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Baroque Library

Biblioteca Joanina da Universidade de Coimbra
Academic Prison
Middle Floor
The Noble Floor
The Academic Prison
The Middle Floor

Built between 1717 and 1728, it is one of the exponents of the Baroque Portuguese and one of the richest European libraries. Will be known as Baroque Library in honor and memory of King John V (1707-1750), who sponsored its construction and whose portrait, made by Domenico Duprà (1725), dominates the space.

It consists of three floors: the Noble floor, richly decorated space, the most emblematic face of the House of the Library; Intermediate Floor, workplace and acted as the guard house; the Academic Prison, which worked here from 1773 until 1834.

The Noble Floor, completed in 1728, began receiving the first books after 1750, and currently its collection comprises some 40,000 volumes. The entire construction is aimed at conservation of library collections, from the width of the outer walls to the use of wood inside. Also to in aid the conservation of books, there are two small colonies of bats that for centuries protected them from insects.

Built with noble and exotic materials, brought from all over the world, the symbolism attributed to its decor are a tribute to the magnanimity and power of King John V and the Portuguese Empire, whose repository of knowledge was headquartered here in the King’s University. It was used as a place of study from 1777 until the mid-20th century, until the General Library opened in 1962.

The Academic Prison worked initially in two rooms beneath the “Hall of Capelos”, then in 1559 - since its foundation that the University had, as privilege, its own legal code, apart from the general law of the Kingdom. To this code, the "Private Forum", were subjected all those who in some way were connected to the Institution. This autonomy has allowed the University to have Judge - the Rector -, Guards and Prison.

In 1773, it was transferred to the building of the Baroque Library, which recovered the remains of what was the old jail of the Royal Palace, and documenting the single medieval jail that still exists in Portugal. In 1834, after terminating the religious orders in Portugal, the prison served as a deposit for books, manuscripts and illuminated manuscripts that belong to the various monasteries and convents.

The Intermediate Floor was always the deposit of the Library, and access was denied to students, Professprs and other users of the Library - access would always be for, and only for the librarians. It was also the place where the Royal Academic Guard would be, accessing the Academic Prison below, through a winding staircase, original of the old Jail form the 14th century.