Royal Portuguese Reading Cabinet
One of the most beautiful architectural jewels of the Historic Center of Rio de Janeiro is undoubtedly the Royal Portuguese Reading Cabinet, built on what has come to be called the Neomanuelino style, that is, an evocation of the Manuelino style developed in Portugal during the reign of Don Manuel I (1495-1521) that combined elements of the Gothic with elements of the Italian Renaissance, creating buildings of unique beauty.
Origin of the Royal Cabinet
The Royal Portuguese Reading Cabinet was initially a private library, created by 43 Portuguese emigrants who had arrived in Rio de Janeiro, most of them as political refugees, in order to foster knowledge of Portuguese culture.
Although the foundation of the library as such took place in 1837, construction of the final building began in 1880 and took seven years to complete. The Portuguese architect Rafael da Silva Castro designed the Reading Cabinet inspired by the beautiful Jeronimos Monastery in Lisbon.
An amazing building
Very few people visit Rio de Janeiro and allocate time to visit the Royal Reading Cabinet, however those who do, discover a unique building, both outside and inside.
The facade was worked in Lisbon by sculptors Germano José Salle and Simões de Almeida, using limestone. The decoration is very thorough, with warheads, ribs, rosettes and fine colonnades in the windows.
The sculptures at the entrance represent Pedro Alvares Cabral, Infante Dom Henrique and Vasco de Gama, as a tribute to the great Portuguese navigators and explorers of the time of great discoveries, and Luis de Camões, one of the most important Portuguese poets.
The entrance medallions represent other illustrious characters in Portuguese culture, whose role is to be the «eternal guardians of this temple of human knowledge.»
The interior of the Royal Portuguese Reading Cabinet and its furniture are absolutely fascinating.
The great Reading Room is a large central atrium illuminated during the day by the natural light that enters thanks to the huge skylight worked in delicately painted iron and glass.
Stairs and railings of iron and bronze, a majestic iron candlestick in the center of the room, huge book shelves made of finely carved wood with golden ornaments and the hundreds of books distributed in its three main levels give the cabinet a unique atmosphere.
Open to the public since 1900, the Portuguese Reading Cabinet is a library that houses more than 350,000 copies, including unique works from the 16th and 17th centuries, such as the First Edition of Os Lusiadas (The Lusiadas) written by Luis de Camões , as well as several original manuscripts of various authors.
Given the importance of this library for Portuguese culture, it also has the status of “legal deposit”, so it receives a copy of each of the works published in Portugal.
It also has a Study Center where research and work is carried out on the different aspects of the Portuguese-Brazilian relations.
Visit the Royal Reading Cabinet
Monday to Friday: 09:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
How to get to the Royal Portuguese Reading Cabinet
Uruguayan meters | Carioca – Lines 1 and 2
Address: Rua Luis de Camões, 30 – Centro
Telephone: (+55 21) 2221 3138