Library, Palace of Mafra

The Rococo library, situated at the back of the second floor, is truly the highlight of this palace, rivalling the grandeur of the library of the Melk Abbey in Austria. Built by Manuel Caetano de Sousa, this library is 88 m long, 9.5 m wide and 13 m high. The magnificent floor is covered with tiles of rose, grey and white marble. The wooden bookshelves in Rococo style are situated on the sidewalls in two rows, separated by a balcony with a wooden railing. They contain over 36,000 leather-bound volumes, attesting of the extent of western knowledge from the 14th to the 19th century. Among them, are many valuable bibliographical jewels, such as incunabula. These beautiful finished volumes were bound in the local workshop (Livraria) in the rocaille style (also by Manuel Caetano de Sousa).

The Royal Monastic Library of the National Palace of Mafra is one of the most important European libraries, with a valuable collection of c. 36,000 volumes, an “ex libris” of the enlightened century illustration. XVIII.

The library is known for homing bats which protect the books from insect damage. The Library was used in Gulliver’s Travels (1996) as the Great Chamber of War for the Emperor of Lilliput.

Some rare works such as the collection of incunabula (works printed until 1500) or the famous “Chronicle of Nuremberg” (1493), as well as several Bibles or the first Encyclopedia (known as de Diderot et D’Alembert), the Books of Illuminated hours of the 15th century and still an important nucleus of musical scores by Portuguese and foreign authors, such as Marcos Portugal, J. de Sousa, João José Baldi, among others, especially written for the six historical organs of the Basilica.

Located on the 4th floor of the monument’s east wing, the Library or Bookstore House, as it was also called, occupies the noblest and vastest of all rooms in the cross-shaped building with c. 85 m long and 9.5 m wide. Paved in lyros stone of various colors, it has in its center a vault supported by four arches, closed on a marble stone where a human face representing the sun is carved.

For the constitution of his collection King Magnanimus sent abroad special emissaries in charge of acquiring all the best and newest printed there. The Library has c. 30,000 volumes, from the 15th to the 19th centuries, covering such different themes as Theology, the Sermonary, Canon and Civil Law, History, Geography and Travel, Mathematics, Art and Music, Medicine, etc. . All this collection is in the context of the improvement of the press until the eighteenth century, an important factor in the development and dissemination of ideas. Also of considerable interest is the collection of manuscripts, most notably the illuminated Books of Hours of the 19th century. XV and also the core of sheet music by Portuguese musicians such as João de Souza Carvalho, Marcos Portugal or Baldi, among others.

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To attest to the importance of this collection, a Brief granted by Pope Benedict XIV in 1754, in addition to prohibiting, under penalty of excommunication, the diversion or borrowing of unlicensed printed or handwritten works by the King of Portugal, grants him permission to include in the his collection books prohibited by the Index.

The Library, whose current storage began in 1809, was organized by Friar João de Santa Anna according to what he called the Rule of 4 Orders. It is curious to note that after an exhaustive and methodical work of the friar, which resulted in an eight-volume manuscript catalog, the norms used for its organization remain very current – main entry made by surname, anonymous works are entered by title, as well as the use of cross-references.

Mafra National Palace
The Mafra National Palace is located in the municipality of Mafra , in the district of Lisbon in Portugal , about 25 kilometers from Lisbon. It is made up of a monumental palace and monastery in baroque joanine style , on the German side. The work of its construction began in 1717 at the initiative of King D. João V , by virtue of a promise he had made in the name of the offspring he would obtain from Queen D. Maria Ana of Austria.

Built in the 18th century by King João V in fulfillment of a vow to obtain succession from his marriage to D. Maria Ana of Austria or the cure of a disease he suffered, the National Palace of Mafra is the most important monument of the baroque in Portugal.

Constructed in lioz stone of the region, the building occupies an area of nearly four hectares (37,790 m2), comprising 1200 divisions, more than 4700 doors and windows, 156 staircases and 29 courtyards and lobbies. Such magnificence was only possible because of the gold of Brazil, which allowed the Monarch to put into practice a policy of patronage and reinforcement of royal authority.

It is classified as a National Monument and declared a 2019 World Heritage Site by UNESCO.