Strahov Library

The exceptional library with two historical halls is a monument of the first category.

Opening hours

Strahov Library

Monday - Sunday 9:00-17:00
New Year's Eve (31. 12. 2024) 9:00-12:00
New Year (1. 1. 2025) 12:00-17:00
Christmas Eve (24. 12. 2024), Christmas Day (25. 12. 2024), Easter Sunday (31. 3. 2024) Closed

  • Tickets are sold until 4:15 PM.
  • Last entry to the library is at 4:30 PM.

Strahov Library

The library has been a part of the monastery since its inception, though unfortunately, no records of its medieval location have survived. The current library halls were built during the Baroque and Classicism periods. During a visit, you can glimpse into the Theological Hall, built by Abbot Jerome Hirnheim in the early 1670s. It is followed by the larger Philosophical Hall, constructed by Abbot Václav Mayer between 1782 and 1797. The ceiling of the Philosophical Hall was decorated by the prominent Austrian painter Franz Anton Maulbertsch. The tour includes a cabinet of curiosities, a predecessor to museum exhibits with cabinets from the late 18th century. Natural science exhibits are installed in a way that captivates visitors, not systematically. In the library's anteroom, facsimiles of the most valuable medieval manuscripts in the library collections, unique incunabula, and palaeotypes, as well as the library regulations compiled by Jerome Hirnheim in 1672, are displayed. A collection of globes dating from the early 17th to the late 19th century is presented in front of the Theological Hall.

Important information for library visitors:

The original visitor circuit used to pass through all the main spaces of the library. After long-term measurements, we had to modify this visitor circuit to its current form, meaning it is not possible to pass through all the spaces of the library. The reason is the fluctuation of air humidity and high dust levels, which threaten the condition of frescoes, furniture, and particularly the books themselves, specifically their historical bindings. It is possible to look into the library halls as part of special tours, the number of which is limited. We apologize that we are unable to accommodate all interested in the tour.

Before visiting the Strahov Library, purchase tickets either at the box office in St. Roch's Church at the main gate of the monastery or online. Find ticket prices here.

Tickets can also be purchased at the ticket office in the Church of St. Roch near the main gate of the Strahov Monastery complex.

where is the ticket office

Some notable exhibits

Although the library halls are the most interesting, it would be a pity if you missed other notable exhibits that we would like to highlight below. These exhibits are related to the very history of the monastery library. From the beginning, its existence was entirely in the service of monastic life, and the order's regulations specified the list of books each monastery was obliged to own. Among these books is a lectionary, used both for liturgical purposes and for the development of spiritual life. The cabinet of curiosities was purchased in 1798 and later expanded. The growing interest in technical subjects enriched the monastery's collections not only with books on this topic but also with an "electric machine." In the Theological Hall, you can see a device for more comfortable study, the so-called compilation wheel.

Strahov Gospel Book

The oldest manuscript kept in the Strahov Library contains, as its name suggests, all four gospels. The text was probably written around 860 in Tours (France), though an earlier origin (end of the 8th or turn of the 8th and 9th centuries) is not excluded. Later, the manuscript reached Trier (Germany), where it was enriched in the tenth century with four full-page illuminations of the evangelists: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The name of the illuminations' author is unknown, but he calls himself Master Gregory's Register in one of his works. He must have been a highly educated calligrapher and miniaturist (book painter), who significantly influenced other painting schools of his time. The binding of the manuscript, containing decorative elements of various ages, is equally valuable. The oldest are enameled targets probably from the end of the 12th century. Time-wise closest to them are four gilded bronze statues of the Blessing Christ, the Virgin Mary with Jesus, and two bishops. Older decorations include polished crystals. The silvered bronze medallions with the four evangelists are Renaissance work from the 16th century, the youngest is a group depicting the Crucifixion from around the mid-17th century. At this time, the gospel book was rebound, and the decoration of the binding was adjusted to its current appearance.

Medieval Manuscripts

Due to the Hussite wars and the subsequent period of instability, very little has been preserved from the original medieval library. Illuminated manuscripts, whose facsimiles are displayed in the exhibition, mostly arrived at the library at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century, often in connection with the dissolution of monasteries and the sale of their book collections. An extraordinary illumination features a star atlas from Venice, written and decorated in the mid-14th century (exhibited in the globe collection exhibition). It was likely in the library of Charles IV. From the library of the dissolved Premonstratensian monastery in Louka near Znojmo, two liturgical manuscripts were purchased: a pontifical made in 1376 on the order of the first bishop of Litomyšl, Albrecht of Sternberg, and a missal from 1483. A popular theme, the creation of the world captured in six medallions, introduces the Latin Šellenberg Bible, written in the Czech lands in 1440 and named after one of its owners, the highest chancellor of the Kingdom of Bohemia, Jan of Šellenberg.

Cabinet of Curiosities

Cabinets of curiosities originated during the Renaissance. The most significant collector at the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries was undoubtedly Emperor Rudolf II, although his collections have not survived in Prague. The Strahov cabinet of curiosities is significantly younger. It was purchased in 1798 from the heirs of Baron Karl Jan Eben of Brunn (1756-1796) at the initiative of Abbot Václav Mayer (in office 1779-1800), although the price for the collection seemed high to contemporaries. Notable exhibits in this collection include two "basilisks" - fantastic dragons made from the bodies of garfish. These bizarre monsters are relatively rare in world collections; the Strahov specimen was long mistakenly considered to be the remains of the extinct dodo bird (Raphus cucullatus). The collection also includes so-called toadstones, button-like teeth of the fish genus Lepidotus, which lived during the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. Toadstones were long attributed miraculous healing effects and the ability to react to any poison. The collections were later expanded, for example, with archaeological finds from monastic estates, a set of wax fruit, or historical weapons. Among the weapons are five iron cannonballs, a reminder of the shelling of the monastery in 1742 during the Wars of the Austrian Succession. A separate cabinet houses a dendrological library (xylotheque), made by Carl Aloys von Hinterlang around 1825. The growing interest in natural sciences at the end of the 18th century is documented by the electric machine.

Frescoes of the Theological Hall

The hall, built in 1671, was shorter than today's layout; it was extended in the 1720s, and the frescoes were painted at that time. Their author was Siard Nosecký (1693-1753), a Strahov Premonstratensian, who decorated several other spaces at Strahov. We can encounter his works in Czech churches, e.g., in Sepekov or Želiv. The themes of the individual frescoes are based on biblical quotations, mostly from the Old Testament, and are united by the personification of Divine Wisdom, a woman in red clothes with a blue cloak. In the interpretation of these scenes, there are consistent elements with the philosophical-theological work of the hall's abbot and builder, Jerome Hirnheim, called "De typho generis humani" (1676). True wisdom, according to Hirnheim, lies in a good life and holy actions. An unattainable model in this respect is the Virgin Mary, whose image is located above the entrance to the hall from the inner spaces of the monastery.

Ceiling Painting of the Philosophical Hall

The larger library hall, named Philosophical (as it contains books beyond theological themes), was built by Abbot Václav Majer between 1782 and 1797. The ceiling painting depicting the spiritual development of mankind was painted in 1794 by the prominent Austrian painter Franz Anton Maulbertsch and his pupil Martin Michl. Maulbertsch was seventy years old and completed the painting within six months! The theme and interpretation are an authorial replica of a fresco made in the Premonstratensian monastery Louka near Znojmo in 1778, which has not survived to this day. The theme is the spiritual ascent of mankind (an allegory of the progress of the human spirit), dominated by the shining figure of Divine Wisdom. From the visitor's perspective, the scene with the Apostle Paul in Athens at the altar dedicated to the unknown god (Acts of the Apostles 17, 22-34) dominates. The apostle announces the unknown God - Jesus Christ to the assembled people, many of whom accept Christianity and continue to spread the joyful news of the gospel.