King John’s Library (Bibiloteca Joanina), Coimbra

Bibiloteca Joanina

Bibiloteca Joanina, popularly known as King John’s Library, is a prestigious part of Coimbra University.

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

Baroque style, typical exaggerated artistic style, the exuberance of sculpture, painting, and architecture will stun anyone for sure. The exterior of Bibiloteca Joanina is really deceiving. It is too simple. But inside, 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 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. Sadly the authorities there allow limited time to tourists to tour 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. Luckily 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

41 Responses to “King John’s Library (Bibiloteca Joanina), Coimbra

  • Awe! Thanks for sharing!

  • helmiriitta10
    2 years ago

    Very beautiful interior with decorations and all those ancient books.

  • Lovely Pics and Architecture.

  • I agree it is a beautiful grand library! Lovely images, thanks for sharing your visit.Happy Monday, enjoy your new week!

  • sylviakirk
    2 years ago

    What an awesome library!! And superb captures as always, Indrani! I really enjoyed reading about the history!! A great post for the day — again, as always!! I hope your new week/year is off to a great start!! Enjoy!!

  • That’s a wonderful bunch of pics Indrani…Happy happy new year 🙂

  • What a magnificent building.

  • Judith@Lavender Cottage
    2 years ago

    Some of the old libraries are indeed opulent, aren’t they? I saw a grand one when visiting Ireland a couple of years ago.

  • Wow, this is a library??? Thank you for such an eye-opening post! I would never think of visiting a library when I’m on vacation, but I shall make it a point to look out for this if I go to Portugal!

  • I’ve never seen such a gorgeous library before. It’s simply awesome. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  • WOW! What a fun place! It’s beautiful!

  • That’s an impressive library – I can see how it influenced Harry Potter (and numerous other movies and shows).

  • That’s quite an impressive library!

    I liked they have time slots for visitors and don’t allow hordes of them inside. That’s the way we should respect the place.

  • That’s an amazing library… 🙂 I love libraries…

  • Wow that’s one grand library.

  • Place with beautiful interior 🙂

  • Beautifully captured!!

  • Lovely architecture ! And 56000 books. Its really heaven for book lovers.

  • Oh, I am a Harry Potter FAN and so would love to visit this place

  • Wow… Truly magical !!!!

  • This is such a brilliant library. Lovely pictures.

  • Wow! What a beautiful library. This is equivalent to paradise for me. Wanna go there sometime soon 🙂
    Thanks for sharing, dear 🙂

  • Amazing architecture! Looks so promising! 🙂

  • Now that is some library!

  • wow!!! I wouldnt be able to read in this library too!!

  • Amazingly beautiful captures, Indrani! Thank you 🙂

  • Such an amazing Architecture around the place where great Readings take place.. Truly a great Library! Thanks for the Presentation, Indrani!

  • Very interesting place and truly remarkable library! I think visiting this library itself worth rather reading these books, although they must be rich in knowledge.

  • Stunning architecture! Impressive building! Greetings!

  • vatsala mallya
    2 years ago

    Mignificent library, with wonderful architechture ! A library is a place of great pleasure for readers ,and with such grandeaur and opulance inside , it has to be an amazing experience!.

  • I just love old style libraries filled with books from all different kinds of interesting subjects. Amazing that this library houses 56000 books. Imagine being able to read them all. What a beautiful monument.

  • What a fantastic looking library! And I love the fact that there are bats at night! Spending a night in the library, if it were possible, would be a fantastic experience! 🙂

  • I love the architecture of this library and it is so grand from within, you’re right, even grander than the exterior. I would go here, not probably to check the collection of books but for the architecture. Thanks for sharing!

  • I keep collecting reasons to visit Portugal, and this is another one! I used to be a librarian, so absolutely love old stacks, and the smell of books! I love how they use bats to eat the insects so that they don’t harm the books – what a marvellous way of using nature to keep these books safe.

  • I can see why it was an inspiration for Harry Potter. I have a daughter who’s also a huge fan so she was excited to look at the photos in this post. How interesting that bats actually live in it.

  • What a fascinating place! I love old books so exploring this library would be just up my alley. I can’t believe that they have bats inside the library. I guess that they are doing a good job with the insects, but I would have thought that they might harm the books.

    I can see Harry Potter scenes in your shots! Great pics.

  • I think this is the first library I’ve seen in recent times that isn’t strict about the ‘no photography here’ thing. I mean the library is too beautiful for that. I read somewhere bats were used in those age to drive away insects, it’s good to read about it here again. Nice pictures you have here. But sad much time is not allocated for visitors.

  • That is one gorgeous library! I should visit it, as I’m interested in all things Harry Potter. I live in the city which is the inspiration and birthplace of Harry Potter, after all – Edinburgh!

  • The good thing is, photography is allowed here so that you could get to document your visit here. This library is just simply fascinating, housing thousands of books in it. I sometimes do pay a visit the library, nowadays, people rarely visit one as we are into so much technology! The architecture here is classic!

  • Meg Jerrard
    1 month ago

    OMG this looks stunning. We have a massive collection of books in our house and it is our dream to create a library like this….although probably not possible with our limited space. Glad to know you can take photos here.

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