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Cesena, Italy

Biblioteca Malatestiana

A gorgeous medieval library where the books are kept in chains. 

Right in the center of Cesena, Italy, is one of the few surviving chained libraries.

The Biblioteca Malatestiana was commissioned by Malatesta Novello, then Lord of Cesena, and opened in 1454. Inside, very little has changed. Natural light still filters into the church-like space, where 58 reading lecterns hold old texts in their wooden shelves, each chained in place.

The iron chains were put in so that the books wouldn’t get stolen, as they were quite the valuable commodity in the 15th century. The reading room itself, known as the Aula del Nuti after its architect Matteo Nuti, is still accessed through its original wooden doors, which need two separate keys to open.