At the top of the Noble Staircase, the Sala dos Passos Perdidos, adjacent to the Sala das Sessões, functions as the great center for meetings and seminar between deputies, government members and journalists. The room, designed by Ventura Terra, was built above the Atrium, respecting and following its layout and dimensions, already adapted by the original design of the Benedictine monastic church.
The ceiling was built in a barrel vault – unloading, at the ends, in four columns with pink marble shaft, composite capitals and gilded bronze bases -, lightened and artificially illuminated through an iron skylight and yellow and pink glass, reminiscent of the solutions adopted by French and English architects-engineers (particularly the Parisian Gare d’Orsay, moreover conceived by Ventura Terra’s master, Victor Laloux, who would again influence him in the design of the Pavilion of the Colonies, in the Paris Exhibition, in 1900 ).
The ceiling is decorated with paintings in two groups of three allegorical figures, one on each of the two telescopes located at the ends of the vault ( Law, Justice and Wisdom; Independence, Sovereignty and Homeland), respectively by João Vaz and de Benvindo Ceia, completed in 1926.
The walls, of white and pink marble, are marked by 18 double pillars attached, and decorated, among them, with six panels, painted in oil on canvas by Columbano Bordalo Pinheiro. The painter, who had already dedicated himself to decorations in public buildings, such as those of the Artillery Museum, followed the requirements of the 1921 commission in the representation of the 22 figures of Portuguese history, from the 13th to the 19th centuries, linked to politics, oratory and public administration.
The images in the paintings depict the following historical personalities:
D. Dinis, João das Rules and D. João II ;
Febo Moniz, Father António Vieira, D. Luiz de Menezes (Count of Ericeira) and João Pinto Ribeiro ;
Count of Castelo Melhor, D. Luís da Cunha, Marquês de Pombal and José Seabra da Silva ;
Manuel Fernandes Tomás, Manuel Borges Carneiro and Joaquim António de Aguiar ;
Mouzinho da Silveira, Duque de Palmela, Duque de Saldanha and José da Silva Carvalho ;
Passos Manuel, Almeida Garrett, Alexandre Herculano and José Estevão de Magalhães.
These six panels by Columbano Bordalo Pinheiro form a historical ensemble with a discourse that develops chronologically, from the canvas where the medieval characters are represented, to the one where contemporary figures appear.
The recessed walls at the entrance to the grandstand staircase were painted, on the left, by Benvindo Ceia, representing Viriato (Lusitanian hero resistant to the Roman occupation), and, on the right, by João Vaz, with an allegory to the Évora-Monte Convention ( signed in May 1834, ending the civil war between liberals and absolutists, with the consequent exile of D. Miguel).
Above the side doors, there are four lions in patinated plaster by the sculptor José Neto.
São Bento Palace
The São Bento Palace is a palace – style neoclassical located in Lisbon, being the seat of the Parliament of Portugal since 1834. It was built in the late sixteenth century (1598) as a monastery Benedictine (Monastery of St. Benedict Health) for traces of Baltazar Álvares, with a mannerist and baroque character. The National Archive of Torre do Tombo was installed there. With the extinction of religious orders in Portugal it became the property of the State. In the 17th century, the crypts of the marquises of Castelo Rodrigo were built.
After the establishment of the liberal regime in 1834, after the Portuguese Civil War, it became the headquarters of the Cortes Gerais da Nação, becoming known as the Palácio das Cortes. Following the changes in the official name of the Parliament, the Palace was also given several official names: Palácio das Cortes (1834-1911), Palácio do Congresso (1911-1933) and Palácio da Nacional Assembly (1933-1974). In the mid-twentieth century, the designation of Palácio de S. Bento started to be used, in memory of the old Convent. This denomination remained after 1976, when it became the seat of the Assembly of the Republic.
Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, the Palace underwent a series of major remodeling works, both interior and exterior, which made it almost completely distinct from the old Monastery, of which the remodeling by Ventura Terra and in 1936 the monumental staircase, added by António Lino and completed by Cristino da Silva. The Palace has a central body with arcades on the ground level and over these colonnaded gallery, topped by a triangular pediment decorated with stuccoes. The interior is equally grand, full of wings, and the Chamber of Deputies’ Room of Sessions, the Room of the Lost Steps, the Noble Hall, among others, as well as works of art from different periods in the history of Portugal. The Palace also includes a Historical Museum, having been classified as a National Monument in 2002.
In 1999, the new building was inaugurated, which supports the Assembly of the Republic. Located in the square of S. Bento, the new building, a 1996 project by the architect Fernando Távora, although connected to the palace by direct interior access, was purposely built in order to be an autonomous structure in order not to compromise or mischaracterize the palace layout.