With over 3.5 million bibliographic items, it is one of the most complete libraries in Latin America. It was created in 1813, at the initiative of the artifices of Independence.
The National Library is currently housed in a French neo-classical style building, located in a sector known for the mutual enrichment between the architectural volume and quality of the library itself, Avda. Libertador Bernardo O’Higgins, and the appeal of Santa Lucía Hill.
On the inside, it is decorated with mural paintings by Chilean artists, highlights including works by Arturo Gordon and Alfredo Helsby. The building features a periodicals library, map library, historical archives, reading rooms and temporary exhibition rooms, among other spaces.
It was declared a National Monument in 1976.
The initiative to create a National Library in Chile came from the fathers of the country early in 1813, and it was set up in the former Palacio Real de Aduana, now the Pre-Columbian Museum.
Closed during the Reconquest Period, the Library re-opened its reading room to the public in 1818, once National Independence had been consolidated. Its first directors were, in historical order, Manuel de Salas, Camilo Henríquez and Manuel José Gandarillas.
Due to the increase in its collections and the subsequent lack of space, in 1843 the Library was moved to the place currently occupied by the building that formerly housed the National Congress.
Forty years later, it already had 60,000 volumes tightly arranged in constrained rooms, which led to its transfer to the Palacio del Consulado, suitably adapted for the purpose.
Construction of the current National Library building took place following the demolition of the old Convent of the Clarisse Sisters, located on the city block delimited by Avda. Libertador Bernardo O’Higgins, Calle Claras (now Mac-Iver), Moneda and Miraflores.
The project of architect Gustavo García Postigo included the building of the National Library and the History Museum. Initially, the project also involved the construction of the National Archive, with access from Calle Mac-Iver, but this did not come to fruition and the space was assigned to gardens.
The current building falls within the academic architecture of the turn of the century, inspired by the postulates of the Fine Arts College of Paris.
On the main façade, double-height columns separate the windows that light the rooms in this sector. The central dome and the double-height columns jutting out from the east and north façade form a harmonious composition.
On the inside, the fine finishing touches were commissioned from local artists and craftsmen. Particularly notable are the mural paintings by Gordon, Helsby, Courtois, and Mori.
Composition, ornamentation, and wood or plaster carving works for different elements in the building were carried out by other leading artists: Enea Ravanello was commissioned with the three iron doors for the main entrance; Alberto Mattmann was responsible for the iron and bronze balustrades on the staircase; and Santiago Ceppi made the marble and artificial granite floors.
Avenida Libertador Bernardo O'Higgins, 651, Santiago.