Last Updated on November 14, 2023 by Laura Teso
The Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana (National Library of St Mark’s) is located in front of Palazzo Ducale (the Doge Palace) in Venice. It is one of the first public libraries in the country. Le Sale Monumentali, Monumental Rooms of the Biblioteca Marciana are however devoid of books. So don’t expect to see any.
The library was built by Jacopo Sansovino (1537 – 1553) and completed by Vincenzo Scamozzi (1588). If you access directly here, you enter the beautiful portal (in fornt of the Doge Palace in St. Mark’s Square) flanked by two big caryatids and go up the monumental staircase (look at the ornate ceiling), then access the rooms.
Monumental Rooms of the Biblioteca Marciana – my visit
In the first room you will find Roman statues and a unique ancient World Map (1450) by Fra Mauro. It represents the world before the discovery of America. It is interesting because it introduces (before the actual discovery) a different course of the river Nile and the possibility to circumnavigate Africa. Another oddity, the map is upside down, so the North is at the bottom. On this first room ceiling you can admire Wisdom by Titian (1560).
A precious ceiling
Then you enter the Library room, where once were located books donated by Cardinal Bessarione to Venice in 1468. You will find a rich golden ceiling with 21 tondos, painted by 7 different painters. From the entrance and from left to right there are:
- Fratina: Nature, Pallas and Jupiter – Theology before the Gods – Natural Philosophy
- Salviati: Virtue despises Fortune – Art, Mercury and Pluto – Pallas and Hercules
- Semolei: Agriculture, Pomona, Ceres and Vertumnus – Diana and Actaeon – Solitude, Fatigue and Exercise
- Giulio Licinio: Watch and Patience – Glory and Bliss – Sculpture (remade by Bernardo Strozzi)
- Zelotti: Mathematics – Virtue – Nile, Atlas, Geometry and Astrology (remade by Padovanino)
- Paolo Veronese: Honour – Arithmetic and Geometry – Music
- Schiavone: The Government – The Priesthood – The Arms
On the walls you can see beautiful paintings depicting ancient philosophers.
Starting from the entrance again, turn back towards the entrance and you can see Aristotle (left) and Plato (right) by Veronese. Continuing to the right of Plato, you will see two philosophers by Schiavone, then 3 by Tintoretto (the third is Diogenes, the penultimate), a prophet, and two other philosophers. Then by the school of Veronese the representation of Faith. Going on, Prometheus and the prophet Jeremiah by Salviati, a philosopher by Franco, a prophet by Lambert Sustris and finally the Charity by the school of Veronese.
My husband and I took advantage of the free admission (first Sunday of the month) but the atmosphere of the room was a bit ruined by the presence of a Biennale artistic installation that I personally did not like and which in my opinion was not at all suitable to this particular location. Proceeding in the adjoining room, you can visit the National Archaeological Museum (also free admission on the first Sunday of the month). If you’re interested you can read my post about the Archaeological Museum in Venice.
Normally the entrance of the Monumental Rooms is at the Correr Museum (St. Mark’s Square, Napoleonic Wing) where you buy a single ticket valid for: Correr Museum, National Archaeological Museum, Monumental Rooms and Doge Palace).
Only on the first Sunday of the month, however, due to the free admission, you don’t have to buy a ticket for the Monumental Rooms so you enter directly without going to the ticket office of the Correr Museum. You may then go directly to the Monumental Rooms entrance in front of the Doge Palace.
(ST. MARK’S SQUARE MUSEUMS TICKET valid for the Doge’s Palace, Museo Correr, National Archaeological Museum and Monumental Rooms of the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana).
Full Price 18€
From 1 April to 31 October 10 am – 7 pm (tickets available until 6)
From 1 November to 31 March 10 am – 5 pm (tickets available until 4)
Closed December 25 and January 1