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The Parliament Building
Most of the parliaments in the world are located within the capital city of the territory they represent, or at least in one of the most remarkable towns. The same happens with the Government and Presidential places which are usually located in the most important city in the area. The General courts in Spain (The Congress and the Senate) are in Madrid. In USA are settled in Washington; the English Parliament is in London, the Italian in Rome and the French Assembly in Paris. The European Parliament lies in Strasburg, though it has other working settlements.
The Cantabrian Parliament is located in Santander, the capital city of the county. It has a permanent place on c/ Alta nº 31, the same which was referred by the famous writer J. María de Pereda in his work Sotileza. This building has not always been linked to the parliamentary activity. In fact, it was built much before the existence of the Parliament.
The building was firstly devoted to health and medical care. The building was erected in 1971 by indication of Rafael Menendez de Luarca, who was the bishop of Santander. Thus, the Saint Raphael Hospital, a splendid, modern and functional building at that time, became the place to heal ill people who looked for the fresh, pure air of the bay. With 200 beds and an average of 90 patients, the hospital used to give service to poor people in Santander and nearby areas. It played an essential role in the 19th century society, as it should be remarked that helped ill people during the Independence War and those injured by the French. Later, while cholera was devastating Europe, it was extremely useful as well as it happened with the injured by the Machichaco steam boat explosion and the Big Fire of Santander, one of the most tragic disasters in Santander´s history.
In the early 20th century, the hospital changed the beneficial character to start accepting paying patients. A second floor was constructed but the brand new and better equipped Health Centre of Valdecilla was officially opened in 1929 and, as time went by, it became the University Hospital, one of the reference centers in Medicine in Spain and the most influential institution in the social and scientific field in Cantabria. As the S. Raphael’s hospital became unnecessary it closed its doors and remained almost forgotten.
The building was in a ruined condition and striking disasters left not many cultural heritage buildings in town. There were several attempts to restore it but, because of difficulties and high costs, it was not until de 1980s when need met opportunity: a new permanent place for the parliamentary activity of the new Cantabrian autonomy and the desire of refurnishing one of the most emblematic buildings in Santander. In 1982, the regional Assembly published the call of proposals for the new project which was won by J. Manuel Sanz Sanz and Juan López Rioboo Latorre, and the reformed building was officially inaugurated with the kick off of the second legislature in 1987-91. Finally, people in Cantabria may enjoy again the building, which has become the permanent place of our Parliament.