Bologna Biblioteca Universitaria di Bologna
About Biblioteca Universitaria di Bologna
At number 35 Via Zamboni is the entrance to the Biblioteca Universitaria di Bologna. Inaugurated in 1756, it was initially commissioned by Pope Benedict XIV and designed by Carlo Francesco Dotti.
Inside the first set of doors is this reception area. There are numerous works of art on the walls and in the corner this beautiful marble inscription dedicated in 1937 to Olindo Guerrini, poet and director of the University Library from 1885 to 1912.1 Other marble busts here include an incredibly detailed one of Francesco Albergati Capacelli by G. De Maria in 1820. This area is in fact part of the historic Porter’s Lodge which still retains a solemn atmosphere about it.
At the top of this pink coloured marble stair case are large frescoes by Pellegrino Tibaldi and Nicolò dell’Abate illustrating the theme of fire.
The various portraits lining this hallway are part of the legacy bequeathed to the Library of the Institute of Sciences by Cardinal Filippo M. Monti in 1754. Over the years many more were added comprising of men of letters, scientists, poets and clerics etc, most executed by unknown painters.2 Among the most valuable portraits are a few by artists Agostino and Ludovico Carracci, Donato Creti, Ubaldo Gandolfi, Pier Leone Ghezzi and a self portrait of Lucia Casalini Torelli.
This next room is the Aula Magna very much the heart of this complex. At the entrance are four of the original tables more notable since they were reserved for men of distinction only. The library is often used for exhibitions.
Opened in 1756, this was the first public Library in Bologna, around the same period as the Zambeccari library in Via Castiglione.
Its creation owes much to the involvement of Pope Benedict XIV, the Bolognese Prospero Lambertini, who personally chose the design produced by Carlo Francesco Dotti, of a vast Library, rectangular in plan… The Aula Magna has a vault supported by four large columns embellished with Corinthian capitals… It is furnished with sumptuous eighteenth-century shelving of solid walnut with decorative walnut inlays, and is further decorated, above the level of the shelving, by terracotta busts of illustrious figures from classical times.3 Others who contributed here include Ercole Lelli for the shelving and Carlo Dal Pozzo responsible for wood carvings.
Next to the library is the Museo Marsili. It’s preceded on the glass door with the coat of arms of Luigi Ferdinando Marsili, the founder of the Institute of Sciences. Iconography of the sun here and a Latin inscription nihil mihi also recalls his personal motto which translates as nothing for me.4 It was his intention that all his life’s works and collections be donated to the public.
The museum opened in 1930, during the fascist period a characteristic reflected in the fascio symbols above the large equestrian portrait of Marsili by A. Zanchi and A. Calza. At the foot of it is another impressive work of by P. Tadolini representing Genius and Virtue.
In elegant cherry-wood display cases… are displayed Marsilian manuscripts relating to the life of the Bolognese scientist, books connected with his scientific and historic interests, objects from his collection and publications to mark the bicentenary celebrations.5 It has to be noted though that most of Marsili’s works and collections are on display in Palazzo Poggi.
Out of interest this chair albeit extensively restored was made for Napoleon when he visited Bologna during the French invasion towards the end of the 1700s.
Back to the main hallway is another doorway surrounded by more portraits. This next part of the complex is officially Palazzo Poggi. This room would have been used as the private quarters of Cardinal Poggi. Incidentally, it also overlooks the internal courtyard and the museums on the opposite wing.
The library’s first catalogue on display here was created by Andrea Caronti. Above it is another magnificent feature. These works of art are more typically seen in the other wing of the palazzo and as such this building may be viewed as one of the best examples of Bolognese Renaissance palaces.6
This following part of the library called the ‘Long Room’ is mainly used as a reading room for books on the local history of Bologna and Emilia Romagna. It was incorporated into the overall library in 1700.
To consider how the library has actually changed over the centuries this next phase draws a conclusive line in the sand between old and new.
Through another set of doors is its modern version located within the heart of Palazzo Poggi.
Today, after several years of refurbishing and logistical moves, the historic site of Palace Poggi is now adjoined by the new library, with two spacious, comfortable reference rooms. The Torre Libraria already contains 500.000 books and compact storage systems for periodicals. In both cases, cutting-edge computer technology facilitates the storage and organization of library material.
As can clearly be demonstrated in this behind the scenes footage the Biblioteca Universitaria di Bologna is once again a leading example of social progress and educational reform.
#This video was made with full permission of the University Library of Bologna – Alma Mater Studiorum – Università di Bologna. (Questo video è stato già realizzato su concessione della Biblioteca Universitaria di Bologna – Alma Mater Studiorum – Università di Bologna.)