Palacio del Senado
The Palacio del Senado is the headquarters of the Spanish upper house of Parliament, and can be found in the Plaza de la Marina Española, not far from
the Royal Palace and Sabatini gardens. It is only a few strides from the metro station Santo Domingo, but also a short walk from Metro Opera or Callao,
and also the Plaza de España Square.
The building began as a convent school in 1590, popularly known as the Colegio de Doña María de Aragón, named after its founder. Its first use as a parliament building was in 1814, when it was taken over as the
Salón de Sesiones de las Cortes, and between then and the present day, it has changed use a number of times.
In 1820, neoclassical additions were made to the interior by the architect Isidro González Velázquez, and Anibal
Alvarez Bouquel completely renovated the inside of the building between 1844 and 1850. At the same time, he built a new facade in the neoclassical style.
In 1882 the architect Emilio Rodríguez Ayuso built a library and reading rooms, and completely removed any traces of the building's former religious use. A new floor was added in 1969, and a new building was added to the complex in 1987, designed by the architect Salvador Gayarre, which the present King, Juan Carlos I, opened in 1991.
It is in fact this extension to the building, with its rounded façade
which can be seen below, that most people recognise today as being the
Headquarters of the Spanish Senate.
In the Plaza, facing the Palacio del Senado, is a monument to the conservative politican Antonio Cánovas del Castillo, who played a leading role in the restoration of the Spanish monarchy in 1875, when King Alfonso XII was placed on the throne with the defeat of the first Spanish Republic.
The monument was created by the architect José Grases Riera en 1901, with the help of Joaquin Bilbao, and consists of a tall column with a bronze statue of the politician at the top, giving a speech. A variety of other statues, also in bronze, adorn the lower reaches of the column.
The Spanish Parliament consists of an upper and lower house, the Senate or Senado de España being the upper house. In general, senators serve four year terms. Out of the 264 members, 208 are directly elected by popular vote and the remainder are appointed by regional legislatures.
The Congress of Deputies, or Lower House, can override almost all votes of the Senate, but the Senate has certain duties of its own, such as the appointment of judges to the Constitutional Tribunal or forcing the regional presidents to fulfil their obligations.