A 66-year-old retired physicist wants the Spanish law, which allows for free visits to monuments designated as Cultural Heritage (BIC), to be enforced. He has made this goal his personal mission.
It all started years ago, when Jabonero visited the Basilica of San Francisco el Grande in Madrid in December 2017. It was declared a National Monument in 1980 and has had the status of Asset of Cultural Interest since then. Its owner is the Obra Pía, dependent on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Jabonero asked the ticket clerk which days the temple could be visited for free. “None,” he replied. “The person in charge of the ticket office told me that there was never free entry and that of course the visitors had never been informed of this issue,” explains Jabonero.
“It’s a right”
“It’s a right, and in this case, the central government does nothing to uphold this right,” he stresses. The law in question is the ‘Law 16/1985, of June 25, of the Spanish Historical Heritage.’ Article 13.2 of this law states that owners of BIC’s are obliged “to make their visit public and free. This must happen at least four days per month, on pre-specified days and hours.”
Victory at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
After contacting the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Jabonero was proven right. From April 2018, the basilica would be free to visit every Saturday of the month. “With this, I proved that the Spanish government had been violating a national law since 1985 until 2018, amounting to a violation of a right,” says Jabonero.
More than 17,000 Heritage Monuments in Spain
According to recent data from the Ministry of Culture, there were 17,819 immovable properties registered as BIC in 2022. The goal of the 1985 law is “to provide access to goods that are part of our historical heritage.” The law establishes four days of free access per month.
The Cathedral of Toledo
Jabonero’s next battle was with the cathedral of Toledo. When he was told there were no free access days, he spoke to the Archbishop of Toledo about it. Since then, the cathedral, with limited opening hours, has been free to access from Monday to Friday. The law does not set time limits for free access to a BIC.
A call to the Ministry of Culture
Jabonero has sent letters to the last three Ministers of Culture, addressing the chronic and deliberate violation of Article 13.2 of the ‘Law 16/1985’. He wonders what the General Directorate of Fine Arts of the Ministry of Culture has done to ensure that this regulation is complied with.
The Constitutional Court intervenes
In 2014, the Constitutional Court declared some articles of the Law on Historical Heritage of the Community of Madrid unconstitutional. This law wanted to reduce the number of free access days to BIC’s from four to one, which was in conflict with the Spanish Constitution.
Fernando Jabonero continues to fight for the right to free access to Spanish cultural heritage, a struggle that emphasises the value and accessibility of historical monuments for all citizens.