Four marvellous libraries from around the world

Published on Wednesday 10th, Jun 2020

 Every time I enter a library, it feels as if I am on a pilgrimage to a holy shrine. I stroll through the corridors, surrounded by meditative silence, the familiar aroma of old books, and the manifested attempts of humanity to challenge the frontiers of understanding, and, with every inhale, I breathe in a bit of inspiration, creativity, and faith in the grandeur that our species can achieve. 

During my trips, I always make an extra effort to visit a local library of importance, so, here is a collection of four which, I am sure you will enjoy. 

The library of Trinity College in Dublin 

The Trinity College library was founded in 1592 – along with the college itself – by Queen Elizabeth I. Its famed Long Room, though, dates to the 18th century and hosts more than 200,000 old books, including the Book of Kells: a renowned 9th-century gospel manuscript. The oak bookcases are adorned with marble busts of famous philosophers, poets, and writers, while metallic and wooden ladders allow access to the higher shelves. The wooden casing that decorates the entire room is elaborately carved, while the vaulted ceiling and the Corinthian-style columns on the walls remind of Europe’s grandiose antiquity. 

Basilica Y Convento de San Francisco in Lima 

The Church and Convent of San Fransisco is one of the most significant religious complexes in Lima and, perhaps, the most impressive example of Colonial architecture in Latin America. Besides its architectural and historical value, though, it is known for the spectacular catacombs and a stunning library which hosts more than 25,000 books, among which the first Spanish dictionary and rare texts predating the Spanish conquest. 

The National and University Library in Ljubljana 

Ljubljana boasts of many beautiful buildings, but the National Library stands out by far. It was built in the mid-war period to designs of the famous Slovenian architect Jože Plečnik and is regarded as, possibly, his most significant work in the country. Among other things, the library hosts a rich collection of medieval manuscripts, incunabula, and Renaissance prints. 

The library was built on the site of the former Ducal Court, a 17th-century Baroque palace destroyed in the earthquake of 1895. The building's exterior reflects Italian influences, but it also hosts elements from all over Slovenia, projecting an image of national unity and identity. Its characteristic façade, combining bricks and stone blocks, was modelled on the Zuccari Palace (Palazzo Zuccari) in Rome. The windows resemble half-opened books, while the two handles on the main entrance door are decorated with the head of Pegasus, a winged horse, symbolically guiding visitors to the realm of knowledge. 

From the vestibule, a door leads to a monumental central staircase with 32 pillars of black Podpeč marble and,, further on, to the library's grand reading room, which, unfortunately, I did not see, missing out the famous Plečnik's chandeliers and the glass walls that allow ample light into the hall. Finally, to indicate the course of the Roman and medieval town walls which ran alongside the Library building, Plečnik erected a line of monuments dedicated to famous Slavicists and Slovenian composers. 


Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Alexandria 

I visited the modern Library of Alexandria in 2007, just five years after it was delivered to the public. This project of vast proportions, supported by the Egyptian government and UNESCO, was created to commemorate the famous, ancient library, and rekindle the cultural and intellectual reputation the region enjoyed 2000 years ago. 

The library can house a spectacular number of eight million books. With its 20,000 sq.m. central reading room, conference centre, specialized libraries for maps, multimedia, museums, art galleries for temporary and permanent exhibitions, planetarium, and manuscript restoration laboratory, it is undoubtedly a magnificent cultural centre attracting thousands of local and international visitors, readers, and scholars. It is trilingual, with books in Arabic, French, and English; however, it is worth noting that a donation of 500,000 books from the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BnF) turned it into the sixth-largest Francophone library in the world. 


This article was first published on the Patreon page of Rahhalah's Advisor for Europe, Konstantina Sakellariou.

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