King John’s Library (Bibiloteca Joanina), Coimbra

Frankly I did not expect this opulence and grandeur inside a library! The library was an inspiration for the library of Harry Potter movie. With 2 Harry Potter book loving daughters in tow how could I give this great institution a miss!

Built in baroque style, the typical exaggerated artistic style, the exuberance of sculpture, painting, and architecture stunned me. The exterior of Bibiloteca Joanina is really deceiving. It is too simple. From floor to ceiling, everything was so artistically made. How great that this was the library’s ambiance, centuries back! I wonder if I can read anything sitting in this grand place, I would be simply sitting and staring at the walls.

Bibiloteca Joanina Coimbra Indrani

Bibiloteca Joanina Interiors

This library was built in the 18th century during the reign of the King João V with his sponsorship. The library receives its name from him. It was built to house the books of University of Coimbra. Today Bibiloteca Joanina houses some 56,000 books covering subject matters like medicine, history, arts, literature, law, theology, and philosophy. There are 3 large sections, their walls all lined up with stocks of books. The wooden bookstalls look lovely. The doorways catch attention as you cross from one section to another. They are decorated with coats of arms of the faculties.

Portugal Confidential mentions:

Architect Gaspar Ferreira designed Bibiloteca Joanina in the Baroque style.
Lisbon painters António Simões Ribeiro and Vicente Nunes were responsible for the composition of the intricate allegories on the ceiling.

Decorative artist Manuel da Silva was responsible for gilding and lacquering the shelves, producing a variety of motifs, some inspired by recent discoveries in the Orient.

Italian cabinet-maker and wood-carver constructed the sumptuous bookshelves and large study tables using exotic woods brought from Brazil

Bibiloteca Joanina Library Coimbra

All the wooden structures are made of oak and teak wood as these are termite and borer repellents. It seems there are bats too inside the library which venture out at night to feed on insects that destroy books. They allow limited time to tourists inside the library. The tickets mention the slot of time, and we are gently asked to move on. There used to be a prison in the basement of the building which now houses old ancient books. They weren’t strict about ‘no photography’ here.  The very purpose of halt at Coimbra was to visit this library. I was reminded of the Library of Pannonhalma Abbey of Hungary.

Statues of University of Coimbra, Portugal
Convento de Cristo, Tomar, Portugal

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