Old National Library of Athens

Old National Library of Athens

The Old National Library is part of the "Athenian Trilogy" located in the block that is formed by the streets of Eleftherios Venizelos Street (Panepistimiou), Akadimias Street and Ippokratous Street. It is the work of Theophilus Hansen and was built 1887-1892, under the supervision of Ernst Ziller.

The Doric style building is divided into 3 compact areas: the center that includes the reading room, and the 2 side wings where the books were located.

The entrance to the Old National Library is through a Doric-row of columns (prostyle) whose prototype was the Temple of Hephaestus in Ancient Agora (Thissio). A double-round staircase in Renaissance style leads to the prostyle. The former reading room, with parametric columns of Ionian design, is covered by a glass ceiling.

The iron-clad bookcases were considered stunning for that era. The base of the edifice is composed of Piraeus stone and the main area is made of Pentelic marble. The building is fireproof considering wood was only used for the construction of its doors and windows.

The first public library in Greece was established on the nearby island of Aegina by Governor I. Ioannis Kapodistrias in 1829 and was moved to Athens in 1834, where it was temporarily hosted in various old erections and finally landing in the Panepistimiou Street building.

Since 1858, there was an order given by King Otto to the architect Hansen to examine the creation of a library next to the University of Athens, which was being created during that time.

In 1884, Prime Minister Harilaos Trikoupis secured the final initiative of the construction, with the donation of the Vallianos brothers. In 1887, Panagis Vallianos offered 2.500.00 drachmas for the installation of the structure. That was followed by a second donation by the brothers and a grant from the Public Treasury.

Today, almost the entire archive of the National Library on Panepistimiou Street has transferred to the New National Library, which is located in the world-renowned Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center. The only room that is still in use in the old library is the reading room, where scholars can discover a complete collection of newspapers ranging from the 19th Century to the present time. Unfortunately, the space remains unheated and open only part-time to the public.