biblioteca angelica roma

Angelica Library

Duration: 1 hour
Guided tour with exclusive opening

The Angelica Library is the oldest public library in Rome, and together with the Ambrosiana in Milan and the Bodleian Library in Oxford one of the first in Europe; opened in 1604, it owes its name to the Augustinian bishop Angelo Rocca (1546-1620), who in the last years of the sixteenth century entrusted its book collection to the friars of the convent of Sant’Agostino in Rome. Angelo Rocca, passionate collector of fine editions, responsible for the Vatican Typography during the pontificate of Sixtus V, gave the library a suitable location, its own income, a regulation and wanted it to be open to all without limits of census. The absolute novelty of the institution wanted by the Rocca aroused the interest of an ever-growing public and the fame of the library soon spread among the scholars of the time attracting other precious legacies: in 1661 Lucas Holste, custodian of the Vatican Library, left his precious collection of printed volumes to the Augustinian friars. In 1762 the very rich library of Cardinal Passionei was purchased, which doubled the patrimony of Angelica and above all enriched it with the texts that that Cardinal, linked to the Jansenist Roman circles, had researched and purchased in the travels carried out as papal legate in the countries of Protestant Europe : this together with the presence of the main supporters of Augustinian thought meant that a fundamental collection of texts was formed in Angelica for studies and research on the Reformation and Counter-Reformation period.
The acquisition of the imposing collection that belonged to Cardinal Passionei made it necessary to renovate the Angelica Library, which the Augustinians entrusted to the architect Luigi Vanvitelli, who in 1765 completed the construction of the current hall. In the nineteenth century the history of Angelica was marked by the historical events that affected the city of Rome: from the invasion of the French to the proclamation of the Mazzinian republic, which took place in 1849. The events of the Augustinians in Angelica ended in 1873, with the passage of the library to the Italian state.