Saturday, June 19, 2010
Libraries Worth Traveling to See
Tucked away, in hidden corners of the world, are some old libraries, with soaring ceilings and paintings to match the Sistine Chapel. These treasures are all over the globe, including in the U.S., and I’ll be blogging about several in the weeks to come.
The library in Strahov Monastery in Prague holds documents going back centuries. Their most prized possession is a 9th century document, heavily ornamented, but that is not the only treasure there. The shelves are filled with priceless old manuscripts, most dating from the 17th and 18th centuries.
The library has suffered setbacks since its origin. In 1258 a fire damaged the building, and later, in the 15th century, Hussite warriors ransacked the monastery. When Sweden invaded Prague, they took many of the precious books back with them to Sweden.
After the Thirty Years War, the books were stored in a new hall, the present Theological Hall, built in 1679 (see photo at top). For years after that, to prevent fire or theft, readers were not permitted to bring a light inside the hall, or to stay after 7:30 p.m.
Over the centuries, the library became so renowned throughout Europe that visitors came from afar, not only to study the documents but also to see the library itself. Among those visitors was Napoleon’s wife, Mary Louise, who came in 1812.
The library is opened to visitors daily except for a few holidays. The public may use the card catalogue, and books may be read in the study hall, but because of the age and great value of the books, it is forbidden to take them from the library.
My next blog will be about another magnificent library, in another city. If you love libraries like I do, sign up to follow my blog. You may discover a treasure not far from where you live.