The World’s Most Beautiful Libraries in PragueRuss Bily
If you’re going to visit the delightful capital of Czech Republic Prague, then don’t forget to put in your must-see list – two very beautiful libraries – the Clementinum Library and the Strahov Library.
The Clementinum Library
The first one, the Czech National Library, is part of the Clementinum – a complex of historical buildings that also houses the Astronomical Tower with an amazing view of the beautiful center of Prague, Meridian Hall and the Mirror Chapel where different concerts are taking place.
This baroque building was first opened in 1722 as a part of Jesuit University which was the third college in the world for its size. From its founding until the present day it has been a living center of culture and education and a symbol of magical beauty. Nowadays the library has more than 22 000 rare books. And by the way, everything is untouched as it was almost 300 years ago.
If you take a chance and visit Clementinum, you’ll understand why it is one the most beautiful libraries in the world! You’ll be amazed and won’t be able to take your eyes off the magnificent frescoes, old and rare books, a balcony with highly ornate, railing and stairs, historically rare big globes, handmade by the Jesuits, in the center of the room and astronomical clocks.
The Library Hall is decorated with rich golds, mahogany woods, and frescoes. The fresco paintings represent allegorical motifs of education, portraits of Jesuit saints and patrons of the university. Frescoes that are adorning the ceiling are painted by German-born artist Jan Hiebl.
He was also known for his painting trick which created the illusion of the ceiling disappearing, so you can see sunlight coming into the room. The illusive painting of the cupola symbolizes the temple of wisdom. There are medallions of the famous Jesuits on the sides and a portrait of Emperor Joseph II in the front part of the library.
Except for the lavishly decorated interior, the Clementinum Library has the rarest books’ collection which mainly consists of theological books in different languages. There are also books that have been in the library since the time of the Jesuits (the one with white painted spines and red marks). The oldest book is “Vyshegrad Codex” (1085) – an illuminated Romanesque Gospel Book that dates back to 11th century and is considered to be the coronation Gospel of the first Czech king Vratyslav II.
The copy of this book is on the exhibition in a lobby of the library. Also, you can find here “Chronicle of Dalimil” (pocket edition), books of dogmatic, hermetic, numerology, over 6 000 medieval manuscripts, more than 3 000 incunabula editions and many other rare volumes. Recently the library has provided some books for Google digitization, so soon these books will be available in a digital library on Google Books.
The Clementinum was mentioned in one of the famous Spanish novel “The Secret Miracle” by Jorge Luise Borges where the main character had a dream about the library of Clementinum in which the librarians looked for God in the library books. Also, some parts of the movie “Prince and Me” were shot in Clementinum.
Address: Marianske street 5, 11000 Prague, 1-Stare Mesto, Czech Republic
Ticket office: +420 733 129 252
January – February: 10:00 am – 4:30 pm
March – October: 10:00 am – 6:00 pm
November – December: 10:00 am – 5:30 pm
Full = 220.00 CZK
Family = 500.00 CZK (1-2 adults with at least 1 and up to 3 children)
Reduced = 140.00 CZK (children from 8 to 18 years, high school and university students under 26)
Free – children under 7 years
Don’t forget to buy Prague Card then you’ll have 25% off the full admission.
How to get there:
The Clementinum is situated near the Old Town Square, next to the Charles Bridge, in the historical center of Prague.
Subway: Green line A, station “Staromestska”
Tramway: lines 17 – 18 stop “Straromestska” or “Karlove Lazne”
You can have guided tours in different languages in the Clementinum. Tours begin daily at 10.00 am and every 30 minutes and last about 45 minutes. When you are going to visit Clementium in a group of over 10 people, then you need to make a reservation in advance by e-mail [email protected] or by phone +420 606 100 293. The tour can be held with a maximum of 25 people.
After an excursion, you can have a rest and eat a delicious meal at the Klementinum restaurant which is situated in the same complex as Clementinum. It has s large variety of traditional Czech dishes which taste great. The service is nice and attentive.
Address: Karlova 1, 11000 Prague 1 – Stare Mesto
The Strahov Library
The second one Prague’s library is the Strahov library. It is situated in one of Prague districts called Strahov, in the second oldest monastery in the city.
One of the most valuable and best-preserved historical libraries has a collection which consists of approximately 200 000 old prints, mostly from the period between the 16th and the 18th century, around 3 000 manuscripts and 1500 first prints. One of the most precious books is the Strahov Evangeliary from the 9th century.
This Library is the largest monastic library in the country and consists of two amazing baroque halls dating from the 17th and 18th centuries – the Theological and Philosophical Halls. You can peek through the doors but can’t go inside.
The Theological Hall, the oldest part of the library, was built by Giovanni Domenico Orsi in 1679 in the Baroque style. Its collections stayed intact for hundreds of years. The low, curved ceiling is encrusted in ornate baroque stucco work and decorated with painted cartouches depicting the theme of “True Wisdom”. One of the mottoes that adorn the ceiling is “the beginning of wisdom is the fear of God”. There are about 18 000 books focused on theology and earth and astronomical globes on both sides of the hall.
During the 17th and 18th centuries, the Strahov Library gained many books that’s why it was needed another hall to keep them. So the Philosophical Hall with the stunning classicist interior was built by Jan Ignaz Palliardi. It has the beautifully carved and gilded floor-to-ceiling walnut shelving that was rescued from another monastery. There are spiral staircases in the corners to get to the upper gallery.
On the ceiling, you can see a majestic fresco “Mankind’s Quest for True Wisdom”. In the center of the fresco amid a burst of golden light there is the enthroned figure of Divine Providence and around the edges are figure ranging from Adam and Eve to the Greek philosophers. The Hall is by far not only focusing on religion; there are also medical, pharmaceutical, mathematical, juridical, philosophical, geographical, astronomical, and other books. It is 32 m long, 10 m wide and 14 m high.
There is also an 18th-century Cabinet of Curiosities in the lobby outside the hall which displays the remains of sharks, skates, and other sea creatures.
Many important personalities visited the Strahov Library, for example, Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson and Napoleon’s wife Marie Louise. And by the way, its magnificent halls have served as the backdrop for Hollywood blockbusters. For example, you can spot the library in the horror film “From Hell” starring Johnny Depp and in the Bond film “Casino Royale” starring Daniel Craig.
Address: Kralovska kanonie premonstratu na Strahove, Strahovske nadvori 1/132, 11800 Prague, Czech Republic
Phone Number: +420 233107718
Open daily throughout the year, except 24 and 25 December and Easter Sunday.
09:00 am – 05:00 pm, lunchtime break 12:00 pm – 01:00 pm.
Basic = 120.00 CZK
Reduced = 60.00 CZK
How to get there:
Public transport: From the city center – tram no. 22 (Pohorelec) or you can use information from http://spojeni.dpp.cz/ConnForm.aspx?cl=E5
Bus: In Dlabacov street, 10-minute parking (parking fee: Mon – Sun 8 am – 10 pm 50 CZK/ 10 min). In Keplerova street, near Brusnice stop (no operating hours or charges). The buses can only drop visitors off and pick them up at the designated stops, no waiting.
Guide texts in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Polish, Japanese, Russian, etc., to be borrowed by visitors are available at library custodians. Information about the guided tour through the interior of the Strahov Library Monday – Friday from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm: +420 602190297. The number of visitors is limited.
Take a peek inside these two magnificent libraries in Prague. You’ll be amazed by their luxury décor! These libraries are a real hidden treasure. If you are in Prague they are certainly worth visiting!