IN PICS: Map of bombed Madrid reveals a city secretly scarred

Two historians have researched archives, old photos and oral accounts to piece together the forgotten stories of Madrid during the Civil War. Leah Pattem found out more.

IN PICS: Map of bombed Madrid reveals a city secretly scarred
Archive photos/ Madrid No Frills/Madrid Bombardeada
Enrique Bordes and Luis de Sobrón, creators of the map Madrid Bombardeado 1936-1939, are part of a growing movement to expose the lost stories of the Spanish Civil War. They’re tracking down our city’s hidden wounds and opening them back up in the hope that by redressing them properly, they can finally heal. 

After spending two years digging through newspaper archives, collecting old photos and sifting through controversial historical accounts, the academic duo have assembled a detailed and accurate map of bombed Madrid. Each bomb impact is marked like a drop of blood, with some merging together to create larger stains.

Many details of what happened between 1936 and 1939 are still buried in library archives, kitchen drawers and at the depths of people’s memories. However challenging these clues are to find, they’re there for us to do so. The greatest challenge, though, is pulling the crumbling pieces of this puzzle together so that the full picture – one once lost in time and censorship – can finally be painted and seen for the very first time.


After Franco’s death and a gruelling 36 years under his regime, those in power ordered shrapnel scars to be plastered over, records to be wiped, coordinates of mass graves to be deleted, and voices to be silenced. This collective amnesia is known as the “pact of silence”, and was believed by many at the time to be the only way in which Spain could move forward. It’s something Spain is still unravelling today, both physically and mentally.

Decades of pain was suppressed and, even now, we must tread sensitively while retracing our ancestors’ steps because there’s a danger that in revisiting one of the darkest eras in Spain’s history, we uncover not facts but rather interpretations of these facts. Newspaper clippings and personal accounts are inconsistent but photographs are much more reliable, and these are what Enrique and Luis are focusing their efforts on.


Here are three photos of the bomb impacts on and around Puerta del Sol, one of which was so big that it blew right through to the metro tunnel beneath:

Below is the result of a night bomb on a residential building by metro Anton Martín:

On Cava San Miguel behind Plaza Mayor, a bomb blasted through two flats – one above the other:

The front of a building on Calle de los Estudios in La Latina was raised to the ground by a bomb blast:

This photo shows a bomb having just hit the Telefónica communications building – a major target during the siege:

The bomb blasts in all of the above photographs can be found on the map of Madrid Centro below, the heaviest of which was the Telefónica building on Gran Vía:

Here are two more photos: the university hospital left in ruins, and the impact of bombing on a building just off Calle Princesa, which was one of the main front lines during the Spanish Civil War:

These photographs are indicated on the map below, just by Moncloa and Princesa:


A friend of mine had told me that there was was a crater behind the university hospital, hidden deep inside a small, natural park. He pointed to the rough location of it on a map, and so off we went to investigate to see if it was still visible.

We went off-piste until there was an abrupt a gap in the trees and the ground plunged. There it was: a huge crater caused by an underground explosion in a mine dug by Asturian miners to weaken Franco’s defences, who were positioned in the Hospital Clínico. There was no sign, no marker or plaque – just a fire pit in the middle, possibly used by those who live in the small slum just a dozen meters away.

I’ve marked where I believe it is on this map – the side-by-side impact circled in white:


This map provides well-researched evidence that Madrid was pummelled by fighting during the Spanish Civil War, yet it took until almost 80 years later to be created, and it’s still not even complete.

For as long as bombings and bodies remain buried, the trauma of the Spanish Civil War will sit firmly on Spain’s shoulders and will continue to be passed down generation after generation. The country is clearly still processing its civil war and it’s projects such as this one, and this time-bending photography project, that are helping the entire nation deal with its uncomfortable past and, as quoted by the authors of the project, “To turn the page of the story, you must first write it.”


Follow Madrid Bombardeada on Twitter

A limited number of maps can be picked up for free from a selection of municipal libraries.

Leah Pattem is the founder of Madrid No Frills, a blog that celebrates those overlooked corners of Madrid untouched by the gentrification and modernization that has transformed the city in recent decades.

To discover stories that reveal the grittier, real side of Spain's capital, follow her on the Madrid No Frills blog, on Facebook and in Instagram.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


Why Spain is still in the wrong time zone because of Hitler

As Spain again prepares to put the clocks forward on Saturday night, we look at the fascinating reasons why the country has been in the wrong time zone for the last 75 years, the possible effects of this historical blip on Spanish society, and why there's still no sign of it changing.

Nazi leader German Chancellor Adolf Hitler (R) shakes hands with Spanish Generalísimo Francisco Franco at Hendaye train station on the French-Spanish border in October 1940. (Photo by AFP)
Nazi leader German Chancellor Adolf Hitler (R) shakes hands with Spanish Generalísimo Francisco Franco at Hendaye train station on the French-Spanish border in October 1940. (Photo by AFP)

Why is Spain in the wrong time zone?

Madrid lies directly south of London. Spain is geographically in line with the UK and Portugal. It makes sense, then, that Spain was in the Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) zone until around 75 years ago.

But that all changed in 1940. With Nazi Germany occupying Belgium, Holland, and recently invading France, Spain’s own facist dictator, Francisco Franco, travelled to the French border to meet with Hitler, the man he and many other believed would go on to dominate Europe.

The momentum was clearly with the Nazis, at the time, and Italy had already pledged its support to Hitler. Although he wanted the same from Spain, Franco, however, didn’t have much to offer. With the country ravaged by its own recent Civil War – in which Franco’s victory was heavily supported by Hitler –  Franco felt obliged to make a gesture of some sort.

Although ultimately remaining neutral in the war, Franco decided to show his support for Hitler by agreeing to put Spain’s clocks forward by an hour in an act of solidarity with Nazi Germany. 

Spain has remained in the Central European Time zone ever since, in line with countries as far east as Poland. That means that Madrid currently has the same time as Warsaw in Poland 2,290km away but is one hour ahead of Lisbon which is only 502 km away. 

The consequences of Spain being in the wrong time zone

But Franco’s decision all those years ago isn’t just a quirk of Spanish history, or testament to the extent to which the legacy of that period still looms over Spanish society, it was a decision that, experts say, has had a lasting impact on Spanish culture and society that underpins everything from Spaniard’s sleep cycles and meal times to the country’s birth rates and economic growth.

In recent years there have been calls to make the switch back to GMT because many believe the time zone quirk is affecting Spaniard’s productivity and quality of life. In 2013 a Spanish national commission concluded that Spaniards sleep almost an hour less than the European average, and that this led to increased stress, concentration problems, both at school and work, and workplace accidents.

Some experts believe this explains the Spanish dependence on siestas – that is, that the lack of sleep makes them necessary – but in reality the siesta has been a consistent feature of Spanish life for centuries for many of the same reasons it still is today: in southern Spain, the fierce summer temperatures make it necessary to stay at home during the afternoon. 

Spain's most famous clock is the Puerta del Sol in central Madrid. Photo: Jorge Franganillo/Flickr
Spain’s most famous clock is at the Puerta del Sol in central Madrid. Photo: Jorge Franganillo/Flickr

One effect of the siesta however is that the break in the day means Spaniards work the most hours in Europe yet at one of the continent’s lowest levels of productivity. A lack of sleep contributes to siesta taking which, in turn, means Spaniards work later into the evening and could partly explain Spain’s notoriously nocturnal lifestyles and late meal times. 

Despite the country running on CET, Spaniards’ eating patterns roughly mirror GMT. Many Spaniards eat lunch at what would be 1 or 1.30pm in London (the traditional 2 or 2.30pm in Spain) and dinner at a reasonable 8pm in London (but 9pm or even 10pm as is customary in many parts of Spain).

Making the change and returning to GMT would, according to Nuria Chinchilla, professor at Spain’s IESE business school, help Spaniards “return to the natural order of our circadian rhythm (our 24-hour physiological cycle) that goes with the sun… and the sun in Greenwich, not Germany”.

“If we don’t (change to GMT) we lengthen the day, eat very late and then don’t sleep,” she added.

Why hasn’t Spain moved to the right time zone yet?

The debate about which time zone Spain belongs in was reinvigorated following recent proposals at the EU level to scrap entirely the daylight savings custom. 

In 2018 the EU Commission announced a proposal to abolish the custom after polling showed that 80 percent of Europeans are in favour of staying permanently on summer time.This debate naturally had many in Spain wondering about whether they were in the right time zone.

But owing to a combination of the COVID-19 pandemic, Brexit, and various other bureaucratic difficulties, the proposal was shelved. Member states cannot decide unilaterally on the question of daylight savings, but they can decide which timezone they want to be in. 

Spain has had various commissions over the years exploring the impact of daylight savings and timezones, but no concrete proposals over a return to GMT have ever been made, despite the benefits experts claim it could bring.

Although the government’s focus has been drawn by more pressing issues in recent years – and the issue of time and daylight savings shelved at the European level – expect discussion of whether Spain is actually even in the right time zone this weekend when the clocks do go back, or if the linked issue of daylight savings is eventually taken off the shelf at the European level.

Article by Conor Faulkner