Capitol, Havana, a symbol of a Nation

Lets bring along a emblematic building that represent a linkage of the past and present, a symbol of what and where you are in Cuba and especially Havana.  In my youth I spent many afternoon going by and on tours to see the meaning that it was to the Cubans. Inside is a plethora of historical facts to better understand the country.

I am talking about the Capitol building in old Havana. El Capitolio as it is known in Spanish, built in 1929  to house the two chambers of the Cuban congress. Its was inspired by the Roman capitol and that which is in Washington DC USA. The building has a front neo classic style with a dome of 91,73 meters tall ( 302.7 ft).  It is located between the streets or  calle Pardo, Dragones, Industria, and San Jose. Inside it marks the kilomerter zero of all distances in Cuba with a diamond on the floor. AFter the Cuban revolution it house the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment and the Academy of Sciences of Cuba.

It is in the space where the old city of Havana walls were crossing built in colonial period by the Spanish.  The walls here were destroyed in 1863. Here there was a statue to queen Isabel II, and it was the start of the now Parque Central de La Habana or Central Park.  Part of the public work efforts by then President Gerardo Machado (later dictator too), the team of architect Raul Otero and the participation of the French team led by urban planner Jean-Claude-Nicolas Forestier, and Architect Eugenio Raynieri Piedra as director of developement,and arquitec Jose M Bens Arrate. The actual construction was given to the American firm of  Pudri & Henderson Company. However, it was the French Forestier who put together the urban plan of the Capitol and surrounding areas as in Paris.

The details of the work made the building  207,44 meters long in its facade  which included a large stair monumental of almost 36 meters wide( 118.8 ft) , 28 meters long (92.4 ft) , and 55 steps with three rest squares . At the two sides of the end of the stair you have two sculptures made in bronze by the Italian Angelo Zanelli, call La Virtud Tutelar del Pueblo ” (the virtue of the people) , and ” El Trabajo” (the work) ,both of 6,50 meters high (21.4 ft) .

To continue the description of this wonderful building, we come to the main central door with a lenght of 36 meters (118.8 ft)  and 16 meters high 52.8 ft)  all held by 12 ionic columns of granite.  It is here that the main doors of access to the building are place with 7,70 meters high (25.4 ft) and 2,35  meters wide (7.8 ft) as well as the sculpture in relief of marbre ,also done by the Italian Angelo Zanelli.  The dome with a high of 92 meters (303.6 ft)  was at the moment the fifth highest in the world with a diameter of 32 meters (105.6 ft).  It has 16 panels of which the most impressive are those covered with gold leaves of 22karats .  The dome has a lantern with 10 ionic columns of which interior were 5 light reflectors until 1959 when taken down by the revolutionary government.  In this space you see the symbolism architectural of the sculpture of the ” La República” or the lady marianne under the dome done also by Zanelli in bronze of  15 meters high  (49.5 ft) and 30 tons in weight that at the moment was the second biggest in the world under a roof.

You come to the great room call the “Salón de los Pasos Perdidos” ( the hall of the lost steps) , the most monumental of the spaces with almost  50 meters long (165 ft) and 14,5 meters wide( 47.9 ft)  and almost 20 meters high66 ft)  that serve the interconnection to the two bodies of government the  Cámara de Representantes (located to the north) and the  Senado (located to the south). These two blocks are organised in a rectangular fashion around two gardens with dimentions of  45 by 15 meters each (148.5 x 49.5 ft). 

58 types of marbre, wood of the most exquisite in the country, decoration and ambiance done by the English firm of  Waring & Gilow Ltd. of  London.   The wrough iron in bronze by  The Yale & Towne Mfg. Co. of Stanford, CT USA, Societe Anonime Bague  and  Saunier Frisquet of Paris,France for the lamps, and the house of Fratelli Remuzzi from Italy and  Grasyma of Germany for the work in marbre, onyx, etc .  The diamond that mark the distances in Cuba is of brilliance of 25 karats the last owner was the tzar of Russia Nicolas II, and arrive in Cuba by Turkish jewerler that purchase it in Paris. Now you see a replica, the original is the the vaults of the Bank of Cuba.  Looking at the volume of its construction it is estimated that the Capitolio of La Habana is the third in importance for its monolithic construction in the world ,a nd the only one with its characteristics built in the 20C. Most of the detail information here came from wikipedia.

It is inmense ,the pride of Havana, and one of the most visited buildings in the city as of today. It was always like that, a must to see while in Havana. Just now looking at the pictures I am in awe of  its beauty and I have seem some beauties now living in France. Some photos of old.

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