If books are the gateways to endless worlds, then libraries are sacred sanctuaries of knowledge and power. Whether they’re marvels of modern engineering and design, or a romantic Baroque-era showcase of architecture, here are five amazingly beautiful libraries that bibliophiles wouldn’t mind getting lost in.
Admont Abbey Library, Salzburg
Part of a Benedictine monastery, the Admont Abbey Library in Salzburg, Austria is the world’s largest monastic library, and a prime example of stunning Baroque-era architecture. Its white shelves are lined with thousands of books, while its golden balustrades and elaborate ceiling frescoes depict the stages of human knowledge; from thought and speech through the arts and sciences, and finally, the Divine Revelation. There are 48 windows around the library that allow natural light to filter in, and because of its gold and white colour scheme, many have likened it to the library in Walt Disney’s animated feature, Beauty and the Beast. The library has over 70,000 volumes – Belle would certainly be pleased!
Trinity College Library, Dublin
Every book that has ever been published in Ireland has a home at the Trinity College Library in Dublin. That’s over 7 million! The library is the only “legal deposit” library in Ireland, which means that all publishers are required to ‘deposit’ a copy of their work at Trinity, although most of it is now stored electronically. A highlight of the library would be the Long Room, which was built in the 18th century.
Like its namesake, this main chamber is a vast hall with a lower and upper gallery, lined with marble busts of writers, philosophers and college alumni. Kept here are several important artefacts and documents, including a copy of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic, the original Book of Kells and the Trinity College Harp “Brian Boru” – an oak and willow harp that is also a national symbol of Ireland. PS: Fans of the Star Wars franchise might find the Long Room a familiar sight, as it strongly resembles the Jedi archives of the Jedi Temple in Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones.
Biblioteca Joanina, Portugal
The Biblioteca Joanina, located within the prestigious University of Coimbra, has some pretty unusual long-term residents: a colony of bats. These winged creatures help to protect the old books from insects, and each night, the credenzas are covered in sheets of leather to protect them from bat guano, before they are cleaned up in the morning. Quirky fact aside, the library is one of the country’s most beautiful examples of Baroque architecture, with gilded shelves made from exotic wood, painted ceilings and soaring archways. Its elegant, classy interiors were apparently the basis for the library in the Harry Potter films, and since Portuguese university students are clad in black as part of their uniform, it’s easy to imagine being at Hogwarts!
Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Egypt
The grand Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Egypt pays homage to the Great Library of Alexandria – once a cradle of knowledge and power located on the same site, over two millennia ago. Situated on the banks of the ancient port Alexandria, the modern 11-storey building also houses important institutions, such as a planetarium, museums, a school and more. On the outside, the building is characterised by its circular tilting form, modeled after the ancient Lighthouse of Alexandria, and features stone carvings on its exterior. The library itself has a 20,000 square metre reading room with seven terraces, and holds up to 8 million books at full capacity.
Rampur Raza Library, India
Europe isn’t the only place with fairytale-like libraries. Asia has its fair share of gorgeous libraries too – like the Rampur Raza Library in Uttar Pradesh, India. The castle-like building features Indo-European architecture, with towering turrets and domes in an elegant shade of pink and yellow. The library once housed the private collection of Nawab Faizullah Khan – the ruler who built it in the 18th century – and is now managed by the local government. It carries over 60,000 printed books and rare Islamic manuscripts in a variety of languages, including Arabic, Hindi, Persian, Sanskrit and Turkish languages.