Previously, there was a Benedictine monastery on the site of the San Bento Palace in Lisbon. At the beginning of the 17th century, the monks of this monastery founded a refuge for the sick and the poor. The new monastery began to be built at the beginning of the 18th century by the architect Balthazar Alvarez. Later, the construction was continued by his successor Juanelo Turriano. The building was rectangular and very large. The church was built with towers, galleries and living rooms. As the construction work was almost completed, the Lisbon earthquake in 1755 caused extensive damage to the building.
After the revolution of 1820 and the prohibition of religious orders in Portugal in 1834, the monks were driven out of the monastery. The San Bento Palace in Lisbon has begun to house the Portuguese Parliament. The first rooms for the Parliament meetings were built according to the sketches of the architect Possidonio da Silva.
In 1867, the former monks’ prayer house was completely rebuilt by the French architect Jean François Colson in the conference room. The Portuguese Senate very often held meetings in this chamber until 1976, when the unicameral parliamentary system was created.
In 1895, a fire destroyed the lower house and a new building was built instead. The building’s façade has also been modified: a neoclassical gallery with columns and triangular pediment has been added, an atrium and an inner staircase have been rebuilt. Many other parts have been remodelled. Nearby the San Bento Palace in Lisbon is the residence of the Prime Minister of Portugal.
After the 1974 Revolution, the square in front of the San Bento Palace in Lisbon became a privileged place of demonstration in Lisbon.