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Apponyi Library - Bibliotheca Apponiana

Category: Museums, galleries

Apponyi library in Oponice was born thanks to unaffected love for book. It was established in Vienna by patron and count of Oponice ANTON GEORG APPONYI (1751-1817). He had loved books and collected them for all his life. Apponyi collected during his life more than 30.000 precious books - for comparison today there is only half of them in library, about 15.000… The library had more than 400 incunabula at the end of the 18th century! Very precious was work of „Prudentii Aurelii Opera“ written on parchment from the 9th century, Dante’s „Allighieri comedia col comento“ with engravings of Sandro Botticelli or famous Bible from Johannes Gutenberg from 1435 that are nowadays considered to be the absolute gems of European librarianship… That was the library in the glory of its period.

When the library’s founder died in 1817, it was in danger of downfall for the first time. From his 9 children only count ANTON APPONYI (1782-1852) – patron and diplomat, was interested in saving the library. Finally, he saved the library and transferred it from Vienna to Bratislava. The opening cerimony took place in 1827 and at request of count Apponyi it became the first public library in Slovakia. In London, from where it used to receive precious English press, it was known as „Public National Library of Presbourg“. The library was operating in Bratislava for 19 years, it is a paradox that then the town refused to support it financially and Apponyi transferred it from Bratislava to Oponice to Renaissance manor house where it was supposed to stay forever.

Because of the 17.000 books Anton Apponyi had to enlarge northern wing of manor house by annexe - a majestic room where rooms were transferred in a peculiar way - on carriages pulled by bullocks. Furniture, today in Empire style is from the beginning of the 19th century and comes from Paris where count Anton Apponyi lived for 22 years of his diplomatic life. Here he used to sit, to read his beloved books, to accept important guests and to write his memoirs and here he found death on 17 October 1852. As he had requested, he was buried in the vicinity of his beloved library - in family tomb under the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul in Oponice.

His place was taken by one of his two sons - Julius Apponyi. He was a career diplomat and along with brother Rudolf they followed in father’s footsteps, but nobody could ever reach father’s fame and success… Julius died relatively young as 41 years old and he left widow Žofia, born Sztáray with two children. She took over all the dominion with famous library. One of contemporaries later said about her that this lady made a little Paris from Oponice and that Oponice was the town of witers, poets or painters - one of them created even Žofia’s portrait looking at eastern facade of manor house and park. This strong personality of the family died in 1897.

Her grandson HENRIK APPONYI (1885-1935) was the last owner of the local dominion. Those who knew him called him a bohemian. He was a successful graduate of Oxford and studied also at university in Pest. He had an excellent career of diplomat ahead but it had a short duration in 1912-1914, after 1918 he registered, along with his wife and other siblings, Czechoslovak citizenship and lived in Oponice until 1935. His stay in Oponice was interrupted by expensive expeditions to Africa (1924) and India, Himalayas and Tibet (1930) and by organization of boisterous parties in manor house on which many celebrities participated as Josephine Baker, Theodore Roosevelt, Adam Opel or Thomas Cardeza - Titanic’s passenger who had survived the shipwreck in 1912.

After Henrik’s death in 1935 and as a consequence of debts of his bohemian life manor house changed the owner, Slezák family bought the manor house with surrounding dominion from Apponyis and they were living and farming there until 1948.

The manor house was then nationalized by communists and tens of years of decline and devastation followed. For eight post-war years library served as granary or deposit of onion, nuts and hops. Precious books, pictures and artistic collections of unimaginable value were destroyed and set on fire.

In 1956-1958 the library was saved by Franciscan Joseph Gajdoš, professor of library science, politic prisoner and excellent librarian… Gajdoš has cleaned and catalogued whole library’s fund in two years and he gave catalogue to institution Matica Slovenská in Martin. As a reward for his works he was fired in 1958 (!). He died almost completely forgotten in his hometown Veľká Maňa near Nové Zámky in 1978. His departure sealed post-war fate of Apponyi library in manor house Oponice. In 1972 Matica Slovenská tranferred it to deposits in Martin and library’s interior was burnt down in the area of the park. After 1989 people in Oponice remembered this forgotten book gem and they started to track it. But Apponyi library could return, from where it was violently dragged away in 1970s, only in 2007 after the company IP Slovakia purchased devastated manor house and the agreement was signed with SNK in Martin. More than 100 joiners of Zvolen were working on renovation and rendition of copy of library’s interior, and their reincarnation of the library is breathtaking. As well as its fund that is so unique and precious that it is worth of our attention, respect, esteem and national pride. It is the only historical library in Slovakia where you can come and study press from period between the 16th and 20th century for free.

The credo of Apponyi library is still actual and it fulfils its goal to these days „LITERIS IN PATRIA AVGENDIS“ (For improvement of erudition in the country).

Author: Peter Králik - Oponice 

Visiting days:

Summer regime: June - August
Winter regime: September - May

Opening hours during summer regime:
Tuesday - Friday 9:00 – 15:00 h
Saturday - Sunday 10:00 - 16:00 h

Opening hours during winter regime:
Tuesday - Friday 9:00 – 15:00 h
Saturday entrances at 13:00, 14:00, 15:00, 16:00
Sunday entrances at 12:00, 13:00, 14:00, 15:00

Library is closed on Mondays.

Excursions start at hourly basis in the span of visiting hours. http://www.infokomarno.sk/