to dismiss the claim alleging that they are the legitimate owners of the pieces as they maintain that were purchased from a private individual through an antique dealer, without which, in his opinion, the consistory has proved that he still owns them.
The lawyer of the City of Santiago, Xoaquín Enrique Monteagudo, has brought at the hearing the contract signed before a notary on June 4, 1948, by which the consistory bought the Count of Ximonde three statues, two of which are the subject of this litigation , for 60,000 pesetas. He explained that a clause was included which established that the pieces should always be in the municipal artistic heritage, by imposition of the count. The lawyer of the consistory has considered that it was in 1954 when the statues were taken to the pazo de Meirás of the Franco family, in Sada (A Coruña), as a gift from the then mayor without any municipal agreement and in a "hidden, clandestine and criminal.
He has indicated that the beneficiary of this "plundering" was the head of the State of a dictatorial regime "against which no one could react" and "not even the Count of Ximonde would have dared to make any claim" to fulfill his desire to that the pieces continued belonging to the patrimony of Santiago. Likewise, the City Council's lawyer has argued that despite the time that has elapsed, it is pertinent to raise this demand since it is about goods of the national artistic treasure, so that there is no need to prescribe as the Franco family does.
For its part, the representative of the defendant, the lawyer Juan José Aizcorbe, has assured that Francisco Franco and his wife bought the pieces to a private person through an antique dealer and "Grandchildren can not be required to keep an invoice or sales receipt after seventy years". He added that the City Council has not documentary proof that he will finally pay for the pieces, nor the receipt of them or their location. He has even stated that "there are reasonable doubts" that the pieces claimed are those that appear in the deed of sale of 1948.
At the beginning of the hearing and at the proposal of the Santiago City Council, Ramón Izquierdo Perrín, professor of art, has declared that the two pieces claimed by the Franco family are those purchased by the Santiago City Council in 1948. He explained that it is two granite mounds of Old Testament figures that were installed in the Portico de la Gloria of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. The expert has added that the statues were removed from the facade in 1520 to install wooden doors and were taken to a school in Santiago where they remained until in the eighteenth century the count removed them and took them to a manor.
The mayor of Santiago de Compostela, Martiño Noriega, has attended the trial and at the end he has told journalists that he expects this procedure "to generate a precedent because it is the first time that an institution has filed a lawsuit to recover what it is a patrimony of all ". He has estimated that "the fear of the Franco family is that this trial generates in some way jurisprudence and can open a door to recover much other heritage that has been expropriated and somehow stolen for the enjoyment of all in the whole of the State and especially in Galicia". In his opinion, the reasons stated by the defendant "are protecting a family that benefited from the context of the dictatorship and have that degree of indecency and little consistency," the mayor concluded.