Republished from the vast PPM blog archives!
It has to be said (in a whisper, please) that Budapest has two of the most beautiful libraries on the planet: the grand National Széchényi Library and the smaller but sumptuously appointed Szabó Ervin Library. Both are national treasures, not just for how regal they appear to passersby from the outside, but also because they are functioning parts of the intellectual and every-day community here in Budapest.
The Széchényi Library is one of two national libraries in Hungary. Founded with donations (in books and money) from the family of Hungary’s great intellectual grand-father, István Széchényi (1791 – 1860), the library currently resides in the Buda Castle Palace. The original Buda Castle Palace was completed in 1265, and the area was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. Designed in Medieval style, there is something that is at once magisterial and haunting about the Palace itself. But all that dissolves into awe when you are confronted by more than two and a half million volumes that compose the library’s book collection. As you can see from the photos, it has a stunning, evocative exterior and interior.
Speaking of stunning, now let us consider the Szabó Ervin Library in the Eighth District’s Palace District. Renown as one of the most beautiful interiors in all of Hungary, the library is also fully functional. Housed in the Wenckheim Palace – a pristine example of Baroque Revival architecture – the building was completed in 1890 as the residence of an aristocrat. The structure, inside and out, was renovated a mere five years ago, with no expense spared. You can see from the photos that every pain was taken to keep the original detailing and old-world spirit from being disrupted by everyday use in this modern world.
To walk through the Szabó Ervin Library is to walk through a chapter in history, and you won’t be silent because that is what is expected of you in a library, but because you are simply awed by the spectacular interiors. Just don’t shout about it until you are out on the street.
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