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Isontina State Library, Civic Library & Provincial Library and Archives

Isontina State Library

The State Library Isontina draws its origins from the book collection that was established and grew within the Jesuit college (1629 - 1773) until the suppression of that order wanted by Maria Teresa. After having been reorganized and reopened in its present location by the Piarist Fathers (1780 - 1810) and having suffered serious damage during the French occupation in 1810, with the Hapsburg restoration it became one of the six libraries of studies of the Austrian Monarchy (1822) and was opened to the public in 1825, preserving until 1914 the name and functions of the Regional Library of the Coast (Venezia Giulia). At the beginning of the First World War, part of the library collections were saved in Graz; the rest, which remained there, was damaged or destroyed. Occupied Gorizia by Italian troops, all that could be saved was transported to Florence, to the Laurentian Library, where it remained until 1919, the year in which the new State Library was established, which in 1925 took the name of Governativa and brought together in the same location the Civic Library and the Provincial Library and Archives. Having repaired the damage caused by the war, the institute returned to the tranquillity of the Werdenberg Palace. In 1941 the Provincial Library moved to Attems Palace, while the Civic Library (founded in 1888 by the Municipality of Gorizia and opened to the public in 1893) maintained its union with the State Library. The Second World War and the subsequent German, Yugoslavian and Anglo-American military occupations caused new huge damages to the Institute, which however was able to energetically recover and adapt to the changing needs. In 1967 the Library took the name of Statale Isontina with new and more important cultural tasks, as witnessed both by the rapid and promising increase that the Gorizia Library Institute has had in the most recent period in its book heritage (as of June 30, 2015, there were 403,639 volumes) and in the number of visitors and by its significant presence in the city (conferences, lectures, bibliographic and art exhibitions).

From a historical-artistic point of view, the Werdenberg Palace is one of the monumental buildings. Its history is linked to that of the Jesuits, whose presence in Gorizia had been requested, as in many centres of the Habsburg Empire (Graz, Ljubljana), in the spirit and according to the norms and directives of the Council of Trent, especially to care for the education of the youth, as a consequence of the serious religious and spiritual crisis that involved the clergy and the local population, not indifferent to the Lutheranism that was spreading in Europe. Their settlement in Gorizia in 1615, after the expulsion from the territories of the Republic of St. Mark, was made possible thanks to the donation by Baron Vito Dornberg of the Church of St. John, with the annexed house, in the homonymous street. Initially, the house was also used as a seminary for a few students, because the Jesuits were also involved in the education and training of the clergy. Given the precariousness of the situation, Baron Verda von Werdenberg intervened in 1629, allocating 22,000 florins for the perpetual maintenance of 24 poor seminarians and a building of his in St. John's Street for the adaptation to Seminary. However, since the house was too far from the boarding school and not comfortable enough, in 1634, again with the generous financing of Baron de Werdenberg, a closer and larger house was bought by the noble Ambrogio Sembler. The whole structure was almost entirely rebuilt, increased with the addition of adjoining buildings and embellished and was completed in 1649. It has a compact facade, drawn by tight sequences of windows, on Via delle Scuole (today Via Mameli), while the side on the current Corso Verdi is lightened by harmonious porticoes with three orders of loggias facing the large inner courtyard. Simple and sober, the palace achieves perfect harmony in its architectural lines and fully expresses the function for which it was built, granting the baroque fashion only the beautiful stuccoes placed at the top of the staircase, probably the work of Giovanni Pacassi, father of the architect Nicolò

Other distinctive signs of its historical-artistic nobility are also the vaulted arches, present in some rooms and cellars, on the ground floor and first floor, and the already mentioned loggias, capable of creating striking elevations, inside and outside the building which are surrounded by the two gardens, one of which mentions the ancient botanical garden of the Austrian Gymnasium. In March 1995, the massive cycle of building and plant engineering works begun at the end of 1988 was completed, which have restored Palazzo Werdenberg, giving it solidity and elegance and adapting it to the functions of a modern library, with the increase in space and the opening of new services.

Civic Library

The Biblioteca Statale Isontina manages the fund called Biblioteca Civica (owned by the Municipality of Gorizia), whose collections, of considerable importance in terms of the history of the country, are remarkable, if not for the number, rarity and value of not a few printed editions and for the funds Giuseppe Domenico Della Bona and Carlo Michelstaedter. The collections of the Civic Library (over 64,000 volumes) include bibliographic material of local and regional interest, including the territories of Slovenia, Istria and Dalmatia which, together with the County, were part of the Adriatic Coast. Among the collections are the Michelstaedter Fund, the library of Giuseppe Domenico Della Bona (with a collection of manuscripts and printed texts on local history), the library of the former Collegio Dante.

Already in the mid-nineteenth century, the Municipality of Gorizia had a small library, for institutional use and not open to the public. In 1886 it was possible to purchase, thanks to a financial commitment supported by an extraordinary intervention of the Provincial Council, the library of the scholar Giuseppe Domenico Della Bona (1790-1864), specialized in local history (or "home history"). The Civic Library was formally established on 27 March 1888, with its seat in a hall of the Town Hall, then located in Via del Giardino (now Corso Verdi). After the reorganization and cataloguing work, it was opened to the public on January 5, 1893. It was partially damaged at the beginning of the First World War (the texts of modern Italian fiction were removed); in 1916, the 108 crates of books that made up its collections were taken away from the front by Emilio Mulitsch and deposited at the Laurentian Library in Florence.

After the war, the books returned from Florence, and the Civica was united with the Governativa (formerly Studienbibliothek, then Statale Isontina) and the Provinciale, forming a single library institution. With a renewed convention since 1919, the Civica has since then been annexed to the State, preserving its characteristics of documentation of the local history and memories of the city and Gorizia.

Provincial Library and Archives

Together with that of the Provincial Museums, the future of the historical archive and the provincial library must also be addressed. These are structures connected to the museums, but with their own structural and organizational autonomy, integrated into the cultural network of Gorizia at the service of scholars and researchers. Both are located in Palazzo Alvarez. The Library originated at the same time as the foundation of the museum, in 1861 when the Provincial Diet could collect in the museum also the works concerning the province and those of the local authors. Over the years, publications supporting the main sections (picture gallery, Great War, craftsmanship, fashion) have been added to the ancient local history collection. The library is therefore highly specialized. The Provincial Historical Archive, actually born in 1914 as a structure open to the public collects documents on the history of Gorizia and its territory since the Middle Ages. It includes the Acts of the Provincial States, with the Morelliana Collection, the Archive of the Council of the Princely County of Gorizia and Gradisca, those of the Agricultural Society of Gorizia and the Society Theatre of Gorizia, the Archives of Country History documents, various family or personal fonds (Strassoldo, Coronini, Del Mestri, Fonda Savio, Pocarini, Persoglia), parchments, manuscripts, census maps, city maps, etc..

It should be remembered that already in the past in our territory choices of rationalization and management economy have been made without penalizing the cultural structures of Gorizia and their users. After the First World War, when the priority was to rebuild the city, the library and the provincial archive were joined to the government library (the present Isontine state library) together with the civic library, just as the Civic Museum or Civic Museum of History and Art merged into the Museum of Redemption. In the case of the libraries, each maintained the autonomy and specialization of its collections. This situation lasted also during the years of suppression of the Province of Gorizia (1923-1926), which was united with that of Udine, and after its reconstitution, until 1940. So even today, in economically difficult times but not comparable to those of the immediate post-war period, the historical link with the local reality of provincial museums, library and archives can and must be maintained.