Did you know that a library can reveal the intimate culture and history of a city? When traveling, I like to steep myself in a region’s architecture, tradition, and story that libraries do well at embodying.
Recently, while visiting family and friends in Paris, France, I had the opportunity to sneak away to the oldest public library in France! The Mazarin Public Library in Paris, France did not disappoint, and I am ready to share its beauty and history with you.
Date Visited: 20 June 2019
The Mazarin Public Library
Sundays | closed
Monday through Friday | 10 am - 6 pm
Saturday | closed
+33 1 44 41 44 06
- Parking -
The Mazarin Public Library began has the private collections of Cardinal Mazarin (1602-1661), Richilieu’s successor and prime minister during Louis XIV’s minority between 1643 and 1661. The library is situated in the Mazarin’s Mansion (later becoming the historic site of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France), which now serves as the Institute of France since 1945.
The Mazarin Library became open to the public in 1643 steadily growing in resources. By the mid seventeenth century, the library boasted a collection approaching 40,000 volumes. In 1668, the collection was transferred to the grandiose building designed by Louis Le Vau for the College de Quatre-Nations as an exchange with the royal library.
The library reopened in 1689 with the help of a librarian named Abbé Gaspard Michel (Leblond) who worked hard to channel books confiscated during the Revolution into the library’s collections; the reason why the library has such a remarkable collection today. The reading room, restored in 1968-1974, tells a tale of grandiosity of the seventeenth century. More than 350 years after its foundation, the Mazarin Library is a true museum of book, study, and research and is still open to all.
The Mazarin Public Library has been on my ‘must see’ list for a while now since it is, not only stunning and a historical gem, but also the oldest public library in France. The St. Catherine’s Monastery Library dating back to 565 situated in Egypt is the oldest library to still exist, but it is a private library accessible only to monks so when in France, the Mazarin Public Library is the next best thing.
Libraries, in my opinion, tell tales of culture and tradition and having the privilege to visit The Mazarin Public Library was such a pleasure. The grandeur and stateliness as well as the detail and the elegance are simply breathtaking.
I tried to imagine myself as the sole owner of such a beautiful library and realized the true privilege to be part of the elite class. To have such a collection at your fingertips is almost to have the world in the palm of your hands. The Mazarin Library is inspiring and thought-provoking. It truly is a work of art while still maintaining its studious and welcoming charm.
What is your favorite thing about libraries?