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The Striking Beauty of the University of Coimbra Library

The Striking Beauty of the University of Coimbra Library

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The University of Coimbra Library in Portugal is named for the ruling king during the Baroque Period, Bilioteca Joānina.  King Joāo V’s reign was during the 18th century.  In 1717 construction began on the building and was completed in 1728. Currently this building still stands as a tourist attraction.

Viewing the interior of the library can only be done during their guided tours.  Back then, the books were catalogued based on the dates that they entered the library.  All of the newer books were placed near the front and the older books were in the back.  When making your entrance into the library you will notice that all the bigger books are near the bottom and the smaller books are at the top.

The interior chambers of the library boast manificient ceilings.  Each chamber has its own unique painting.  These ceilings were painted by Lisbon artists, Vincente Nunes and Simoes Ribeiro.

In order to maintain the good condition of 250,000 books found in the library, many techniques are used.  For starters, the walls are 6.8ft thick.  The front doors are made of teak which helps keep the interior at a constant temperature.  All the shelves of the library are made of oak which makes it difficult for insects to bite their way through.

Amongst the 250,000 volumes of books housed in the library, several of them are handwritten.  Others are in print and cover many topics such as Georgraphy, Philosophy, Medicine, Theology, and many more.  The books cover periods from the 15th to the 19th centuries.

The library is also packed with Jewish heritage, charm, and history.  The Jewish Heritage Programs gives visitors an opportunity to learn about the most important and influental people of the time such as Pedro Nunes and Isaac Abravanel.

The last salon has a painting of the king.  This room also houses a grand piano.There are three salons  inside the library each salon has a doorway that is decorated with a coat of arms.

Manuel da Silva created the beautiful gilding and and lacquering found on the shelves.  He received most of his inspiration from his recent discoveries in the Orient.  Cabinet makers and wood carvers from Italy designed the massive bookshelves and tables.  They brought many of the exotic woods utilized from Brazil.

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Outside the university, in the courtyard stands the statue of the King responsible for moving the University of Coimbra back to its rightful location.  This is King Joao III who brought the school back here in 1537.

The clock tower not only provides an amazing place to snag a great photo, but it is also one of the most photographed parts of the courtyard.  It is nicknamed “The Goat” because its chime marked the end of studies.  Many first year students would then be attacked and humiliated by older students without end unless they leapt home like mountain goats.

Another stunning portion of the library is its clock tower.  Photos are taken here regularly and grasp images that overlook the Mondego River.  Views from the clock tower are absolutely breathtaking.

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