Biblioteca Joanina

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    • Day 17

      Coimbra- Velha Universidade

      May 28, 2023 in Portugal ⋅ 🌧 18 °C

      Coimbra was great but wet! A fantastic old university town with centuries of history and a magnificent botanic gardens. Overnite the football celebrations continued til at least 4am and I had a great view of the fans and Coimbra Prison from my bedroom balcony. After breakfast it was time to wander! Housed in the Royal Palace, Biblioteca Joanina was built in 1717 by Dom Jao V ( looks like Henry V111) Containing 200,000 books dating back to the 12th century it is awe inspiring. Baroque in style with frescoed ceilings and fantastically carved wood panelling. St Michael’s Chapel organ is massive and seems to hang from the wall. The Main Hall in the Royal Palace is like Hogwarts dining room. Reckon the whole place inspired JK Rowling. The Se cathedral and cloisters were beautiful. Tiles are everywhere and I particularly like the 13th century image of angry sheep!! A pity it was too damp to spend hours in the gardens. Caught the train to Porto, met a nice American with a rescue dog Fina, which bit me !! So I finally get to use a bit of my medical kit and am sitting back in my hotel thinking about the next leg of the trip… ‘singing in the rain’.Read more

    • Day 7

      Bats and Books

      June 21, 2023 in Portugal ⋅ ☁️ 66 °F

      On our way from Lisbon to Porto we stopped at the medieval college town of Coimbra. The students here still go to class in robes, and some have suggested that J. K. Rowling may have used this university as her model for Hogwarts. She did spend some time here as she was writing her novels, and it is no accident that the founder of Slytherin House bears the name of an evil Portuguese dictator—Salazar. On this visit, we were able to see the fantastic baroque library. It was built by King Charles III not because he loved books, but because his brother-in-law had just built a similar library in Vienna, and the younger brother did not want to be outdone. It is difficult to check out a book here, though not impossible. Scholars can receive special permission to use volumes from the shelves, albeit with many restrictions. The building is beautiful, and this was the first library in the world to have a card catalog system. The shelves and the cases in which they stand all numbered so that a book could be found readily. One interesting feature of this library is that the heavy teak doors remain closed to preserve the temperature and humidity. A side-effect of this practice is that very little oxygen comes into the room. This is good for the books, but not so much for people. Therefore, the groups that visit this library must be very small, and they must stay long no longer than 15 minutes. Another peculiar feature of this library is that up in the rafters live colonies of bats. Over the centuries librarians have learned not to molest or remove the bats because they eat moths that destroy the books. If I were to brush up my Latin, I fancy that I could live in this room.Read more

    • Joanine Library, University of Coimbra

      February 23, 2019 in Portugal ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

      Walking to the top of the steep hill to the plateau where the University of Coimbra is located, was challenging. No wonder that all the students look so fit!

      Our plan for the day was to spend a few hours in this university as it is one of the oldest universities in the world (established in 1290!) and a World Heritage site. It also has an amazing Baroque library.

      We easily found the building where we could buy tickets to see the historic part of the university - a visit to the Royal Palace (Great Hall of Acts, Private Examination Room and Arms Room), the Chapel of St. Michael, the Baroque Library (Grand Room, Middle Floor and the Academic Prison) and the College of Jesus, which includes the Physics Laboratory (18th and 19th centuries) and the Natural History Collection (18th century). We started at the library.

      Only 60 people maximum can enter the library at a time for only 20 minutes and times have to be booked. We reserved two spots for noon. When we got there, we were told that we could take photos, no flash, on the first two floors but no photos were allowed for the third and most amazing floor.

      The front doorway of this elegant building has four columns, with the majestic royal coat of arms in Baroque style above it, but we didn’t enter through these doors. The Joanine Library was built on top of a medieval prison, which was later turned into an academic prison for misbehaving students. Today, we started the tour of the library in the basement area - in the prison.

      In this three storey building, two of which are underground, the wall are covered in bookshelves with 300,000 old volumes about Medicine, Geography, History, Humanist Studies, Science, Civil and Canon Law, Philosophy and Theology works.

      The books, published between the 15th and 19th centuries, are still in good condition thanks to the way the building was built. With outside walls 3 meters thick, a door made of teak wood and the interior covered with wood in order to absorb the excess of humidity, this space works as a true vault favouring book conservation. The shelves are made of oak that deters insects.

      At the library, three rooms stand out. They are connected to each other by decorated arches and completely covered with book shelves topped by the royal coat of arms: in the first room, gold contrasts against a green background; in the second, the golden colour contrasts against a red background and, in the last, a black background makes golden details come to life. Their walls are covered with two-level bookshelves made in exotic, golden and multi-coloured wood, and the ceilings shows figures inspired by the arts and science.

      At night, after the library is closed, a bat colony helps maintain the books by eating bugs. The tables are covered with leather at night in order to protect them from the bat poo.

      In the library’s vault there are extremely rare volumes such as the first edition of “Os Lusíadas”, a Hebrew Bible, published in the second half of the 15th century and of which there are only about 20 copies around the world. There is even a 48-line Latin Bible, printed in 1462 by two Gutenberg partners and which is considered the most beautiful out of the four which were printed.
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    • Day 3


      August 17, 2019 in Portugal ⋅ ⛅ 26 °C

      Was für eine Universität - die älteste in Portugal! Aus einem Palast wird eine Universität! Die Bibliothek war wunderschön, leider durfte man keine Fotos machen🙁. Aber auch die Kapelle war wunderschön (letztes Foto)Read more

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