The buildings that house the Biblioteca Capitolare are marked by Verona’s millenary history. The block is known as the Canonry, and it stretches between the right bank of River Adige and Verona’s Piazza Duomo (Dome Square).
The canonry rises in one of the oldest areas of the city, close to the area of the Roman public baths, and to Ponte Pietra: the stone bridge crossed by the Postumia Road. There was also a commercial port on the river, whose remains can still be seen in the Library’s basement. The area was chosen as the first main site for Verona’s Church, as it was protected by the Adige’s bend and represented a crossroad, thanks to Ponte Pietra and the river port.
The second Basilica rose on top of part of what is today the Canons’ Cloister, where ancient columns and mosaics can still be admired. The Basilica witnessed the passing of Theodoric, King of the Ostrogoths, and of various occupying forces which ruled the city until Charlemagne’s conquest in 774. Unfortunately, the Basilica was then destroyed in a fire. During archaeological digs in the 19th century, several fragments of bronze chains were found on the Church’s floor. They were probably used to support the chandeliers, and are now kept in the Museo Canonicale (Canonical Museum).
Meanwhile, the first headquarters of the Schola, the clergymen’s school, and of the Scriptorium, rose between the river bank and the Basilica. The Scriptorium was a writing laboratory dedicated to the production of books for the priests’ education, whose first evidence was stated by lector Ursicinus in AD 517.
Charlemagne entrusted Verona to his son Pippin, who probably refined his studies at the Scriptorium of Verona. He also ordered the reconstruction of the city, which had been destroyed by continuous wars, and enlarged the Canonry on the remains of the second Basilica. St. Helen’s Church and the Eastern wing of the Canonry, still visible today, date back to the Carolingian period. The whole area was shaken by an earthquake on 3 January 1117, but it was followed by a quick reconstruction which included the building, in Romanesque style, of the Cathedral (inaugurated in 1187). The Canonry buildings were further expanded and the elegant cloister, with the double order of columns in the wing housing the Scriptorium and the Library, was completed.
The main halls and the wooden bookshelves were completed in 1728 under the rule of the Republic of Venice. Since then, the Library has undergone several adaptations and restorations, due to the destruction suffered because of both man and nature: the plunder by Napoleon’s troops, the great flood of 1882, and the bombing by Allied Forces on 4 January 1945. However, every single time the Capitolare rose again, adding a new tile to the mosaic of Europe’s history.