Lions have always been a symbol for many cultures. In Spain, the lions of the Spanish Parliament, more than a symbol they became a headache.
Where the Congress of Deputies and the lions of the Spanish Parliament are now seen, at the time there was a convent named Espiritu Santo (Holy Spirit). It was so damaged that finally tehy decided to use that area to build the Spanish parliament, inaugurated in 1850.
On both sides of the entrance of the building, open only at specific and very special moments, you can see two bronze lions. Although these statues are currently closely associated with the institution, the presence of the two feline guardians of the law was a last-minute idea.
In fact, at the time of its inauguration (1850), the building was not yet finished, which was not a problem for parliamentarians to begin holding the sessions.
The architect had not included any decorative element at the entrance of the building and simply placed two lights in front of the entrance perhaps to symbolize the idea of ”lighting”.
However, it was considered very litle majestic and elegant to have only two simple streetlights for the entrance of such an important building. This meant that finally the sculptor Ponciano Ponzano was the one who helped to give solemnity to the building. And so he did. He carved two plaster lions covered with bronze paint, placing these figures in 1851 on both sides of the entrance, on a pedestal and next to the two lampposts.
But having two figures of plaster in the street, it turned out that finally it was deformed and suffered scratches and marks leaving those beautiful lions in a really regrettable state.
For this reason they thought that instead of lions painted in bronze it was better to have lions made of bronze directly. For this project Ponzano claimed a too high amount of money as a deal to make the new lions. And precisely because Ponzano’s offer was so expensive, another sculptor named José Bellever was chosen as an alternative. He ,instead of cast in bronze, sculpted two lions made of stone that were never placed in front of the Congress since they looked like two sweet kittens that didn’t give a good image to parliament.
So as it is said, “the third time is the charm” and finally it was decided (with the help of Ponzano) to create two lions cast in bronze from a set of cannons seized in the war against Morocco in the battle of Wad – Rass (1859 – 1860).
These cannons were cast in 1865, in Seville with more than two tons each.
However, although the lions were sent to Madrid, the parliamentarians did not agree to have bronze sculptures from a war that some considered imperialist, so they had to wait seven years to have them in front of the Parlimant. These two lions continue guarding the entrance of the Congress since 1872, that is, twenty-two years after the inauguration of the Spanish parliament.
Since then, it is rumored that lions are representing Hypomenes and Atalanta but nonetheless, it is also said that they represent Daoiz and Velarde. However, that is another story. If you want to know more about it we recommend you to suscribe our blog as well as to try our Free Tour Madrid to keep on discovering more new and incredible stories and secrets about this awesome and fun City.