Joanine Library of the University of Coimbra

World Monuments Watch
Coimbra, Portugal

2014 World Monuments Watch

Built in the early eighteenth century at the behest of Portugal’s King John V, the Joanine Library was constructed to house the book collection of the University of Coimbra. The structure was built in the university courtyard on the ruins of a medieval royal prison. The exterior is characterized by stone walls, brick vaults, and a timber roof covered by clay tiles, and throughout the 1720s bronze workers, glaziers, painters, and other craftsmen ornamented the interior. The stone floor is patterned with geometric motifs, and the plaster ceilings are decorated with allegorical trompe-l’oeil paintings. The library was finished in 1728 and housed its first books in 1750.

Today it is one of the most significant archival libraries in the world. It contains some 56,000 volumes, many of which date from the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries. The library represents the importance of education and knowledge and was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2013. It maintains its original function while also serving as a museum and cultural events space.

When the Joanine Library was included on the 2014 World Monuments Watch, water infiltration, humidity, and salt efflorescence needed to be better controlled at the site in order to create an indoor climate appropriate for the structure’s book collection and fragile building components. Improved site management would enable these goals to be reached while also improving visitor accessibility so the library and its collections can be enjoyed by all.

Watch Day

Watch Day was celebrated at the Joanine Library in April 2014. Almost 100 members of the university and local community attend the event. Participants enjoyed classical music performances inspired by the German writer and intellectual Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, followed by a jazz concert.

Last updated: July 2021.

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