A glimpse of government gothic

One of Canada’s most beautiful libraries is the Library of Parliament in Ottawa, Ontario.

I was able to see the reading room during a recent tour of Parliament’s Centre Block, where the library sits at the rear of the main building between the House of Commons and the Senate Chamber. Opened in 1876, it was designed in a High Victorian Gothic Revival style, reminiscent of a medieval chapter house, with flying buttresses and elaborate stonework on the exterior.

Inside, the reading room was a beautiful circular space with a soaring ceiling topped with a cupola. Around the curved walls were intricately carved wood shelves arranged in bays and galleries, filled with books, and in the centre stood a white marble statue of a young Queen Victoria. The way the light came in through the windows created a beautiful environment for reading and study.

Only one librarian sat at the information desk and no one else was in the library, so I wondered if it was still used by Senators and Members of Parliament. I later discovered that the reading room was only a small part of the library’s overall resources, which included branch locations and book storage in various locations around Ottawa.

I had only a couple of minutes to view the room, and photography was not allowed, so I was unable to inspect the library more thoroughly. But the beauty was quite evident in the brief glimpse I had of it. Its reputation as a Canadian treasure is well deserved.