This Library, still housed in its original premises in a former Dominican monastery, holds one of Latin America’s most important bibliographic collections.
Recoleta 683, Santiago, Chile
Mon-Fri 9:30am-1pm & 3-5pm
In 1753, the Dominican Order, whose first members had arrived in Chile in the late sixteenth century, decided to build a new monastery on what was then the northern edge of Santiago, close to the Mapocho River. The idea was to return to strict observance of monastic rules through the construction of a “recoleto” cloister (from the Latin for “to retire”).
In the mid-nineteenth century, the Order went on the build the Recoleta Dominica Church, designed by Italian-born architect Eusebio Chelli, next to these cloisters and, then, in the late 1880s, a new monastery. On the monastery’s main Los Padres (The Fathers) cloister, this included a spacious library to house the growing collection of books the monks had gradually brought over from Europe for their own studies and teaching work.
For many years, this was one of largest and most important libraries in Chile and, indeed, Latin America. Regularly visited by leading thinkers and intellectuals, it contained 33,000 books by 1910.
When the monastery - now the Recoleta Dominica Heritage Center - was transferred to the Chilean state in 1998, the library and its contents were preserved and, in 2005, opened to the public as a bibliographic museum.
As well as the collection of the Recoleta Dominica Monastery, the Library also includes those of the nearby Santo Domingo Monastery and other Dominican monasteries around Chile. It contains some 115,000 books, printed in Europe and Chile, dating from the sixteenth century through to the twentieth century. Many of these are first editions and some were bound in the monastery itself. The Library also has an important collection of maps, newspapers, magazines, music scores and photographs.
As well as religion, the topics covered include philosophy, history, literature, art, medicine, law, astronomy, botany and zoology.
Books and other items can be consulted in the reading room (in some cases, only under supervision). In addition, the Library mounts regular temporary exhibitions on different themes.