In 2017 we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. It taught us that we do not need any mediator between God and man. Martin Luther translated the Bible into German, so that every Christian could read the Bible on its own – provided he/she could read. Other Reformers in other countries translated the Bible into many different languages.
But of course you had to be able to read and to be able to understand the text of the Bible. In the 16th century this was only the case for very few people, so the reformers started to install a system of public education.
While public libraries already existed throughout the Roman empire, after its decline it took centuries for new public libraries to be founded. There are quite a few disputes on the question which is the oldest public library in Europe after the fall of the Roman empire. One pretty prospective candidate is the “Bibliotheca Publica” in Augsburg.
Augsburg was a centre of the Reformation and in 1537 the headmaster of the high school “Gymnasium bei St. Anna” was assigned by the council of the City to collect all the books from the empty minorite monasteries. This was the starting point of a public library that was newly constructed in the court of St. Anna church and opened in 1563. In the 19th century the expanding “Gymnasium bei St. Anna” needed more space, so a new and more spacious library was built which opened in 1893.
In 2005 a podium was built with the inscription “Bibliotheca Publica” in large glass letters next to the location where the old library was replaced by a new school building (the yellow building in the picture).
But the court of St. Anna church is also famous for some other reason: It is part of the former monastery of the Carmelite monks in Augsburg, where Martin Luther stayed in 1518 when he met the papal legate Cardinal Thomas Cajetan.