The imposing building from the base of Copou hill is the dominant element of the “Mihai Eminescu” Square. The place is known as “At the Foundation”, because this building initially sheltered the residence of the “King Ferdinand I the Unifier” Foundation and its library.
Over the years, the Library Institution functioned in several buildings. Founded in 1835 as Library of the Mihăileană Academy, it became a University Library in 1860, afterwards a Central and Public one and then again, a University one in 1916. After the Second World War, the Library moved into the current residence and merged with the one of the foundation (1950), resulting the “Mihai Eminescu” Central University Library of Iași.
Built between 1930-1934 according to the plans of the architect Constantin Jotzu, the library was made as a sign of gratitude for the vital role that Iași had in the national opposition in the First World War. The Neoclassical style is noticed through the façade made in Ruse stone, with medallions which represent important personalities of the national culture, impressive Ionic columns, Neo-Doric pillars and small triangular gables. Between the columns, it was desired that statues of princes of Moldavia would be placed, but their weight determined their moving nearby, resulting the Voivodes’ Statuary Group. The building is guarded by the statue of the great poet Mihai Eminescu brought from the front of the University, that replaces the monument of the Great Union of 1918, destroyed in the Second World War.
Inside, the visitor is impressed by the Carrara marble and Venetian mosaic decorations that represent various effigies of Romania. The statue of King Ferdinand I is placed at the end of the monumental stairway, reminding us of his essential role in defending Romania and completing the national territory between 1916-1918. The stairs lead to the most important rooms: the Assembly Hall, renowned for its acoustics and the royal balcony, the “B. P. Hașdeu” Hall with its balcony oriented towards the “Mihai Eminescu” Square and the Cupola, a former observer which offers an exceptional panoramic view. The other rooms are reserved for reading and depositing the valuable thesaurus of 2 million volumes, comprised of manuscripts and old and rare books, some bearing illustrious signatures, such as the “Evangel with the Coresi teaching”.
The Library is also an active informing and education centre that organizes events, charitable concerts, poetry evenings, exhibitions, but also an excellent guided tour of the building. The spaces situated on the ground floor are administered by cultural institutions, such as the Reading Room of the German Cultural Centre, British Council, the Royal Art Galleries or Sage Café.
King Ferdinand in Iași and the Great Union
The Royal House and Romania’s Government fled to Iași after the conquest of Bucharest by the German forces in 1916. King Ferdinand I, although deeply affected by the death of Prince Mircea of typhus, at only 3 years old, managed of undertaking, from Iași, a restless activity of regaining the lost territories. In the same time, in 1918 he focused on maintaining a constant connection with the representatives of Romanians from the historical provinces, contributing along with Queen Mary, to the making of the Great Union in 1918 of the provinces Bessarabia – the 27th of March, Bukovina – the 28th of November and Transylvania – the 1st of December. During his staying in Iași, the residence of King Ferdinand I was the current Museum of Union.