Biblioteca di Strahov I, Praga

2009, Printed Later
Archival lambda color photograph

Signed, titled, dated and from edition of 5 on artist’s label on verso.

Available in 3 sizes: 100 x 120 cm. (39.4 x 47.2 in.), 120 x 150 cm. (47.2 x 59.1 in.), 180 x 225 cm. (70.9 x 88.6 in.)

Massimo Listri’s photograph “Biblioteca di Strahov I, Praga” offers a captivating view down the room, following the green carpet, with light streaming in from the right-hand side. The library is housed within the Royal Canonry of Premonstratensians at Strahov in Prague’s Hradcany district, one of the oldest Premonstratensian monasteries globally.

Founded in 1143 by the influential Bishop of Olomouc, Jindrich Zdik (c.1080-1150), and granted royal privileges by the Premyslid King of Bohemia, Vladislaus II (c.1110-1174), Strahov Abbey quickly became a spiritual hub in the region. From its inception, a library and scriptorium were integral parts of the monastery, with its earliest holdings dating back to the mid-12th century. These holdings, often produced in-house, bore the ownership mark “Mons Sion,” indicating their association with Strahov.

Despite challenges such as fires, wars, and plundering, the library continued to expand, acquiring significant works of academic and scientific literature, particularly through its connections with Prague’s Charles University. Documents related to the activities of renowned astronomers Johannes Kepler and Tycho Brahe are among its unique holdings.

By the late 18th century, the Bibliotheca Strahoviensis was esteemed as the most important monastic library in Bohemia. Its librarian, Vaclav Urban, proposed opening it to the academic public as a national library, reflecting the enlightened ideals of the time.

The library’s Theological Hall, designed in Baroque style and housing 18,000 volumes, was complemented during the Enlightenment by the Philosophical Hall, containing 42,000 volumes on philosophy and natural sciences. These monumental halls, adorned with decorative elements reflecting their respective eras, showcase the library’s rich intellectual heritage.

Following its appropriation by the Czechoslovakian State in 1950, Strahov’s library became part of the Museum of National Literature. However, in 1991, it was restituted to the Premonstratensians, who continue to oversee the canonry today. Visitors can now explore its historical library rooms and cabinet of curiosities, experiencing firsthand the splendor of this remarkable institution.