Bibilothèque Mazarine

Cardinal Mazarin (1602-61), who took over after Cardinal Richelieu, more or less governed France during the young years of Louis XIV. The future “Sun King” was only five, when his dad, Louis XIII died in 1643 and Mazarin became the co-ruler alongside the Queen Mother, Anne of Austria.

Mazarin was a great collector. He also created a personal library, more based on a wish for knowledge and the spreading of knowledge than for anything else. His first collection was dispersed when he for a while had to leave Paris for political reasons (“La Fronde”), but on his return he immediately began a second one – of course helped by librarians. Already during his lifetime it was made available to “public” (scholars) and at his death it was bequeathed to the “Collège des Quatre-Nations” (College of the Four Nations), which he had wished to create. The name referred to his desire to open a college for students from the territories (the nations) which recently had come under French rule through the Peace of Westphalia in 1648.
The college (with Louis le Vau as architect) was built facing the Louvre. The construction work started the year after Mazarin’s death, in 1662, and the building stood ready in 1688. Before that, in 1682, the Mazarin library had been transferred to the eastern wing of the building, using elements from his own library, in addition to all the books and other items.  A few years after the Revolution the building was given to the “Institut de France”, grouping five academies, the most well-known of course being the “Académie Française”. The library became really public, the oldest public one in France. It contained already some 60 thousand volumes (today ten times more), several thousands of the first printed books (second half of the 15th century), including one of the 48 surviving original Gutenberg Bibles.

So today, the “Bibiliothèque Mazarine” is still there, open to public, and it still occupies the eastern wing of the building, the rest being occupied by the academies.

Mazarin’s tomb is under the cupola of the building, originally a chapel, but today especially known as the place where the Academies hold their public meetings.

On my way to the library, I crossed the Louvre, a warm day, when some people were happy to let their feet be freshened by the water in the basin, surrounding the Pyramid. I stopped listening to some very talented musicians, including two young opera singers.

Reaching the “Pont des Arts”, with the "Institut" and the library in the background, I could notice that there are more padlocks than ever.

Once in the inside court, you have two facing facades, one being the “Institut de France”, the other one the “Bibliotheca a Fundatore Mazarinea”.

The entrance stairs, as they look today, were added during the 19th century. You can find the bust of Mazarin.

You may notice the pieces of green cloth, put there to protect against dust.


Some “details” include a beautiful early 18th century clock, perfectly working, Over one of the doors, you can see the arms of the Cardinal, of course with the cardinal hat, the “galero” on top...

...and some nice golden ceiling lamps. The little angel holding a chess tower indicates that they once belonged to Madame de Pompadour. 


Starman said...

When I looked at the first photo, I thought it was a dining room in a café.

Studio at the Farm said...

Fascinating as always, Peter. You took some wonderful indoor shots. This looks like another building into which I would very happily disappear. :) What is the significance of all the padlocks? Who puts them there?

Thérèse said...

Magnifiques ces vues de la bibliothèque! J'aime beaucoup regarder les reliures des vieux livres où l'on voit tout l'amour qui y était porté.Quel héritage!

Olivier said...

tu es sur que c'est pas des photos d'archives ? sinon on a pas le meme temps entre Evry et la capitale ;))

claude said...

Je suis certaine que c'est nettement plusss beau que dans la bibliothèque du père de Mazarine.
Je n'aime pas les cadenas sur le pont des arts, ça lui enlève tout son charme.

Adam said...

It looks like it was a busy day at the library! Either you visited at the end of the school year or everybody was outside enjoying the sun!

claude said...

Ce n'est pas que je n'aime pas le street-art, quoique des fois un peu envahissant, je l'aime quand c'est beau. Quand c'est tordu je n'aime point.

Cezar and Léia said...

I love the stairs perspective!Wonderful post dear Peter, thanks for sharing!

SusuPetal said...

Those surrounding look like it's forbidden to even whisper there!

Catherine said...

What an amazing place - great photos

redheadwithglasses said...

I always enjoy your blogs. I appreciate the historical notes included with each image. Thank you for taking the time to share your knowledge with everyone.

Synne said...

I always feel so at home in libraries, and I think this one would be no exception! Looks like it has both charm and grandeur, what a delight!
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sonia a. mascaro said...

Fascinating post as always, Peter, with interesting information and beautiful photos.
I enjoyed so much to walk with you and seeing you wonderful city!
Thanks for sharing this great post, Peter.

arabesque said...

of course i would love to see what it looks inside,
i thought it was off limits to the public.
this is another interesting visit you've shared with us Peter.

Anonymous said...

I would not be able to concentrate on my reading in such a library!

¡Que elegancia!
¡Que esplendor!

Fantastic photos, Peter!
Thank you.


Unknown said...

Everything is so amazing! Nice post you have there! :)

ParisMaddy said...

Bonjour Peter.

Divine traipse through Mazarin's world. The well worn steps and richly colored wooden card catalog reminds me of the library I went to as a child.

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