The Batthyaneum Library from Alba Iulia was founded at the end of the 18th century. It was organized in the edifice of a former baroque church transformed first by the imperial army in a military hospital, then in a cultural foundation according to the wish of the bishop of Transylvania, Ignác Batthyány.
The library is famous all over the world for its manuscripts, rare books and the sacred art collection. There are also valuable medieval documents representing a significant part of the historical archives of Transylvania, rare collections of coins, minerals and shells donated by the bishop Batthyány. Some say this could be the most inestimable place in the city because of the high concentration of value gathered here.
Beside the large book collections, the library hosted a printing house – where were printed scientific and religious books – and the first astronomical observatory in Transylvania which only worked until the 1848 revolution, when it was bombed. Later, it was changed into a museum, which worked for another century.
Aula Magna, the most representative room of the library, with its endless rows of leather bound books, the scent of old manuscripts, allegorical decorations (with religious, mythological and scientific connotations) and the portraits of scientists, keeps the atmosphere specific to the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century.
The most fascinating early medieval manuscript in the library is Codex Aureus. It is famous not only for the extraordinary quality of the illustration, but also because it was commissioned by Charlemagne and was written in gold ink between 778 and 820. Also known as the Lorsch Gospels (because it was first recorded in Lorsch Abbey – Germany), Codex Aureus has not only cultural, but also spiritual value.
- Cultural because of the rare fine art and the tumultuous history of the manuscript.
- Spiritual because of the content that joins the four gospels from the Bible.
At the Batthyaneum Library we have only the first half of the manuscript (the Gospels of Matthew and Mark). The second half (the Gospels of Luke and John) is in the Vatican Library. The back cover, with impressive ivory reliefs is in the Vatican Museums and the front cover, with the Virgin and Child with saints, angels and the nativity of Christ below, is in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
Nowadays the Batthyaneum Library is one of the most valuable places in the country and is also a stimulating attraction for those who want to spend a few silent and respectfully moments admiring some of the oldest books in Romania.