Library building


After its foundation in 1558 the Wittelsbach court library was firstly located in the Kanzleigewoelbe (chambers vault) of the Alter Hof (Old Court). In 1571, after the construction of the Antiquarium (hall of antiquities) in the Alte Residenz, the library was allocated one floor above the rest of the "antiquities", but the year 1599 already saw the return of the library to the Alter Hof, this time to its north wing. In 1778 Prince Elector Karl Theodor ordered the move of the library to the Mauthaus (toll house) in Theatinerstrasse, into which also the Academy of Sciences had moved almost two decades before. The library remained there for only five years. In 1783, after the integration of the holdings of the dissolved Jesuit college, it moved to the former school building of the Jesuits next to the Michaelskirche (St. Michael's church), again together with the Academy of Sciences.

One of the first construction plans of King Ludwig I was to create a representative building for his court and state library. Firstly, the site opposite the Glyptothek on Koenigsplatz, the location of today's Antikensammlung (collection of antiquities), was intended to become the building site for the new library building. But then the gap between the Ministry of War and the Ludwigskirche (St. Ludwig's church) on the new boulevard which the King intended to have extended in a northbound direction, the Ludwigstrasse, came into play. The architect Friedrich von Gaertner was commissioned to plan the building, which was erected between 1832 and 1843. The elongated building on Ludwigstrasse, comprising two inner courtyards, has a length of 152 metres, a depth of 78 metres and a height of 24 metres. With these dimensions the library building is the largest blank brick building in Germany. At the time of its inauguration the building was regarded as the most modern German library building.

Kaindl, Annemarie: „Das großartigste Gebäude in München”: die Baugeschichte der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek.
Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2023.

The Statues

The four larger-than-life stone statues designed by Ludwig von Schwanthaler prominently situated at the flight of stairs are affectionately called "the four magi" by the Munich population. From left to right, the statues represent Thukydides, the founder of scholarly historiography, Homer, the creator of the Ilias and the Odyssee, Aristotle, the philosopher and teacher of Alexander the Great, and Hippocrates, the most famous physician of antiquity. In total, they symbolise the diversity of sciences, the collection of whose literature was the mission of the Royal Court and State Library.

The staircase on the inside of the center building

The representative staircase on the inside of the center building, the use of which the king had reserved to himself, was copied several times. Its effect must have been overwhelming. From the windowless entry hall, which – adjoining the rooms of the Bavarian State Archive – was rather dim at the time, the visitor climbed the 54 steps of the broad stairway up into the bright light of science, covered by the impressive vault richly decorated all over with frescos and ornaments. Allegories of the fine arts and sciences in the transverse arches of the vault, representations of famous scholars, but also portraits of the architect Friedrich von Gaertner and of the then Head Librarian Philipp Lichtenthaler symbolised the mission of the Royal Court and State Library to encompass science, religion and the fine arts equally.

On the first floor, the lending desk directly adjoined the large staircase. The back of the building hosted the general reading room, the catalogue room, the "journal room" and the offices of the employees. The manuscript reading room was located in the south-western corner. In the rest of the room arrangement, the principle of shelving according to subject in library rooms with galleries and wall shelves was dominant. In the 1920s the north wing was turned into a first modern repository wing with storage facilities from the ground floor to the attic.

During the Second World War the building was hit by bombs several times, so that 85 percent of it were destroyed. The greatest damage was done by the first attack in the night from 9 to 10 March 1943, when phosphorus bombs hit the middle of the building, the wind further fanned the resulting blast, and about one fifth of the holdings fell victim to the flames. After further attacks all user services were discontinued in 1944. In May 1945 the building was practically a ruin.

Soon after the end of the war the reconstruction started under the direction of the renowned architects Hans Döllgast and Sep Ruf. The stairway was reconstructed in an austere and unadorned design. The upper landing was extended by two window axes, so that it has four additional arch sections today. The vault remained uniformly white. The window arches and wall surfaces were painted in a simple reddish brown. The stairway was still impressive even in this design, though.

Since the year 2003, the association of Sponsors and Friends of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek endeavoured to have at least the 22 window arches and the east front wall of the stairway reconstructed in the spirit of Friedrich von Gärtner. In 2005 a model window was produced, which proved so attractive that the required funds could be raised. Work started in March 2007; in October the reconstruction of the 22 window arches and the front wall was finished.

A large part of the aesthetic concept of the original designers has thus been recovered, even if the vault remains white as a matter of fact. – For the time being? This has turned out to be a divisive issue. There are those who warn against overdoing it, advising to leave the vault in its current design; there are others who hope that the splendour of the window arches and of the front wall will give rise to demands to have also the vault restored in a form and colour approximate to Gärtner's design. Let's see what the future will bring.

The reconstruction of the windows and the front wall was sponsored by
Dr. Michael Albert (book)   |   Prof. Dr. Roland Berger (binary code)   |   Family of Dr. Andreas Biagosch (Herodotus)   |   Charlotte and Nikolaus von Bomhard (Goethe)   |   Manfred Dierig (Galilei)   |   Christopher Marcus Dürrmeier (Calderon)   |   Hanns-Jörg Dürrmeier (Corneille)   |   Sponsors and Friends of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek e. V. (scroll)   |   Christian Geissler (Johannes von Müller)   |   Fritz Haberl (Schiller)   |   Karl Alexander Haeusgen (Dante)   |   Dr. Clemens Haindl (Virgil)   |   Ana Maria, Stefan and Julian Heyd (Kepler)   |   Dr. Dirk Ippen (Plato)   |   Axel and Cornelia Müller-Vivil (Tacitus)   |   Münchener Rückversicherungs-Gesellschaft, Aktiengesellschaft in München (front wall)   |   Ingeborg Pleischl (Linné)   |   Robert Salzl (Camões)   |   Prof. Dr. Max Michael Schlereth (Shakespeare)   |   Stefan Schörghuber (Newton)   |   Dr. Martin Steinmeyer (Copernicus)   |   Stiftung Straßenkunst der Stadtsparkasse München (music sheet)   |   Dr. Dietrich and Gudrun Wolf (Tycho Brahe)

The annex

The reconstruction after the Second World War started in 1945/ 46 with the northern part of the west wing and, divided into six construction phases, took a quarter of a century. In the autumn of 1947 the library was given provisional quarters in the former party buildings in Arcisstrasse. In the building in Ludwigstrasse business could only be taken up again after 1952, after the tedious reintegration of the evacuated collections. However, the users and the employees still had to live with makeshift constructional solutions for many years. In 1966 the annex, designed by the association of architects Hans Doellgast, Sep Ruf and Helmut Kirsten, and the east wing, of which only the outside walls had still been intact at the end of the war, were completed, and in 1970 the reconstruction was finally concluded with the inauguration of the south wing, which had been completely destroyed during the war.

Whereas the west wing and the middle section of the old building now host the computing center and the special departments, the south wing now mainly hosts the Department of Manuscripts and Rare Books as well as stacks. The annex has a dimension of 59 x 42 x 22 metres. On the ground floor, it comprises the Departments Acquisition, Collection Development and Cataloguing and offices of the User Services Department; on the first floor, the annex hosts the General Reading Room with 636 working places; and in the basement the Periodicals Reading Room. The ground floor in the east section of the old building hosts the book provision section and the computer workstations.


In the years 1995 to 2004 the building on Ludwigstrasse was refurbished comprehensively, incurring costs of altogether almost 40 million Euro. The refurbishment had become necessary since in the reconstruction after the Second World War unsuitable materials had frequently been used, since modern security standards were not met to a sufficient degree and since funds for building maintenance had been scarce during the 1970s and 1980s. The removal of asbestos, the modernisation of the air conditioning system, replacement of the book conveying system and installation of fibre glass connections throughout the building were important cornerstones in the course of refurbishment. All works were carried out during full, unlimited business. In 1997 the thoroughly modernised General Reading Room could be inaugurated, the Periodicals Reading Room in 1999. The restoration of the grounds and the installation of a new system of signposts and guidance marked the end of refurbishment in 2004. In 2007 the Sponsors and Friends of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek found sponsors for the reconstruction of the colours and the ornaments of the 22 window arcs in the great staircase in an approximation to the original design by Gaertner.

Garching book repository

1st construction phase

The representative book repository in Garching owes its existence to the lack of space in the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek's Munich building. As the second-largest scholarly universal library of Germany, the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek has experienced an annual growth by 140,000 volumes on average during recent decades. The limit of the holding capacity of the main building, amounting to around 3.8 million volumes, had already been reached in the 1970s, making the construction of a suitably dimensioned repository inevitable. Since there was no space for doing so at the location of the main building in Ludwigstrasse, a decision was taken in favour of the location on the research campus in Garching after thorough consideration. Opened in 1988, this book repository in Garching was already filled to the rafters only a few years later, with around 2.4 million volumes. The Bayerische Staatsbibliothek had to resort to rented repository space again.

2nd construction phase

After a waiting period of several years, the Free State of Bavaria granted almost 50 million DM for the second construction phase in December 2001. The then State Minister of Sciences, Research and the Arts, Hans Zehetmair, carried out the ground-breaking on 1 August 2003, with the roofing ceremony taking place on 24 May 2004. On 7 November 2004 the building planned by the construction office of the Technical University of Munich and implemented by the architects Dömges + Partner was inaugurated by the State Minister of Sciences, Research and the Arts, Dr. Thomas Goppel. The budget planned in 2001 could be met.

Around 9,000 square metres offer storage capacity for around three million volumes. In addition, two cold storage rooms were built, which serve for storing microfilms appropriately.

With the planning and implementation of this second construction phase, the building office of the TU Munich has created a building that excellently meets the needs of a repository building. The building is clearly structured and equipped with a mobile, electronically controlled shelf system. Both the building and the shelf system are optimally adapted for both the appropriate storage of the books with regard to conservation and the operations of a repository.