15 Spectacular Libraries in Europe

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We've posted photos of gorgeous libraries before, but we just can’t get enough of these stunning book repositories. For those of you who share this opinion, here are fifteen of the most beautiful libraries throughout Europe, in no particular order.

Trinity College Library, Ireland

Aside from being absolutely gorgeous, with two story dark wooden arches, this is also the largest library in all of Ireland. It serves as the country’s copyright library, where a copy of all new books and periodicals must be sent when they apply for copyright protection. The library is also home to the famous Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript created by Celtic monks around the year 800.

Image courtesy of Irish Welcome Tours' Flickr stream.

Bristol Central Library, England

This library, completed in 1906, is fascinating for its unique combination of architectural styles. The front exterior was designed in Tudor Revival and Modern Movement styles in order to allow it to harmonize with the next door Abbey Gatehouse. It was built on a slope, and the front of the building is only three stories tall. But thanks to the two basement levels built into the hill, the back of the building has five stories, and features a much more plain design than that of the front. Inside, the design is mostly Classical, featuring ample arches, marble flooring and a stunning turquoise glass mosaic at the entrance hall.

Image courtesy of Steve Cadman's Flickr stream.

Codrington Library, England

The Codrington Library of Oxford University was completed in 1751 and has been used by scholars ever since. In the late 1990s, the building underwent a massive renovation in order to provide better protection for the books and to make the library more user friendly with better wiring and some new electronic work stations.

Images courtesy of Miguel Bernas' and Beth Hoffman's Flickr streams.

Bibliothe?que Nationale de France, France

The National Library of France has expanded greatly since new buildings were added to house the collection in 1988. Even so, the old buildings on the Rue de Richelieu are still in use, and are utterly gorgeous as well. These buildings were completed in 1868, and by 1896 the library was the largest book repository in the world, although that record has since been taken from it.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia user Zubro.

The Library of El Escorial, Spain

This library is located in Royal Seat of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, the historical residence of the king of Spain. Phillip II was responsible for adding the library and most of the books originally held within. The vaulted ceilings were painted with gorgeous frescoes, each representing one of the seven liberal arts: rhetoric, dialectic, music, grammar, arithmetic, geometry and astronomy. These days, the library is a World Heritage Site, and it holds more than 40,000 volumes.

Image courtesy of Jose Maria Cuellar's Flickr stream.

Biblioteca Geral, University of Coimbra, Portugal

The General Library of the University of Coimbra consists of two buildings, the New Building built in 1962, and the Joanina Library built in 1725. The Joanina Library is adorned with Baroque décor and houses the library’s volumes that date from before 1800.

Images courtesy of Taco Ekkel's and Mick L's Flickr streams.

Handelingenkamer, Netherlands

The library of the Dutch Parliament contains every record of parliamentary hearings and discussions. Because it was built before electric lighting made the storage of books a lot safer, the building was constructed with a massive leaded glass dome in the ceiling to allow in light and minimize the need for candles and gas lamps inside the library.

Image courtesy of Jackie Kever's Flickr stream.

Delft University of Technology Library, Netherlands

While modern architecture can often be fascinating and unique, it rarely stands up to more classical designs in terms of beauty. The Delft University of Technology library is a rare exception. With a massive skylight in the ceiling that becomes a steel cone after escaping the confines of the library and an eco-friendly grass-covered roof, the library is both stunning and totally modern.

Images courtesy of Robert Lochner's and Thomas Guignard's Flickr streams.

Abbey Library of St. Gallen, Switzerland

This lovely library is not only the oldest in Switzerland, but one of the oldest and most important monastery libraries in the world, holding over 160,000 volumes, many of which date back as far as the 8th century. The Rococo-styled library is often considered one of the most perfect libraries in the world and has earned the Abbey a place as a World Heritage Site.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia user Stibiwiki.

Admont Abbey Library, Austria

Built in 1776, the Admont Abbey Library is the largest monastery library in the world. The ceiling is adorned with frescoes depicting the stages of human knowledge up until the Divine Revelation. The entire design reflects the ideals and values of the Enlightenment.

Melk Monastery Library, Austria

The Baroque-styled abbey and the library within were completed in 1736 based on designs by Jakob Prandtauer. The library includes a world-famous collection of musical manuscripts and features stunning frescoes by artist Paul Troger.

Austrian National Library, Austria

Austria’s largest library is located in the Hofburg Palace in Vienna and houses over 7.4 million items in its collections. The library was completed in 1723 and features sculptures by Lorenzo Mattielli and Peter Strudel and frescoes by Daniel Gran.

Images courtesy of Craig Elliot's and Jessica Curtin's Flickr streams.

Wiblingen Monastery Library, Germany

This library, completed in 1744, was modeled in the Baroque style after the Austrian National Library, but it is by no means just a cheap imitation of the original, and it certainly stands on its own. Just outside the library there is an inscription reading “In quo omnes thesauri sapientiae et scientiae,” which translates to “In which are stored all treasures of knowledge and science.”

Image courtesy of volzotan's Flickr stream.

Strahov Monastery Library, Czech Republic

This impressive library collection contains over 200,000 volumes, including just about every important title printed in central Europe by the end of the 18th century. While it started being built up over 860 years ago, both the collection and the building housing the books repeatedly fell victim to fires, plundering and war. In fact, the current building was not erected until 1679, and a second hall was added near the end of the 18th century. The collection continued to be dispersed during periods of Nazism and communist rule, although the library has since managed to recover most of the titles lost during the last century.

As if the gorgeous décor and impressive book collection weren’t impressive enough on their own, the library also has a favorite feature of many geeks –- two secret passageways hidden by bookshelves and opened with fake books.

Images courtesy of Claudia Dias' and James Whitesmith's Flickr streams.

Clementinum National Library, Czech Republic

The series of buildings that make up this National Library owe their inception to an 11th century chapel dedicated to Saint Clement (hence the name), although the buildings you see now were not constructed until much later, when a Jesuit college was built on the location. The Jesuits transferred a number of books to the new college in 1622. The National Library itself was founded in 1781, constructed in a Baroque style, and has served as a copyright library since 1782.

The collection now includes historical examples of Czech literature, special materials relating to Tycho Brahe, and a unique collection of Mozart’s personal effects. In 2005, UNESCO awarded the library their Memory of the World prize.

Image courtesy of Bruno Delzant's Flickr stream.

Have any of you visited any of these stunning libraries? Do you guys have any tips for potential tourists hoping to visit? For those that haven’t been to these locations, what is your favorite library?

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May 1, 2012 - 7:34am
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