Newly reopened room in the Vatican was once the largest library in the world


The Sixtus V Room in the Vatican Library still holds the record for the largest fresco-covered space that isn’t a church.

While he was still Cardinal Montalto, Pope Sixtus V entrusted the legendary Renaissance architect Domenico Fontana with the construction of one of the chapels of the Basilica of St. Mary Major. As the cardinal ascended to the papacy, he continued to work with the architect, commanding him to finish important additions and alterations to both St. Peter’s Basilica – in fact, the obelisk standing in St. Peter’s Square is his — and the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the seat of the pope as Bishop of Rome.

But Sixtus V also had some other plans for both Fontana and the Vatican City — in particular, the construction of a new building for the Vatican Library, which the architect started building in 1587, and is still in use today.

For some time, the Sixtus V Room of the Vatican Library has been closed for renovations. It was reopened on October 9 of this year, and it will now be a reading room available for teachers, researchers and graduate students, Bishop Cesare Pasini, Prefect of the Library, told L’Osservatore Romano on October 19.

Built between 1588 and 1589, this room alone was once the largest library in the world. It is still the largest room in the world – churches aside, that is — covered entirely with frescoes. The Vatican Library has for several years been carrying out a series of initiatives for the modernization of its spaces and the digitization of its many archives.

You can visit the Vatican Library catalogue here.

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