Officials have asked for permission to exhume the bodies from the Valley of the Fallen, a huge mausoleum on the outskirts of Madrid built by former Spanish fascist dictator Francisco Franco.
The remains are buried in the crypt of the Basilica of the Holy Cross and some of them have been claimed by family members, the ministry said.
The project includes construction work that will allow workers to safely access and remove the remains.
The application was made after the government approved 665,000 euros for the project on March 30th.
It is believed that since 1959, the remains of more than 33,000 victims of the Spanish Civil War have been shipped to the Valley of the Fallen from across the country. The crypts with the remains have not been opened since then, according to the ministry.
The structural analysis of the crypts conducted between 2017 and 2019 enabled officials to identify possible entrances to the crypts, the ministry added.
On March 29, the ministry also announced an allocation of three million euros for a wider program dedicated to “the search, identification and dignity of people who disappeared during the civil war and dictatorship”.
The Valley of the Fallen was partly built by political prisoners of the Franco regime. Franco himself was buried in the basilica when he died in 1975. In October 2019, his remains were exhumed and transferred to the nearby Mingorrubio State Cemetery in El Pardo, 12 miles north of Madrid, where his wife is buried.
The exhumation was an important political promise made by Sanchez when he came to power in 2018.
Franco’s family and his far-right supporters rejected the plan, and the family unsuccessfully appealed the decision to court.
The Valley of the Fallen has become a magnet for tourists and far-right sympathizers, who hold annual rallies to mark the anniversary of Franco’s death on November 20.
Franco ruled Spain from the late 1930s until his death. Thousands of executions were carried out by his nationalist regime during the Spanish Civil War and in the years that followed.
In 2007, the Spanish government passed the Historical Memory Law, which officially condemns the Franco regime and bans political events in the Valley of the Fallen. It also recognizes the victims of the civil war and the Francoist state and promises help to these victims and their descendants.
CNN’s Aimee Lewis and Laura Perez Maestro contributed to this report.