Bikinis and the bishop; how sinful Benidorm got its Cross

Benidorm is a phenomenon. It has more high rise buildings per person than anywhere else on the planet, at least according to Wikipedia.

And the best place to see all this is from the Benidorm Cross, up on the Serra Gelada overlooking the Playa Levante. The view from up here is astonishing. There’s nothing quite like it anywhere else.

But the cross itself began life as a protest. Against bikinis, of all things.

In the early sixties, the bikini was about as daring as it got, especially in General Franco’s Spain.

Back then, Benidorm was busily transforming itself into the tourist magnet that it is today. Women had taken to wearing those sinful bikinis on the beach. Cue outrage from the Catholic Church.

Apparently, the Bishop of Orihuela, just down the road,  threatened to put signs up outside the town saying “El Infierno” (Hell!). So as part of a “Day of Forgiveness” , it was decided to carry a huge wooden cross from the church of San Jaime up to a high point overlooking this sinful town.

The wooden cross they took up that day was toppled in a storm in 1975. Perhaps a sign that the Almighty wasn’t really that bothered about bikinis?

God-fearing folk clearly weren’t taking any chances though. So another cross, this time made of metal, was put in its place…and that’s the one we see today. It’s since become a kind of unofficial shrine where people, mostly Brits, 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.

It’s a bit of a climb from the end of the Playa del Levante (Calle Berlin) up to the cross, especially on a hot day. Beware: there’s no bar at the top, so take water. Allow about 45-50 minutes, but the views are worth it. Or take the lazy way up by driving – it’s on Calle Taywan on satnav or Google Maps – park just below the summit and walk the rest of the way.

For serious hikers, this is the start of a proper walk across the Serra Gelada nature reserve to the little town of Albir on the other side. Full disclosure: we haven’t done this one yet!

© Guy Pelham 2018

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