A bookworm’s paradise: Inside the world’s most beautiful libraries

A bookworm’s paradise: Inside the world’s most beautiful libraries 

A bookworm’s paradise: Inside the world’s most beautiful libraries

  • Medieval chambers and vast 19th-century libraries covered rich mahogany captured in stunning pictures
  • Former monasteries solid marble galleries and UNESCO World Heritage site make up the collection 
  • Photographer Massimo Listri travelled globe for 30 years to snap breathe-taking pictures of ornate libraries
  • He visited the home of the Book of Kells, the oldest library in Naples and a monastery in Austria

These images are some of the world’s most beautiful libraries, captured by a photographer who travelled the globe to see the stunning architecture.

Massimo Listri’s 30-year pursuit of the word’s most exquisite sites has taken him to the likes of medieval chambers and vast 19th-century libraries, clad in rich mahogany which light up the room as well as solid marble pillared galleries.

Others feature grand statues, globes, sprawling mezzanines, ornate chandeliers and golden ceiling installations with thousands of books lined by gilt-edged pillars.

The photographer, from Florence, Italy, said everything about these grand venues attracts him – from the simple smell of dust, leather and wood to the pleasure of opening an aged book.

Massimo’s travels have taken him to the likes of Trinity College, Dublin, home of the Book of Kells, the oldest library in Naples, a monastery in Austria and sprawling research facilities housed across Europe.

Other venues have played host to the likes of baroque halls and even bats, which protect the books from becoming damaged by insects.   

Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana – The Vatican Library – in Rome, Italy, has around 1.1 million printed books and was built by Pope Nicholas V in 1450 to lure pilgrims and scholars to the city

Nicolas wanted the create a public library for all scholars and it was meant to be seen as an institution for humanist scholarship

Nicholas’ death prevented him from carrying out his vision, but his idea lived on through his successor, Pope Sixtus IV, who lived from 1471 to 1484, who established what is now known as the Vatican Library

Photographer Massimo Listri, from Florence, Italy, said that everything about these grand venues attracts him – from the simple smell of dust, leather and wood, to the pleasure of opening an aged book

The Vatican Library is a research library for history, law, philosophy, science and theology and is open to any member of the public who can document their qualifications and research needs

The Vatican Secret Archives, that contain another 150,000 items, were separated from the library at the beginning of the 17th century and contains another 150,000 items

The library has striking colourful pillars and detailed representations of important moments in Vatican history 

Real Gabinete Portugues de Leitura, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the institution was founded in 1837 by a group of 43 Portuguese immigrants and political refugees to promote culture among the Portuguese community in the city

The building, designed by the Portuguese architect Rafael da Silva e Castro, was erected between 1880 and 1887 in the Neo-Manueline style with thick dark wooden bookcases

The library is full of Gothic-Renaissance features from the time of the Portuguese Discoveries – the territorial and maritime discoveries during the 15th and 16th centuries

The ceiling of the Reading Room has a beautiful chandelier and a skylight in iron structure, the first example of this type of architecture in Brazil as well as a beautiful monument of silver, ivory and marble

Biblioteca Comunale, Fermo, Italy, dates from 1758 and features a large globe as the centrepiece and a balcony containing a collection of inscriptions and antiquities

Photographer Massimo Listri said: ‘Libraries are different than all the other architectural interiors because they contain the books’

El Escorial Library, Madrid, Spain, was founded in 1565 and is an UNESCO World Heritage site. It is one of the Spanish royal sites, functioning as a monastery, basilica, royal palace, pantheon, library, museum, university, school and hospital

The library sits in the Royal Site of San Lorenzo de El Escorial which is the historical residence of the King of Spain, in the town of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, around 28 miles (45km) northwest of Madrid

In November 1984, the site the library sits, the Royal Seat of San Lorenzo of El Escorial, was declared an UNESCO World Heritage Site

The library is a popular tourist attraction, often visited by day-trippers from Madrid with more than 500,000 visitors come to El Escorial every year

Wiblingen Abbey Library in Germany was founded in 1093 by count Hartmann and Otto von Kirchberg who acquired the abbey fore their role in the First Crusade in 1099

A former Benedictine abbey, it was later used as barracks and now houses several departments of the medical faculty of the University of Ulm

In 1806 Bavarian troops left after occupying the abbey and auctioned off all the remaining furniture. The South Wing was rebuilt in 1917 and is now retirement homes

Codrington Library is part of All Souls College – a constituent college of the University of Oxford. Nicholas Hawksmoor begun designing the library in 1716 and contains some 185,000 books and manuscripts

Unusually for an Oxford college library, access to the Codrington is open to all members of the university and contains a significant collection of manuscripts and early printed books, and attracts scholars from around the world

Biblioteca do Convento de Mafra, in Mafra near Lisbon, Portugal. Construction began in 1717 and after being finished in 1755, it was eventually classified as a National Monument in 1910

This vast complex is among the best examples of Baroque buildings in Portugal and is nearly nine acres in size (40,000 metres), making it one of the largest royal palaces in the country

The palace, which also served as a Franciscan monastery, was built during the reign of King John V of Portugal, who lived from 1707–1750, after he vowed to build a convent if his wife, Queen Mariana, gave him a child

The former monastery near Lisbon has many Gothic features and has a balcony with a high arched ceiling

Saint Emmerams Abbey in Germany, was a Benedictine monastery founded in around 739 in Regensburg, Bavaria. Massimo Listri added: ‘For me they are the most beautiful environments in the world, where, in addition to being an object of beauty at a glance, there is the substance of knowledge’

Biblioteca Statale Oratoriana dei Girolamini in Naples, which is the oldest library in the Italian city and has been open to the public since 1566. It is the second oldest in Italy after the Malatestiana in Cesena

A press conference for the opening of the ancient library of the Girolamini to the students of the High School of History and Philology in May last year

Minister of Cultural Heritage and Tourism Dario Franceschini during a press conference at the press conference to open the ancient library

Church of Girolamini interior features many ornate details on the intricate ceiling and gilded pillars. Mr Listri said, ‘I would like to live in a library’

Seitenstetten Abbey Library in Austria, on the site of a monastery was founded in 1112. Massimo Listri added: ‘I have photographed architecture since I was 18 and I am a bibliophile. These two things together led me to make the book on libraries’

Stiftsbibliothek Kremsmunster library in Kremsmunster, Austria, was founded in 777 by Tassilo III, the Duke of Bavaria, reportedly on the site where his son, Gunther, had been attacked and killed by a wild boar during a hunting trip. The monastery library was built between 1680 and 1689 and contains around 160,000 volumes

Bibliotheque Sainte-Genevieve is a public and university library in Paris, France, which inherited the collection of the Abbey of St Genevieve. The library contains around 2 million documents and was the inspiration for the Boston Public Library

The library was built under the direction of architect Henri Labrouste and construction started in 1843. The building was finished in December 1850 and opened to the public on February 4 1851

During a period of decline in the 17th century, the library was dispersed and its contents sold, sometimes for the value of just their paper alone. In the next century, efforts were made to rebuild the library by buy back what books remained on the market

The exterior of the Parisian library, in the city’s Latin quarter, is plain compared to the interior’s detail in the ironwork and masonry, which is due to architect’s studies of Roman architecture

General Archive of the Indies, Sevilla, Spain, houses valuable archival documents illustrating the history of the Spanish Empire in the Americas and the Philippines and has been an UNESCO World Heritage site since 1987

The interior of the General Archive of the Indies in Sevilla. A large vaulted ceiling over a room which acted as trade buildings and a mercantile exchange

A staircase in the General Archives of the Indies, Seville, which was made the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1987

Photographer Massimo Listri travelled the globe in order to capture some of the worlds most beautiful libraries during his 30-year search. Massimo’s book, The World’s Most Beautiful Libraries, will be released this year

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