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The Staircase
The staircase, west side | © BSB / H.-R. Schulz
The Staircase on the Inside of the Centre Building
The representative staircase on the inside of the centre 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.