Monday, February 22, 2010

Biblioteca Casanatense

This past Saturday I went to the Casanatense Library, continuing my custom of inviting students and families to join me in exploring Rome on the 3rd Saturday of the month. The library was created by Cardinal Girolamo Casanate who had a collection of 25,000 volumes when he died. In his will the library was entrusted to the Dominicans at Santa Maria sopra Minerva. The library opened to the public in 1701 in a newly built space probably designed by Carlo Fontana in part of the monastery cloister. In 1884 the control of the library was granted to the Italian government. Today the library has over 400,000 volumes.
The library is entered through a nondescript door on a small street beside the Chiesa Sant’ Ignazio. After climbing two flights of steps you reach the floor of the main reading room, the original library space.

It is fascinating to see the collection of books, with Latin headings indicating the classifications. Poetry is at the back, and you pass through the histories and the sciences before coming to the front of the room with the writings of the Church Fathers and theoligians and, in the center, the collection of Bibles.

A statue of Cardinal Casanate oversees the room.

While we were in the library we were able to browse
though an illustrated Missal from the 1400s.
We were fascinated by the detailed illuminations, the lavish use of gold leaf and the brilliant blue color made from grinding up lapis lazuli.
Inside the library (at the bottom of the above picture) is a decree from Pope Clement XI proclaiming that anyone who steals from the library will be excommunicated. Outside the door is a edict saying that abusers of the library will be tortured!

1 comment:

Shari said...

What an amazing opportunity for your students! . . . and for the rest of us (vicariously).