Explore the Unbelievably Beautiful 15 Libraries in the World!
Hello Aluxers and welcome to another exciting original article presented by Alux.com. Today we have something for the book lovers and fans of architecture alike. The history of libraries dates back to the Library of Alexandria in Egypt, which was the first and greatest library of the ancient world.
Over the centuries, libraries have been centers of culture and knowledge and a reflection of the greater society. Today the design of libraries varies greatly from basic and functional to elaborate and grandiose, but the best libraries in the world are a perfect combination of function and beauty. Today we are going to look at some of the libraries throughout the world that achieve this perfect balance with our list of the 15 most beautiful libraries in the world, so let’s get started.
- 15. National Library of France – Paris, France
- 14. Nakajima [Naw-ka-jima] Library – Akita, Japan
- 13. John Rylands Library – Manchester, England
- 12. The Abbey Library of Saint Gall – St. Gall, Switzerland
- 11.National Library of Chile – Santiago, Chile
- 10. The Library of the Convent of Mafra – Lisbon, Portugal
- 9. Strahov [Struh-hov] Library – Prague, Czech Republic
- 8. The Boston Public Library – Boston, Massachusetts
- 7. Library of El Escorial – Spain
- 6. Biblioteca Marciana – Venice, Italy
- 5. Royal Portuguese Cabinet of Reading – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
- 4. Laurentian Library – Florence, Italy
- 3. Wiblingen Monastery Library – Ulm, Germany
- 2. Admont Abbey Library – Admont, Austria
- 1. Library of Congress – Washington, D.C.
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National Library of France – Paris, France
The National Library of France traces its origins back to the royal library of King Charles V in 1368. Over the years, the library has moved multiple times, but it maintained its status as the largest library in the world up until the late 1800s. The library has been rebuilt and expanded several times, with the newest version being unveiled in December 1996. That same year, the library won the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture.
Today, the library holds about 14 million books in addition to millions of other documents, videos, photographs, and more. Among its collection is over 5,000 original Greek manuscripts.
Nakajima [Naw-ka-jima] Library – Akita, Japan
Known as the library that never sleeps, the Nakajima Library is the only library in Japan that’s open 24 hours a day 365 days a year. Its design resembles the Roman Colosseum with exposed wooden beams made from local cedar in a circular design. This is why it’s referred to as the ‘Book Coliseum.’ The library is part of Akita International University, but it is also open to the public all year round. The building is one of the more recent on our list, having only been completed in 2008.
John Rylands Library – Manchester, England
Part of the University of Manchester, the John Ryland’s Library is built in the neo-Gothic style and has been open to the public since 1900. It has a number of features that add to its beauty, including two stained glass windows, bronze work, and a series of statues. Its special collections are believed to be among the largest in the United Kingdom and include priceless items like an original Gutenberg Bible.
The Abbey Library of Saint Gall – St. Gall, Switzerland
The exact date of the founding of the Abbey Library of Saint Gall is unknown, but it was likely sometime around the year 700. The Abbey of Saint Gall was destroyed in a fire in 937, but the library survived. It is one of the earliest monastic libraries founded in the world, and its collection is the oldest in Switzerland.
The library holds nearly 160,000 volumes, including 1650 books that were printed before the year 1500. There are also over 2000 manuscripts that date back to the 8th century. In 1983, the library was named as a World Heritage Site. The beauty of this library is found in its intricate woodwork, classic paintings, and peaceful lighting.
National Library of Chile – Santiago, Chile
Built in 1925, the National Library of Chile still stands as one of the largest libraries in Latin America. Its beauty is enhanced by marble staircases, ornate sculptures, stained glass skylights, and an impressive iron chandelier. The exterior is a gorgeous example of neoclassical architecture. The library also holds the National Archives of Chile as well as a valuable collection of books and manuscripts.
The Library of the Convent of Mafra – Lisbon, Portugal
Founded by King John V of Portugal in 1717, the Library of the Convent of Mafra is not only beautiful but historical. It’s located in the national palace in Lisbon, and it holds 36,000 volumes, including a number of rare manuscripts like a 1543 edition of the Quran. The valuable collection is protected by an army of bats which hunt insects that eat paper, ink, and glue. The library is open to the public but acts primarily as a museum today.
Strahov [Struh-hov] Library – Prague, Czech Republic
The Strahov Library is part of the Strahov Monastery that was founded in 1143, but the current building was constructed in Prague starting in the 1600s. Its collection includes over 200,000 volumes, including over 1500 first prints that are kept tucked away in a special depository. The stucco decorations and paintings on the ceiling were added in the 1720s. The primary fresco is entitled Mankind’s Quest for True Wisdom. There are also two baroque halls and floor to ceiling walnut shelving.
The Boston Public Library – Boston, Massachusetts
With a collection of over 1.2 million rare books and documents that are displayed on a rotational basis, you never know what you may discover at the Boston Public Library. These rare items include first edition Shakespeare plays, records from Colonial Boston, and original music scores by Mozart.
In addition to the book collection, you’ll find sculptures, tapestries, and paintings that enhance the architectural beauty of the 19th century building. The original building was opened in 1853, and an impressive modern addition opened in 1972. Over two million people visit the library each year.
Library of El Escorial – Spain
El Escorial is a royal residence where the King of Spain used to reside. Part of the residence is the royal library, which today is open to the public. It was the first library in all of Spain to break away from Medieval design. Its collection of 40,000 volumes are found on carved wood shelves on large bookcases in the great hall with marble floors. The vault of the ceiling is covered in frescoes that reflect the Renaissance period.
Biblioteca Marciana – Venice, Italy
The Biblioteca Marciana, which translates to National Library of St. Mark, is a prime example of Venetian Renaissance architecture. Construction began in 1537 and wasn’t completed until 1588. In addition to housing over one million printed books and 13,000 manuscripts, the library is home to numerous works of sixteenth-century Venice painters as well as intricate carvings and statues. Not a single patch of bare wall can be found as the interior is elaborately decorated. The exterior is just as striking with its numerous columns and statues lining the roof.
Royal Portuguese Cabinet of Reading – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The Royal Portuguese Cabinet of Reading holds the largest collection of Portuguese works outside of Portugal with a total collection of over 350,000 volumes. This library, located in the center of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, was named as the fourth most beautiful library in the world by Time magazine. The wooden bookcases are stunning, but the centerpiece of the structure is an intricate chandelier and iron skylight that enhance the overall beauty. The library has been open to the public since 1900.
Laurentian Library – Florence, Italy
The Medici family had the Laurentian Library built in Florence in 1571 to symbolize that they were no longer merchants but intellectuals who exemplified high society. Although it wasn’t completed until years after his death, Michelangelo designed the library around a courtyard and participated in the early years of construction. The reading room holds the original benches and desks that were used hundreds of years ago.
The library is comprised of only 11,000 manuscripts, including 4,500 early printed books, but it holds historical significance and it is also certainly one of the most beautiful libraries in the world.
Wiblingen Monastery Library – Ulm, Germany
Formerly inhabited by Benedictine monks, this stunningly beautiful library was completed in 1744 and was modeled after the Austrian National Library in the Baroque style. The library survived World War II bombing, which wiped out 80 percent of the German town of Ulm. Today the monastery is utilized by the University of Ulm, but the library is open to the public.
The carvings found throughout the library are designed to look like marble but are actually formed from wood. The ceilings and walls are also covered with beautiful frescoes that combine with the ornate decorations, banisters, and columns to create one of the most breathtaking libraries in the world.
Admont Abbey Library – Admont, Austria
As the world’s largest Abbey library, the Admont Abbey Library is a beautiful example of European Baroque architecture. The beauty of its interior is accented by frescoes and sculptures. The building was completed in Admont, Austria, in 1776. The seven ceiling frescoes represent the phases of human understanding from thought and speech to art and science to divine revelation. They were painted by the 80-year-old Bartolomeo Altomonte. The library collection includes nearly 200,000 books, including some manuscripts dating back to the 8th century.
Resource: 10 Best Ski Resorts In Austria
Library of Congress – Washington, D.C.
We’ve reached the top of our list, and we’ve saved the biggest and arguably the best for last. The Library of Congress became the largest library in the world when it opened in 1897. The basis of the entire library was Thomas Jefferson’s personal book collection, which he donated when British troops set the original Library of Congress on fire.
The building was created with an ornate design with top quality materials that include marble, gold, bronze, and mahogany. The hand-carved sculptures and paintings that decorate the library are a result of a collaboration o 50 American artists. It’s located on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., and it still holds the title of largest library in the world with more than 168 million items included in its collection.
So there you have it, the top 15 most beautiful libraries in the world. These libraries are worth a special trip, but the cities they are located in also offer many other sites that are worth exploring.
QOTD: Now that we’ve gone through the list, we’d like to know: Which of these libraries is located in a city you would most want to visit? Let us know in the comments.