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Palacio de Las Cortes (Congress of Deputies)

Madrid

It is possible that in front of the Congress of Deputies, in San Jeronimo Street, you feel a little overwhelmed with so many cameras and reporters running, from here to there, after the deputies.

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It is possible that in front of the Congress of Deputies, in San Jeronimo Street, you feel a little overwhelmed with so many cameras and reporters running, from here to there, after the deputies.

But to talk about the Congress Members, we already have the news… We are going to focus more on the building that serves them as their office: this Palacio de las Cortes in which the headquarters of the legislative power is, and which should be overflowing with prudence and common sense.

The building, inaugurated in 1850 by Queen Isabel II, is a kind of Greco-Latin construction, accordingly to the Neoclassic taste of the nineteenth century, and on its right is the small street Marques de Cubas, known as Calle del Turco (The Turk Street), which witnessed a drama that changed the history of the country.

On December 27, 1870, in the middle of a snowstorm, General Prim, then head of the government, left the palace and climbed into his horse-carriage to go to the Ministry of War. But several men crossed his path, opened the door and unloaded on the governor a few shots that would cause his death three days later. Up to this point, we all agree. But the thing is that recently, in 2012, a new study of the embalmed body ruled that marks on the neck indicated death by strangulation while lying in the hospital. So let's take note of another unsolved mystery in history…

And to continue with the mysteries, does anyone know why the lion Daoiz is missing the scrotum? Nobody knows for sure since its companion, Velarde does have it. This two lions that today flank the main entrance of The Congress, also have a rather bizarre story. To begin with, in the original project there was no lions but rather practical and straightforward lampposts, but the deputies and the citizens, in agreement for once, thought that the place deserved something more majestic, something like a couple of hairy beasts.

So the lions were commissioned to the sculptor Ponciano Ponzano, creator of the pediment of the palace. But there were two problems: one, that Ponciano did not like to carve animals in marble because he said it brought bad luck; and two, that there was barely any money to pay him for the job. With this plan, the solution could only be a sloppy job: the lions were made of plaster and painted imitating bronze, so after a year out in the open, they were a real mess. That caused general anger and the need for a new commission, but it turned out that Ponciano wanted more money, so they found another sculptor who accepted a tighter budget for carving the beasts in stone.

Once again confirming that you get what you pay for, the new lions turned out to be so small that people laughed at the work, saying that they looked more like dogs than kings of the jungle. So they had to remove them, bow their heads and call Ponciano once more asking him to please make them using the bronze of some cannons that were left over from the African War.

In 1872, after some controversy, the beasts were placed on the steps of the building, which incidentally occupied the place where there was once a convent and that it had burned down. By a curious coincidence, at the same time that the British Parliament was also being rebuilt after the fire of the old Westminster.

Over there, however, it was decided to continue debating the old ways, on facing benches, while over here a hemicycle was chosen so that the Members were at an equal distance from the speaker. Much more practical to listen to speeches, receive boos and, why not, take a nap. All this, hoping that a dictator’s apprentice does not slip in, as it happened, without success, on February 23, 1981.


Palacio de Las Cortes (Congress of Deputies)

Plazade las Cortes, s/n
28014 Madrid
(+34) 91 390 60 00

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Tags: Eclecticism

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