Austrian National Library (Prunksaal)

Austrian National Library (Prunksaal) (13)

This building is a must-see, as it is one of the most beautiful Baroque buildings in Vienna, and indeed the world.

Housing almost 8 million books and objects, the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek is now the largest library in Austria. The library in its entirety consists of several buildings. Highlights of the library include such extraordinary pieces as the Gutenberg Bible, Dioscorides's Treaty of Medicine, which dates from the 1st century, the Blaeu Atlases, and the Tabula Peutingeriana, or Peutinger's Tabula. This building also houses the Museum of Esperanto, the Papyrus Museum, the Globe Museum, the Institute of Restoration, and the Theatrical Archives.

The original building was commissioned in 1719 to Johan Bernard Fischer von Erlach by Charles VI. On the architect's death it was completed by his son, Joseph Emanuel, between 1723 and 1729.

The Main Hall of the Prunksaal occupies the entire front of the Josefsplatz and is almost 80 metres long, 14 metres wide and over 19 metres in height, making it Europe's largest baroque library.

Housing 200,000 volumes published between 1501 and 1850, including 15,000 volumes from the personal library of Eugene of Savoy, the library boasts a luxury and beauty that cannot fail to impress. 

The abundant walnut shelves alternate with marble columns, gilded woodwork, stucco and carved wooden panels.

The majority of the frescoed ceilings were completed by the painter Daniel Gran in 1730.

Those of the entrance wing represent secular and military subjects, while those of the Peace wing, which leads to the Imperial Palace where the entrance for the Emperor and the Court was originally located, feature allegorical depictions of heaven and peace. 

The magnificent fresco that adorns the middle of the almost-30-metre-high cupola represents the apotheosis of Charles VI, who appears on a medallion flanked by Apollo and Hercules.

Other items worthy of note are the four terrestrial and celestial globes by Vincenzo Coronelli and the numerous statues that decorate the room. These sculptures are the work of the Strudel brothers, Paul and Peter, and of particular importance is the life-size figure of Charles VI, depicted as Hercules of the Muses and located in the centre of the entrance hall.

Whether you are a book lover or not the entry fee is a small price to pay for all this captivating beauty.

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