The Veneranda Biblioteca Ambrosiana, founded by Cardinal Federico Borromeo on September 7, 1607, was one of the first libraries to be opened to the public, thanks to the gesture of an illustrious patron. It was conceived by the founder as a center of study and culture: alongside the original Library -which today holds about a million printed volumes and 40,000 Greek, Latin, Vernacular and other Oriental languages manuscripts- he established also a Pinacoteca (Art Gallery) and a Fine Arts Academy.
In 1618, the Cardinal donated his collection of paintings, drawings, prints and sculptures to the Institution: it is the original core of the Ambrosiana Art Gallery, which would be continuously enhanced in the following four centuries with several masterpieces of Italian and European art. However, he did not conceive of his Gallery as a mere exhibition of works of art, but also as an educational tool: in fact, in 1620 he founded a Fine Arts Academy, for the teaching of painting, sculpture and architecture. The Academy was re-founded in 2008; it is now dedicated to fostering the dialogue between diverse peoples and cultures and is organized into eight Classes for Borromean, Ambrosian, Far Eastern, Italian, Slavic, Near Eastern, Greek and Latin, African Studies.