Church Libraries (page 3)


The library at Vorau Abbey in Styria, Austria. The library was built in 1730 and holds 17,000 volumes in the main hall plus another 20,000 books in other rooms. On the ceiling of the library there are three main frescos depicting the three main library subjects: Philosophy (the Queen of Sheba's visit to the wise King Salomon), Theology (Deacon Philippus explains the meaning of the Prophet Isaiah to the chamberlain of the Ethiopian queen) and Jurisprudence (King Salomon’s decision about the child and its real mother).
Two huge, 43-inch globes from 1688 show the earth and heavens as they was known in the 17th century. Fascinatingly, there are also two large half-globes at either end of the main library hall that were used for communication. The monks on the one end of the library could whisper questions into the one hemisphere and the librarian could hear it at his desk near the other one.



The Library at Benedictine Abbey in Altenburg, Austria. The library was built in Baroque style around the 1730s, with marble columns and beautiful ceiling frescoes by Paul Troger and 12,000 volumes.



The Library at the Benedictine Abbey at Metten, Germany.



The Novacella/Neustift Abbey Library in South Tyrol, in the northernmost part of Italy. Although the Augustinian monastery had been there since the 12th century, the splendid library hall was designed in the Baroque style during the 18th century by architect Giuseppe Sartori (1714-1791). It currently houses about 96,000 books and manuscripts.


6225 (Thanks to Peter from Vienna for sending the link)

The Library at the Heiligenkreutz Abbey in Austria. The Abbey was founded in 1135, and suffered terribly during the Turkish wars of 1529 and 1683. The library, of baroque design,  holds 50,000 volumes, and the Abbey has its own theological seminary and college. Its 52 priests are engaged in teaching and administering the affairs of the 22 parishes that belong to the monastery.


6226 (Thank you Peter from Vienna)

Haeinsa or “Temple of Reflection on a Smooth Sea” is one of the foremost Chogye Buddhist temples in South Korea. It is the home of the Tripitaka Koreana, the whole of the Buddhist Scriptures carved onto 81,258 wooden printing blocks, which it has housed since 1398.



The Abbey Library of St. Florian, Austria, one of the oldest and most impressive monastery libraries in Austria. The magnificent, late-Baroque main room boasts floor-to-ceiling, huge bookshelves that were designed to shield the sphere of the spirit from the outside world. The luminous ceiling fresco (1747) by Bartolomeo Altomonte (figural part) and Antonio Tassi (architectural painting) shows the marriage of virtue and science under the auspices of religion.

The Abbey Library holds 150,000 volumes, including 952 incunabula, and around 800 medieval manuscripts. In 1930 the Abbey acquired the collection of Viennese Orientalist Rudolf Geyer (1861-1929), one of the largest collections of Arabic literature between Rome and Berlin. The library is open by appointment.



The Library Hall at Wiblingen Abbey, a former Benedictine abbey in Ulm, Germany. Although the Abbey had existed since 1093, it underwent extensive renewal in the 18th century and the library was completed in 1744, designed by Baroque architect Christian Wiedemann. The ceiling fresco was painted by Martin Kuen and the allegories were carved by Dominikus Hermenegild Herberger around 1750. Entering the Library, visitors see the inscription “In quo omnes thesauri sapientiae et scientiae” which means “In which are stored all treasures of knowledge and science,” a perfect quote for any library.

The library contains extensive knowledge-related imagery and allegories, both Pagan and Christian. As Margot Granitsas wrote in her December 03, 1989 NY Times article: “a snake with the head of an angel representing Deceit; Diogenes searching with his lantern for the perfect man; Faith with a cross and a chalice, Hope with rudder and cross; busts of great philosophers, scientists and artists. The nine muses on Parnassus share ceiling space with Alexander the Great in discourse with Diogenes, Pegasus, Apollo. Here all knowledge, legend and allegory seems to have been captured in paint, marble, gilt or plaster.” The Library Hall is open to the public and guided tours are available.


The Library of the Ottobeuren Abbey at Ottobeuren, Germany. The library was built between 1711 and 1725. The Baroque masterpiece is a small, bright space that looms large. Its space is accentuated by rows of double marble columns with gilded Corinthian capitals that support a bookcase-laden balcony that extends around the edges of the first floor.  The ornate frescos are bright, complex and beautiful, while the stuccowork in the room is masterful.  A statue of Minerva (or what appears to be  Minerva - it can only be seen from the back) graces the center floor of the room. The Abbey is open for tours, although you can only view the library from the doorway.