Treasure trove of cultural heritage – The library building and the grand staircase

The library building

One of the first building plans of King Ludwig I was a representative building for his court and state library. Initially, the area opposite the Glyptothek on Königsplatz was intended as the building site, which has become the location of the State Collection of Antiquities today. The space between the Ministry of War and the St. Louis church on the boulevard, the Ludwigstrasse, which the king wished to expand in the northern direction, came into play only at a later time. The architect Friedrich von Gärtner was commissioned to plan the building, which he implemented during the years 1832 to 1843. With a length of 152 metres, a depth of 78 metres and a height of 24 metres, the elongate building enclosing two inner courtyards on Ludwigstrasse is the largest blank brick building in Germany. At the time of its inauguration, it was considered the most progressive library building in Germany.

The statues

Next to the outside staircase, the four larger-than-life stone figures designed by Ludwig von Schwanthaler set a distinctive accent. The Munich population lovingly calls them "the four magi". From the left to the right, these are Thucydides, the founder of scholarly historiography, Homer, the writer of the Iliad and the Odyssey, Aristotle, the philosopher and mentor of Alexander the Great, and Hippocrates, the most famous physician of antiquity. Together, they indicate the multiplicity of scholarly disciplines whose literature the Royal Court and State Library was intended to collect.

The annex

In 1966, the annex, designed by the group of architects Hans Döllgast, Sep Ruf and Helmut Kirsten, and the east wing, of which only the outer walls had been left after the end of the war, were finished, and in 1970 the reconstruction was finally concluded with the inauguration of the south wing that had been destroyed completely during the war.

The annex of a size of 59 x 42 x 22 metres houses the book-processing Departments of Acquisition, Collection Development and Cataloguing and work places of the User Services Department on the ground floor. On the first floor there is the General Reading Room with over 636 work places, and on the basement floor there is the Periodicals Reading Room.

The staircase

The representative staircase on the inside of the center building, the use of which the king had reserved to himself, has been imitated several times. Its effect must have been fairly overwhelming. From the windowless entrance hall, which at the time was also dimly lit – next to it were the rooms of the archive of the kingdom of Bavaria – the arrival climbed the 54 steps of the broad staircase up to the bright light of scholarship, shielded by the impressive vault adorned with frescos and ornamented all over. Allegories of the arts and sciences in the cells of the vault, representations of famous scholars, but also portraits of the architect Friedrich von Gärtner and the then chief librarian Philipp Lichtenthaler symbolize the ambition of the Royal Court and State Library to encompass scholarship, religion and art alike.


The video shows the library building with its annex, the statues at the entrance and the grand staircase from an unusual perspective.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bb-6jStBVUI
Treasure trove of cultural heritage
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