It is one of the most beautiful libraries in the world with an age of 600 years


It is one of the most beautiful libraries in the world with an age of 600 years


It is one of the most beautiful libraries in the world with an age of 600 years: One of the World’s Most Beautiful Libraries From the Medieval Age Over 600 Years Ago Will Stun You

Beautiful, sublime, beyond extravagant—this perfectly describes the State Hall of the Austrian National Library, undoubtedly one of the most beautiful libraries in the world.

The library sits squarely in the middle of Vienna, once the center of a vast and powerful empire across Europe.

As knowledge is power, the long-reigning Hapsburg family of old built this great library in their palace—where knowledge, cultural memory, and claims to sovereignty were collected to ensure the consolidation of their power.

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Inside the Austrian National Library. (agsaz/Shutterstock)


But no dynasty lasts forever. And as the Hapsburgs’ power waned, with growing aspirations for independence within its territories, the Imperial Library became the Austrian National Library, as it stands.

Yet it retains much of the splendor of an Emperor once thought to be ordained by God Himself.

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Inside the Austrian National Library. (aliaksei kruhlenia/Shutterstock)
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The fresco on the domed ceiling of the Austrian National Library’s State Hall. (jorisvo/Shutterstock)

Chief among the marvels of art, architecture, and cultural artifacts in the library, now a museum, is the State Hall with its dramatic baroque interior that sublimely seems to pierce through into the divine.
It is, of course, a library, and so there are volumes of books and manuscripts—some of great value, dating to medieval times—which tower on shelves on either side of the State Hall. They cannot be read, however, since the pages are frail from age and now rest as historic artifacts to be perused from a distance.

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Left: Detail of a fresco painting in the State Hall. (jorisvo/Shutterstock); Right: Interior of the Austrian National Library, located in Hofburg Palace. (agsaz/Shutterstock)

But so much more than books comprise the Imperial Library, attesting to the power and legacy of the Hapsburgs. It was revamped based on the plans of Leopold I and seen through by his son, Charles VI, who initiated construction in 1722.

Conceived as a total work of art in a baroque manner, it joins all the major arts—sculpture, architecture, fresco painting—into a single, synchronous harmony.

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A view of the ceiling of the Austrian National Library’s State Hall. (Evgeny Shmulev/Shutterstock)


The central oval of the hall is dominated by a Herculean statue portraying the likeness of Charles VI, crowned the Holy Roman Emperor. Two arched wings on either side correspond to two opposing themes: war and peace, with matching frescos and motifs.

Adorned with pillars, colored marble, and gold leaf, the hall soars over 60 feet high with a central dome ceiling. To look upon the main fresco, the heavens themselves fall from above, bleeding and blending into the local architecture.

Both divine and earthly figures populate the painted clouds and faux balconies in this work, titled “Becoming a God,” which joins harmoniously with the hall.

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A ceiling fresco inside State Hall in Hofburg Palace, Vienna. (jorisvo/Shutterstock)

If you visit Vienna, you will surely see on travel posters and brochures the façade, statues, and unreal frescoed interior of the State Hall as it’s among the most splendid jewels of Vienna.

Predating the State Hall, though, the Imperial Library traces back centuries earlier. In medieval times, it was a store of treasure for Duke Albrecht III in the late 1300s, held in a chapel inside the Duke’s castle.

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The façade of the State Hall in Vienna. (Borisb17/Shutterstock)

“In addition to jewels, gems, and all kinds of curiosities, the treasure chambers of the worldly regents also held the most valuable books,” the Austrian National Library states. “These treasures had not only a high material value but above all also a symbolic and sacred one.”

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A bookshelf full of antique books in the Austrian National Library. (Ann Raff/Shutterstock)

Among the collection was the oldest book in the library today, the Gospel Book, which famously depicts scenes from the four evangelists, decorated at the corners with the coats of arms of four houses: Austria, Styria, Tyrol, and Carinthia.

And, as the collection changed owners (including several Holy Roman Emperors) over the centuries, it was enlarged, with additional collections and libraries added through purchases, consolidations, and scholarly sojourns.

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A globe inside the Austrian National Library. (Yudai/Shutterstock); (Inset) Detail showing an ancient manuscript in the Austrian National Library, Vienna. (Alessandro Cristiano/Shutterstock)

Primarily, entering the High Renaissance, the library’s collection centered around the sciences, history, and genealogy to legitimize and safeguard Imperial legacy; the beauty of the manuscripts took a backseat to power.

Over time, though, during the 18th century, the mere representation of one family was criticized and the pursuit of knowledge became the library’s focus. An index system was introduced, and scientific works were added.

It was moved several times over its history: from the Duke’s castle; to Wiener Neustadt, the castle of Frederick III, in the 16th century; to Harrach House in 1623; before eventually being transferred to Hofburg, the Imperial Palace of the Hapsburgs, upon completion of the State Hall in 1726.

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Interior of Austrian National Library. (Nazar Skladanyi/Shutterstock)

The State Hall is the library’s crown jewel, though it extends beyond with additional wings, museums, and reading rooms enriching its collection. Mainly a showroom for visiting scholars and diplomats in the 18th century, the hall is now a place for public perusal and enjoyment.

It is one of the most beautiful libraries in the world, but the knowledge contained within makes it so much more. The Austrian National Library is a memory store for antiquity.

Besides 200,000 books in the State Hall, there are papyrus records, a collection of globes, musical scores, maps, printed articles, and artifacts, totaling some 4 million works.

So, what once kept the legacy of an empire safe is a beautiful shell of its former self—yet it remains a marvel of human history, a must-see if you ever visit Vienna.

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