Europe

The Clementinum Library: one of the jewels of Prague

Visiting the Clementinum library is one of the obligatory stops in Prague. This is located inside one of the most representative complexes of the Baroque style not only of the city, but of the world.

The Clementinum complex takes its name as a reference to the well-known chapel of San Clemente, built in the 11th century. Although in its beginnings it was used as a Dominican monastery, it became, just in the middle of the 16th century, a Jesuit college. The current National Library of Prague is one of the jewels of this Czech city.

The history of the Clementinum library

This is one of the most beautiful libraries in the world. Inaugurated in 1722 as part of the Jesuit university, it is part of the architectural complex of the Clementinum, one of the best examples of Baroque architecture in the city of Prague.

The enclosure, which remains in perfect condition since the eighteenth century, also offers the possibility of observing the typical furniture of the time and a wide collection of works of art. The spectacular frescoes that adorn the high ceilings and that are the work of Jan Hiebl stand out. They reflect part of the daily life of the Jesuits, especially that related to education.

Nevertheless, the highlight of the Clementinum library is its extensive collection of books. It is composed of more than 20,000 volumes, among which are works of great historical importance. Among them, some stand out that were brought by Emperor José II himself to gather in it all the important books from the different libraries of the country.

It is important to mention that the library is specialized in theological literature. In fact, in 1777 it was declared by Maria Teresa I of Austria herself as a University and Public Library. Finally, in 1781 it was declared a National Library, which is how it is currently known.

Visiting the library of the Clementinum

As soon as we enter, we will walk through the main lobby of the complex until we reach the library. There we will find ourselves before a wide space full of shelves and racks Baroque style with books, historical relics and impressive frescoes.

What impresses the most is his attention to detail. Everything, from the floor to the walls and ceilings, is decorated, as well as the shelves that support hundreds of perfectly ordered volumes. Here are some of the oldest books in Europe, including pieces from the 11th century.

During the visit we will be able to see a copy of the Vysehrad Codex, considered one of the most valuable Bohemian manuscripts. This is so important that it has become the national cultural monument of the Czech Republic.

Next, down the aisle we’ll find not just books but more than a dozen handcrafted world globes. This collection of globes is worthy of admiration, since both the materials and the dedication of their creators make them true works of art. Next to them are some astronomical clocks designed by the Jesuits.

To enjoy to the fullest and not miss a detail of each corner and object of the library, It is advisable to opt for a guided tour. This, lasting no more than an hour, helps to better appreciate the entire complex and discover every detail of the library, from the value of its architectural pieces to the history that books and walls keep.

Useful information and other places of interest

Getting to the Clementinum is relatively easy. The venue is located next to the Old Town Squarenear the bank of the Vltava River.

The price of admission is around 10 euros per person, but it includes not only the visit to the library, but also the entire complex. Here we can walk through the famous Hall of Mirrorswhere in addition to its exquisite decoration there is an organ that dates back to the 18th century and was played by Mozart himself.

Also included in the visit is the possibility of climbing its astronomical towers. These, which now serve as viewpoints for tourists and onlookers, offer one of the most characteristic views of the city of Prague. In them, also during the 18th century, well-known scientists such as Josef Stepling consulted the sky and wrote down their astronomical discoveries.

Also, if we have time, we can walk through what is known as the Meridians Room. In it there are two large quadrants that were used for the measurement and monitoring of celestial bodies. Also on display within the room are some of the original instruments used by scientists of the time.

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