Basel, Allgemeine Lesegesellschaft. Photo/foto: TES.

House of Reading Society Basel

The monumental building of the Reading Society (Allgemeine Lesegesellschaft) in Basel rises above the left bank of the Rhine, next to the Münster and the Palatinate Wall.

The building dates back to the time of the Cathedral Chapter, at the end of the fourteenth century, when the canons inhabited the square around the cathedral. Little is known about the predecessor of the building, except that the earthquake of 1356 destroyed it.

At the end of the fourteenth century, a new building is mentioned as “Bauhaus unserer Lieben Frauen” (that is the cathedral Münster).

After the Reformation, the building was used as storage space for a while until the Lesegesellschaft, founded in 1787, moved into the building and renovated it in 1831/32 in the style of the time and other major renovations in the city, including the City of Casino (rebuilt 1822-1826) and the theatre (rebuilt 1829-1831).

Parts of the original Gothic building have been preserved, including the Hall of the canons from the 1520s, which can also be deduced from images by Matthäus Merian (1615) and Emanuel Büchel (1745).

The façade has been partially rebuilt in classicist style, but with many neo-Gothic features and ornaments. A floor was also built on top of it. In the years 1915/16, some of the neo-Gothic elements of the front were removed, however.

he interior still shows various Gothic windows, ornaments and building parts from the and the neo-Gothic renovation of 1832. (Source: D. Huggel, Das Haus der Allgemeinen Lesegesellschaft in Basel, Bern, 1996).