The Austrian National Library – one of the most beautiful baroque libraries in the world

Oesterreichische nationalbibliothek

How long has the State Hall of the National Library existed and where were the collections previously housed? Who commissioned the building and who was the architect? What is the role of the National Library today?

The State Hall of the Austrian National Library is one of the most beautiful baroque libraries in the world. It is located in the Hofburg building complex, entrance is at Josefsplatz.

As you enter the State Hall, you will smell and feel the exciting history of Austria. On 80m length and 20m width you can see more than 200.000 volumes. An important and substantial contribution (15,000 works) was donated by Prince Eugene of Savoy, the builder of Belvedere Palace. It is believed that his book collection is worth more than the construction costs of his castle.

The building, formerly called the Court Library, was built at the beginning of the 18th century as part of the Hofburg. Emperor Charles VI (father of Maria Theresa) was the client and Fischer von Erlach father and son were responsible for the architecture . Started in 1723 by father Johann Bernhard, after his death the son Joseph Emanuel completed the building in 1726. The sculptures on the roof of the building are by Lorenzo Mattielli.

Inside, the Baroque fresco in the central dome by Daniel Gran is particularly impressive. It represents an apotheosis of Emperor Charles VI , who was also paid homage to with a sculpture in the center of the hall. Two Venetian globes are no less impressive.

One of the main tasks of the Austrian National Library is the collection and archiving of all publications appearing in Austria. Books can be read on site in the historic Augustinian Reading Room . Through the ANNO project , historical newspapers and magazines are scanned and available online.

In total, it is assumed that there are approximately 12 million objects in the holdings of the National Library, of which 4 million books. Maps, incunabula, prints, old printed matter, papyrus collection, and music collection. are also among them.

With about 8000 incunabula (prints with movable type from the 15th century), the National Library has the fourth largest collection in the world. The picture archive is the largest picture documentation center in Austria with about 2 million objects.

The National Library boasts some special treasures . Among them the Tabula Peutingeriana. This is a cartographic representation of the Roman road network, where Vindobona was already marked. This road map from the 12th century, was named after Konrad Peutinger and is considered a UN World Document Heritage.


Another highlight is the magnificent manuscript “Golden Bull” . This regulated the election of the German king by the seven electors. It was one of the most important documents of the Holy Roman Empire.

The library and reading rooms at Heldenplatz are mainly used by students and information seekers for their research.

Other museums of the Austrian National Library include: Literature Museum, Globe Museum (the only one in the world), Papyrus Museum, Esperanto Museum and since November 2018 – The House of Austrian History.

Where were the books stored in the past? Before the building was finished in 1726, the books were stored in the Minorite monastery. Originally, the first collections date back to the 14th century. back and were initially collected in various castles and monasteries.

About 300 people are employed at the National Library.

Time Travel Tip: There are always changing exhibitions worth seeing in the State Hall. In some cases also free admission on special days. A special experience is to borrow a book on site and read it in the historic Augustinian Reading Room.

More info: Home – Austrian National Library (







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