Looted Library, Reconstructed Library

Looted library

Part of a manuscript page with an inventory of books

The fate of the library was decided by the politics of the age and the rivalry between the Catholic Poland-Lithuania and the Lutheran Sweden. In September 1621, during the Polish-Swedish war (1600-1629), the Swedish troops under the command of King Gustav II Adolf (1611-1632) captured Riga. Pursuing the anti-Catholic royal policy, right after the occupation of the city, the Swedish crown confiscated the college with all its properties, including the library, and banished the Jesuits from the city. In the autumn of the same year or in early 1622, the former Riga Jesuit Library was transported to Sweden. It ended up in Uppsala, which was home to the only university in the realm (founded in 1477).

At the turn of the 17th century, Sweden became a superpower in the Baltic Sea region and was in need of intellectual resources. The looting of books from Catholic institutions pursued by King Gustav II Adolf occured not only in Riga but also in other places on the southern shore of the Baltic Sea, in Prussia and Poland, where Swedish troops conquered city after city. Historian Oscar Garstein believes that with the help of these looted valuable book collections, King Gustav II Adolf tried to consolidate Uppsala University as an institution for the education of future governors of the conquered territories. The Jesuit libraries and several thousand volumes from Catholic institutions in Livonia, Prussia and Poland came in handy for this purpose.

The title page of 'Historia scholastica' has a property inscription of the Riga Jesuit college and a sticker of the property of the Uppsala University Library

Above: From Riga to Uppsala. The title page has a property inscription of the Riga Jesuit college and a sticker of the property of the Uppsala University Library.

From Riga to Uppsala via Stockholm, the books were accompanied by chaplain to the King of Sweden Johannes Bothvidi (1575-1635) who handed them over to Rector of Uppsala University Laurentius Olai Wallius (1588-1638). Bothvidi compiled a list, which along with the titles of the transported books - 893 printed books and 61 manuscripts - also mentions other articles: icons, vessels and other household items. This list creates the distinct impression that everything that was found in the premises of the Jesuit college had been taken away.

Manuscript page with an inventory of books

Above: The inventory of objects and books that have been brought from Riga to Sweden (1622).

Four of the icons taken away from Riga are still part of the art collection of Uppsala University. The books brought from Riga, together with the Jesuit libraries of Braniewo (Braunsberg) and Poznań which were looted by the Swedish troops in 1626 and 1655 respectively, became part of the Uppsala University book collection.

Below: Two icons of Saint Nikolaus the Miracle Maker that have been among objects brought from Riga to Sweden.