Convent of the Holy Spirit Crypts – Madrid, Spain - Atlas Obscura

Convent of the Holy Spirit Crypts

Remains of the lost church hide beneath this Spanish Parliament building. 


In February 2009, human bones were discovered while workers performed rehabilitation work in the basement of the Spanish Parliament’s Congress of Deputies building. Among the bones were two skulls believed to possibly belong to the religious order that occupied the old Convent of the Holy Spirit.

Today, this site houses the Congress of Deputies, which, together with the Senate, make up the Spanish Parliament. But starting in 1599, it was home to the Convent of the Holy Spirit. For more than 200 years, the cleric regulars were lodged here.

The church, which was flanked by two towers, had a Latin cross plan, with a transept and a dome resting on pendentives decorated with paintings by Luis Velázquez. On the main facade stood a large marble medallion with a Risen Christ.

The convent was abandoned after a terrible fire occurred in 1823 while the Duke of Angouleme, the French military leader of the Hundred Thousand Sons of Saint Louis, invaded Spain to re-establish the absolute monarchy of Ferdinand VII. The building was rehabilitated to accommodate the meetings of the Spanish Parliament (known as the Cortes Generales), although it was later decided to build the legislative branch a new headquarters.

In 1842, the old church was demolished, and in construction on a new building began in 1843. For almost 160 years, the old church’s crypt remained forgotten. After its excavation, it was first used for a few years as a back room. It then reopened at the end of 2018 to house art exhibitions and is planned to be used for a future museum about the Spanish Parliament.

Know Before You Go

Sevilla is the nearest metro station L2 (red). Buses 10, 14, 27, 34, 37 and 45 stop at Neptuno. You can arrange a visit via the Congress of Deputies's website. The building also opens its doors to the public on special occasions. 

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