The Slovenia Times

Nation's oldest library now open to the public

The Franciscan library at the Franciscan Monastery in the centre of Ljubljana. Photo: Bor Slana/STA

There has been a library in the centre of Ljubljana, right on Prešeren Square, for almost eight centuries. Few people knew about it, even fewer ever entered it. Now, for the first time, it has become publicly accessible to anyone wanting to peruse its many treasures.

Established 790 years ago and the longest continuously operating library institution in Slovenia, the Franciscan Library boasts approximately 70,000 units and is the biggest among monastic and private libraries in Slovenia.

It features as many as 20,000 older, antiquarian units, a collection of approximately 150 medieval documents, the oldest of which dates from 1265, and approximately 117 incunabula, according to Jan Dominik Bogataj, the library custodian.

Incunabula are books printed in the earliest stages of printing in Europe, up to the year 1500.

Some of its most precious treasures include Jurij Dalmatin's translation of the Bible into Slovenian signed by Slovenian protestant reformer Primož Trubar (1508-1586), and the first copy of The Baptism on the Savica, the epic-lyric poem written by Slovenia's foremost Romantic poet France Prešeren (1800-1848), with a dedication by the author.

The library is not the only space whose doors the Franciscans have opened to the public. They have also established an entirely new museum.

It contains a treasury, which houses the most valuable items and books, and a gallery, where the most characteristic works of art from the 16th to the 20th century are on display.

Marjan Čuden, the superior of the Slovenian Franciscan Province, pointed out that the library keeps not only theological books, but also books on crafts, medicine and other sciences.


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