Hopefully you’ve been following along with my tour through the monuments I visited last weekend for the Journées du Patrimoine. My final of four visits was a place I have seen photos of for years but was never sure how to enter, or if it was even open to the pubic.
The Bibliothèque Nationale de France – Site Richelieu-Louvois is a library in the second arrondissement that sits behind an unassuming façade. If I hadn’t had the address or seen the line out front, I would never have thought this extraordinary place would be sitting behind the street-facing façade. The library is frequented by academics and maintains its purpose as a place to research and study and not just a place for people like you and me to gawk at.
Paris has some stunning libraries, and in the past I’ve been intimidated to try to enter them but when I did it with Bibliothèque Ste. Geneviève, it was a fairly simple process to get a library card. I should probably use it more often to take better advantage of all these beautiful places. The Bibliothèque Nationale de France – Site Richelieu-Louvois is one of the most stunning places I have ever seen and so very photogenic. I stepped in that place and couldn’t get enough photos. Looking at them now, I see there are many that are very similar but I was just so struck by the severe curves of the imposing arched ceiling contrasting straight lines of the shelves, the books, the stacks, that I couldn’t keep myself from photographing.
The latest information I’ve seen about getting into Paris’s specialized libraries indicates that a library card is not required. Perhaps the only thing required is patience to wait in the lines, as they are often long.
This temple of knowledge and inspiration is home to thousands of works and treasures. The National Library is reborn, connected to new technologies and faithful to its glorious past. The Labrouste reading room, deemed a “masterpiece of the 19th century” is Byzantine in style and boasts nine cupolas as well as 36 medallions with the effigy of great authors.
In the digital age, the library continues to attract students and writers. Among the nine reading rooms of the site, a brand new space, the library of arts and entertainment is a jewel of light. The Auguste Rondel gallery is closed to the public. It houses 400,000 documents and as many treasures. Another sanctuary of the library: the department of manuscripts which keeps within it the largest pages of our history, as the original plea “J’accuse”, written by Emile Zola in 1898, to defend Captain Dreyfus.