Bibliothèque nationale de France, Richelieu Site

Salle Ovale of the BnF, Richelieu – © David H. Enzel, 2023
Spiral staircase in the large hall, in steel and varnished aluminum, at the Bibliothèque nationale de France, site Richelieu – © David H. Enzel, 2023

The Bibliothèque nationale de France (‘National Library of France’; BnF) is the national library of France, located in Paris on two main sites known respectively as Richelieu and François-Mitterrand. It is the national repository of all that is published in France. Some of its extensive collections, including books and manuscripts but also precious objects and artworks, are on display at the BnF Museum (formerly known as the Cabinet des Médailles) on the Richelieu site.

The National Library of France is a public establishment under the supervision of the Ministry of Culture. Its mission is to constitute collections, especially the copies of works published in France that must, by law, be deposited there, conserve them, and make them available to the public. It produces a reference catalog, cooperates with other national and international establishments, and participates in research programs.

The Richelieu site, shown here, occupies a full city block in Paris. This site was the main location of the library for 275 years, from 1721 to 1996. It now hosts the BnF Museum as well as facilities of the BnF, the library of the Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art and the library of the École Nationale des Chartes. It was comprehensively renovated in the 2010s and early 2020s on a design by architects Bruno Gaudin and Virginie Brégal.

The Mazarin Gallery (shown at right, click to expand) is one of the very rare examples of a Baroque gallery that has been preserved in France. It is classified as a historical monument. A remnant of Mazarin’s palace and initially dedicated to the presentation of the jewels of his collection, the gallery has now regained its original function and is an integral part of the Library Museum. Its painted ceiling, with an area of 280 m² (3,014 square feet), is one of the jewels of the site. The entire gallery underwent a restoration in 2018-2019.


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