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The Library of the Custody celebrates its eighth centenary: an exhibition and conference in Jerusalem

Celebrating the figure of St. Francis of Assisi so as to celebrate the eight hundred years of Franciscan presence: with this intent, the General Library of the Custody of the Holy Land organized the “Francis of Assisi and the ancient books of the Custody of the Holy Land” exhibition. From November 7 to 9, manuscripts, printed books, miniatures, and wood and copper engravings, dating from the middle of the fourteenth century to the end of the eighteenth century, became witnesses to the various ways of talking about the sanctity of Francis. Among the Library’s materials, some liturgical texts and collections of the writings of Francis were selected.

THE OPENING CEREMONY. The exhibition was launched on November 7 in the hall of the Custodial Curia at St. Savior’s Monastery in Jerusalem in the presence of the Secretary of the Holy Land, Fr. David Grenier, who was representing the Custos. “It is a great joy for the Custody to open this exhibition,” said Fr. David Grenier. “We celebrated the eighth centenary of [our] presence [here] with liturgies and historical conferences, but today we are proposing something different: telling this story through books. And the books are about St. Francis.” Fr. David recalled that throughout the centuries the friars brought these books to Jerusalem, despite the hardships, because St. Francis’ presence was important to them. The great heritage preserved in eight hundred years was also discussed by the Director of the Holy Land's General Library, Fr. Lionel Goh: “We will have a guided tour to see the richness of the legacy that the friars have left us, not only in stones but also in words, through books and illustrated books.”

THE EXHIBITION. The first visit of the exhibition featuring 28 copies of manuscripts and ancient books preserved by the Library, was conducted by Prof. Edoardo Barbieri, coordinator of the initiative that is part of the Libri ponti di pace (Books, bridges of peace) initiative. Prof. Barbieri introduced the exhibition: “The path we have imagined is divided into three parts.” The first part focuses on the representation of Francis; in the second part, there are hagiographical stories; and in the third, there are the writings of St. Francis. A psalter with an extraordinary inscription about St. Francis closed the exhibition.
Among the various collaborators who contributed to the selection of books to be placed on display were also Luca Montagner, Dario Romano and Pierfilippo Saviotti. Lorenzo Abeni and John A. Sibbald contributed by providing translations. We must also not forget the contribution of the volunteers and workers of the Library in Jerusalem and in Italy.
The exhibition is part of Libri ponti di pace, which is a project aimed at increasing awareness of the heritage of the General Library of the Custody of the Holy Land, carried out in collaboration with ATS Pro Terra Sancta Association and the CRELEB (the European Research Center on Books, Publishing and Libraries.) Over seven years of experience, it has brought together more than 30 undergraduate and graduate students from the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan.

THE CONFERENCE. On the occasion of the exhibition on St. Francis, the General Library of the Custody of the Holy Land organized a conference that took place on November 8. The theme that brought together scholars and students in Jerusalem was “Ancient Books and Digital Libraries: Cataloging and the Virtual Use of Cultural Heritage.”
The international conference was led by Prof. Edoardo Barbieri with the contributions of several scholars and experts. The book historian Konstantinos Staikos lectured about the different perspectives of the library concept between East and West between the 8th and 12th centuries. After a coffee break, the paleographer Agamemnon Tselikas spoke about the library of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, tracing a history from the past to the present and into the future. Tsafra Siew then spoke about the digitization of Hebrew manuscripts through the KTIV project, which he manages. The director of the library at the Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem, Fr. Pawel Trzopek, instead focused on challenges for a small library like the one he manages. Finally, Alessandro Tedesco, of the Catholic University of Milan and curator of the online catalog of the Holy Land Library, uncovered the pros and cons of digitizing books. The director of the General Library of Holy Land, Fr. Father Lionel Goh, closed the conference.

Beatrice Guarrera



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