From 1983 until 1998, the Assembly of Madrid’s activity was carried out in the old “Big San Bernardo House” (number 49 of one of the main streets in the old Madrid center), an architectural complex going back to the early XVII century, and with a long history: initially a Jesuit novices house until the expulsion of the Order in 1767, it changed hands, but remained a religious building and was the burial place in 1802 of Lady Pilar Teresa Cayetana de Silva y ALVAREZ DE TOLEDO, the XIII Duchess of Alba. From 1835 (the year of first great “secularization” -desamortización -in the XIX century, i.e. compulsory acquisition by the State of religious assets and properties, many of them sold later to the public at larger) to 1842 it was used as barracks for Military Engineers, which made a thorough-going structural rehabilitation necessary. By virtue of Royal Decree of 5th of April 1842 some rearrangement and redesign works were undertaken under the technical direction of architect Francisco Javier MARIATEGUI, and completed by his well-known colleague Narciso PASCUAL y Colomer, with a view to accommodate the former Central University (Universidad Central). In the following decades until the thirties in the XXth century its classrooms and corridors were the teaching place for thousands of students who were later to become prominent political figures both in Spain and (until 1898) in its American possessions. In the last third of the XIXth century the large main staircase was the scene of students’ protests in demand of more freedom of teaching, and in 1956 it became one of the focal points of the resolute students’ demands for restoration of democracy in Spain.
As a result of the construction of the new Madrid University complex ( Ciudad Universitaria) in the first half of last century, the “Caserón, with no students any more, became the property of the Ministry of Education, which decided to accommodate two autonomous bodies, the Institute of Spain (Instituto de España and the State’s Education Council (Consejo Escolar del Estado) and later on rented the rest (namely the above-mentioned Paraninfo) to the Assembly in successive terms for some fifteen years, until the new seat was availablde.
Let us recall that the part of the old building made available to the Assembly consisted of an English-style Assembly Hall (Salón de Plenos) , i.e. a large rectangular room with two rows of benches facing each other, a Committee room, a Bureau and the Spokesmen’s Board (Junta de Portavoces) and several offices for some of the Assembly’s services. The rest of these and the parliamentary groups had to move on several occasions to nearby buildings.