National Palace, Mexico City

National PalaceNational Palace
The whole of the east side of the main square (Zócalo) is occupied by the National Palace (Palacio Nacional), with a façade over 200 m (650 ft) long. Built of reddish tezontle stone, it is the official residence of the President and houses various government offices. Originally built by Cortés on the razed site of Moctezuma II's "New Palace", it was the seat of the Spanish viceroys during the colonial period and thereafter that of the President of the Republic. Much altered and enlarged over the years and partly destroyed during the 1692 uprising, it is one of the oldest and finest buildings in the city. The third storey was added in the 1920s, under the rule of President Calles.
Above the large central doorway, surmounted by the Mexican coat-of-arms, hangs the Freedom Bell, rung by Miguel Hidalgo at Dolores on September 15th 1810 at the start of the War of Independence. Every year on September 15th the bell is rung by the President at 11 p.m. and the "Grito de Dolores" is repeated from the balcony.
The National Palace boasts a large number of handsome rooms laid out around fourteen courtyards, only some of which are open to visitors. From the arcaded Grand Courtyard a staircase leads up to the first floor.
The most notable feature of this courtyard is the fresco on the staircase and first floor by the muralist Diego Rivera, "Historia y Perspectiva de México" (History and Perspective of Mexico). Covering a total area of 450 sq. m (4837 sq. ft), and painted between 1926 and 1945, it depicts the history of Mexico from Indian times to the period after the revolution. In portraying this wide span of historical events and their principal actors Rivera gives expression to his own very "Indian" social and political attitudes; this is shown perhaps most clearly of all in the picture "La Lucha de Clases" (The Class Struggle) at the foot of the staircase. In the gallery on the first floor can be seen "La Gran Tenochtitlán", another of Rivera's famous murals.
The rooms once occupied by Benito Juárez off the northern inner courtyard are now a museum open to visitors. Some of his furniture and personal belongings can be seen in the room in which he died in 1872. Also open to the public are some large halls and the parliamentary chamber in which the Reform Constitution of 1857 was drawn up. The latter and the Constitution of 1917 are on display.
The National Palace also houses the main State Archives, with many interesting historical documents, and the Biblioteca Miguel Lerdo de Tejada, one of the largest and most important libraries in the country.

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