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Biblioteca Joanina: the world’s most amazing library

2013 has been, so far, a great year for Coimbra’s patrimony. First, the University and some surrounding areas like the street of Sofia, where the city’s centenary colleges are located, earned the stamp of World Heritage Site provided by UNESCO, a certification that ensures the preservation of essential places to Coimbra’s history. Then, in October, the British newspaper The Telegraph chose the University’s Biblioteca Joanina (Baroque Library) to open its list of the 16 most spectacular libraries in the world.

The building, located at the Paço das Escolas (School Court), is one of the central points of UNESCO’s classification. The beginning of the construction of the library goes back to 1717, a process that only ended in 1728, when this “world heritage jewel” was completed. Who called it like this was its director Augusto José Bernardes, who highlights the distinction made by The Telegraph as a proof that the Joanina “is not exclusive of the university, of the city or of the country”. It belongs to the world!

Currently, the Baroque Library stores 200 thousand books, many of them extremely rare. The space sports a unique Rococo style and has always been considered one of the most spectacular baroque libraries in Europe. Unfortunately, from the three floors that make up the building, formerly dubbed House of the Library, you can only visit the Noble Floor, the only one open to the public. Here you can find about 40 thousand documents and books, many of them dated before the year 1800.

To end your visit, take five minutes to admire the way the building’s architecture involves the portrait of King John V. Given that the central structure of the Baroque Library makes the Noble Floor look like a chapel, the picture almost takes the place of the altar, contributing to the awesomeness of what is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful buildings in Europe and the world. The library is open every day, but check the schedule on the website of the University.

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