The Terra Santa Schools
Among the activities of the Custody, the educational and formational is of particular importance and this is directed both toward the local population and religious and lay people coming from all over the world. In 1550, with the opening of the first parochial school in Bethlehem, followed then by Jerusalem and Nazareth, a long tradition of scholastic formation for youths was inaugurated.
There are currently fifteen schools, on three different continents, for almost 10,000 students.
The attention of the Custody is geared also to the process of education in tolerance and peaceful respect of creeds, of emancipation of women in society and of the extension of instruction to all, even to the most poor.
Studium Biblicum Franciscanum
Next to the formative gift of the schools, the Custody promotes its activity of research and scientific formation through the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum. The SBF is a scientific institution for research and academic instruction on the Holy Scriptures and on the archaeology of the biblical countries. It was founded by the Custody of the Holy Land in 1901 and has been operating uninterruptedly since 1924. Since 1960, it has been part of the Pontifical Antonianum University of Rome. In 2001, it developed into the Faculty of Biblical Sciences and Archaeology. It includes two cycles of specialization, Licentiate and Doctorate in Biblical Sciences and Archaeology, based at the Monastery of the Flagellation. The Studium Theologicum Jerosolymitanum is connected to the SBF as the first cycle of theology, with its headquarters at the St. Savior Monastery, including a Biennium Philosophicum that takes place in the same scholastic structure.
Another important institute is the Muski, or the Centre for Oriental Studies of Cairo, which concentrates its studies and research on the Christian communities of the Middle East. The main activity of the Muski is publications, which represent invaluable documentation for Christianity in the Middle East. The centre has a library unique of its kind: more than thirty thousand volumes and a good collection of Oriental manuscripts in Arabic, Syriac, Coptic. Armenian, Turkish and Persian.
The History of Mouski
The foundation of the Mouski convent
On 21 April 1632, Father Paolo da Lodi, appointed Custodian of the Holy Land less than a year earlier (22 August 1631), was offered a fixed abode for the Franciscans in Cairo, by Giovanni Donato, Consul of Venice. The Franciscans had been chaplains for the Venetian colony in that same city for many years. For this purpose the Venetian merchant Domenico Savio let the Friars use his home, “next door to the choir of the Venetian chapel”. The Embassy was located in the Mouski district, the famous Cairo bazaar, now 12 Bendaka (Venetians) Street. On 16 January 1633, the same Consul made a similar concession to the Friars in Alexandria, “acknowledging it to be perfectly correct to protect the Franciscan Fathers who come here for Christianity then move on to Jerusalem …”
In this way the Franciscans were able to perform their activities with greater regularity. As time passed, the great flow of Europeans favoured by Mohammed Ali and his successors made the Mouski convent the largest Latin parish in Cairo, with three succursals: St Joseph, Bulacco and Meadi, which later became independent parishes. The parish of Mouski enjoyed its greatest moment of development in the last ten years of the 19th and the early 20th century, with about 20,000 worshippers, mostly Italians, but also many Maltese, Austrians, Slavs, French and Oriental nationalities. The Mouski church, which has been a cathedral since 1858, was a point of reference for all these ethnic groups, as proved by the vast parish archives, whose earliest entries date back to 1611. During the preparations for the Easter celebrations, at the time of the great parish, the Lenten sermons were preached in five languages: Italian, Maltese, French, German, Slav. Much pastoral activity was undertaken around the Sanctuary of Our Lady, declared Queen of Egypt by Cardinal Gustavo Testa, in 1939.
With the creation of the three parishes of St Joseph, Bulacco and Meadi (1920), Mouski was no longer the largest parish. After World War II, the number of worshippers decreased. The Egyptian Revolution (1952), and especially the occupation of the Suez Canal (1956), provoked a huge exodus. Today the Latin parish has but a few families.
To revive the great convent, the Custody of the Holy Land decided to found a Franciscan Centre for Oriental Christian Studies.
The Franciscan Centre for Oriental Christian Studies today
On 16 September 1954 the Franciscan Centre for Oriental Christian Studies was inaugurated in the Mouski convent. The founders were Venetian Father Giacinto Faccio, at that time Custos of the Holy Land, and the first Director, Father Martiniano Roncaglia. The inauguration was attended by the first President of the Egyptian Republic, Mohammed Naguib, the Apostolic Nuncio, and a number of civil and religious dignitaries. The Custos of the Holy Land had long nurtured the desire to found an eastern opus. Following the Egyptian Revolution in 1952, the great Mouski friary – once the large Latin parish of Cairo – had been empty. This was when our Studies Centre was founded, to make good use of this convent. At the beginning the aims were not very clear. There was even talk of a Catholic University, and Islamic Studies and Arab literature subjects were published Soon, however, two objectives were established: a) to continue research into the history of the Holy Land, following in the footsteps of Father Girolamo Golubovich; b) to increase the studies regarding Christian communities in the Middle East. These are still the aims of the Centre at this moment in time.
The Centre has always had two main activities:
- a) contact with the Christian and non-Christian cultural world.
- b) publication of studies and research into these communities.
The intention of Father Giamberardini, the Centre’s second Director, was to acquire a specialist for each community. This idea was later revealed to have been well-founded. In fact, the best developed sectors are those lucky enough to have this sort of specialist. At the moment the Coptic, Arab-Christian, Armenian and Holy Land sections are the most successful.
The library has two large sectors: general (theology, history, geography, art, etc) and special subjects, i.e. the cultural heritage of the other Oriental Christian communities: Coptic, Arab-Christian, Syrian, etc. These specialist sections are flanked by the Arab Christian section, in other words the religious-cultural Christian material written in Arabic. The library’s initial nucleus comprised books more useful for the Centre’s mission, gathered together from the Custody’s various convents. More books arrived as time passed, either purchased directly or donated, or by subscription to reviews and collections. There are occasional acquisitions locally and some from the Cairo book fair (late January each year). Currently our library may be considered one of the best in Cairo, unique of its kind for its specialization. There are over 50,000 volumes here, as well as a good collection of Arab-Christian and Western magazines and manuscripts (over 1,000), as well as another collection of Islamic manuscripts (awaiting classification).
Research is the Centre’s main activity at the moment. The work of the Centre staff and their assistants is published either in the periodical Studia Orientalia Christiana Collectanea (SOC), for convenience called SOC Collectanea, which has now reached Volume 37, or in the Monograph series.
"Collectanea has been published since 1956 and includes contributions in Italian, French, Arabic and Coptic and is distributed by Brepols International (the numbers published before 2007 are available at the Terra Santa Bookshop, Milan, tel. 02 34 91 firstname.lastname@example.org or by contacting the distributor: www.brepols.net)."
The publications of Father Gabriele Giamberardini (+1978) – who may be considered a pioneer in Coptic Christian studies – are a first-rate collection. Apart from the Coptic world (Coptic translation of The Fate of the Deceased, 1965; San Giuseppe nella tradizione copta [St Joseph in Coptic Tradition], 1966; Il Culto Mariano in Egitto [The Marian Cult in Egypt], 1975-58; etc), Father Giamberardini was also interested in the history of the Franciscans in Egypt (Lettere dei Prefetti Apostolici [Letters of Apostolic Prefects], 1960; Cronaca della Missione Francescana [Chronicle of the Franciscan Mission], 1962, etc).
Following his departure, the 1967 war, the war in Lebanon, and the lack of personnel, publications slowed down considerably, and recovered first in the 1980s, then even more so in the early 1990s, thanks to the arrival of a new worker (Father L. Cruciani) and the computerization of the editorial process. Some of the best recent publications include: La Cronaca di Santa Caterina [Chronicles of St Catherine], 1994; a bilingual (Arab-Latin) edition of Canonical Law in Oriental Catholic churches, 1995; Ibn al’Assal’s monumental Summa Teologica (seven volumes) 1999; lastly, in 2003, La Storia della Chiesa Copta [The History of the Coptic Church], 3 volumes. The Armenian section has many studies and texts on Eliseus the Armenian, biographies of Georges de Skevra, and the latter’s comment on Isaiah, documents regarding the 1915 Mardin massacres, etc.
The assistance provided to Emanuela Trevisan Semi, of the University of Venice, is thus acknowledged in the preface of her book Gli Ebrei Caraiti tra etnia e religione, on page 16: “The Fathers of the Cairo Franciscan Centre for Oriental Christian Studies demonstrated a truly fraternal willingness to help me both materially in the contact with the Karaist community in Cairo, and also by recovering – from their rich and mysteries library – texts that I never thought I would find in Cairo”.
From the start, given its lack of staff, the Centre has availed itself of external consultants, whose assistance is a precious support for the Centre. We might mention dear Kush Burmester, Otto Meinardus, Prof. Khater and, lately, Prof. B. Pirone of Naples School of Oriental Studies, Prof. Serra from Sapienza University in Rome, Mr Alberto Elli, etc.
Centre staff not only work on research and publications, they also undertake another very important activity: they assist readers. Many degree theses have been written thanks to our Centre. Countless students from Cairo’s religious seminaries and institutes find books and assistance in our library. Professors and students from Egyptian universities, most of whom are Muslims, can also find support and assistance from us. We are pleased to point out the Arab world’s open-mindedness towards Christian studies. Particular attention is given to the Byzantine period and the Crusades. In 1982, with our assistance, a thesis on St Ephraim was presented at Al-Azhar University. The University of Cairo and others have presented theses regarding Byzantium under Heraclius (1985), speaking of Enoticon, Monotheletism, etc; the Oriental Schism and its influence on the relations between the East and the West; St Bonaventure’s theory of knowledge; Origen’s Contra Celsum. Currently an Arab translation is being undertaken of the Annals of Caffaro, one of the first historiographers of the Crusades, with the assistance of a professor from the University of Tanta; etc.
Studium Theologicum Jerosolimitanum
The Studium Theologicum Jerosolymitanum is linked with the SBF as the first cycle of theology, based at the convent of St. Saviour, aimed mainly at training candidates for the priesthood. Founded in 1866, it has welcomed hundreds of students of many nations and different continents and expanded itself progressively and continuously.
The Studium Theologicum Jerosolymitanum was founded at St. Saviour’s Monastery in 1866 by the Custody of the Holy Land as a Grand Seminary in order to form its own candidates to priesthood. Since then it has welcomed hundreds of students of many nations and different continents and expanded itself progressively and continuously.
On March 2, 1971, the Congregation for Catholic Education gave to the old Seminary the affiliation with the Pontificio Ateneo Antonianum of Rome (Pontificia Università Antonianum –PUA since 2005) under the name of Studium Theologicum Jerosolymitanum (STJ) and the faculty to confer a Bachelor’s degree in Sacred Theology (STB).
On March 15, 1982, through the same Congregation, the STJ became an integral part (undergraduate) of the Studium Biblicum Francescanum (SBF), Jerusalem section of the Faculty of Theology of the PUA. With the addition in 1987 of the two year study of Philosophy based at Bethlehem’s St. Catherine’s Convent, transferred in Jerusalem in 2004, the STJ includes the entire undergraduate level of the Faculty of Theology.
As a university institution of the Church, the STJ also welcomes, besides the franciscan seminarians, lay and religious people. Men and women that have the necessary requirements.
STUDIUM THEOLOGICUM JEROSOLYMITANUM
S. Francis road, 1
9100101 Jerusalem (Israel)
Phone number: 972 (0)2 6266787
Libraries and historical archive
Libraries of the Custody
Although all the convents of the Custody have their own library, there are some of varying degrees of importance according to how old they are and their contents. We can mention those of Aleppo (Syria), Alexandria and Cairo in Egypt, Bethlehem, Nazareth, Ain Karem and Harissa near Beirut, all from the 17th centuries. The ones in Nicosia and Larnaca (Cyprus) are slightly earlier, at least in their first collections (16th century). All have works of value, especially on Oriental studies: grammars and dictionaries of oriental languages, the Fathers, theology, apologetics, catechisms, history, geography etc. The recent libraries to be mentioned include: that of the convent of Bab-Touma, in Damascus, which was burnt down in 1860, but rebuilt and subsequently well stocked; that of the Franciscan Biblical Institute of the Flagellation in Jerusalem which, founded in 1929 with books transferred from the central library of St. Saviour, has been continually enriched; and the most recent one, which is that of the Centre for Oriental Studies of Cairo. The most well one that is most well known for its antiquity is the library of the main monastery of the Custody of the Holy Land: the Monastery of St. Savior in Jerusalem.
Although all the convents of the Custody have their own library, there are some of varying degrees of importance according to how old they are and their contents.
We can mention those of Aleppo (Syria), Alexandria and Cairo in Egypt, Bethlehem, Nazareth, Ain Karem and Harissa near Beirut, all from the 17th centuries. The ones in Nicosia and Larnaca (Cyprus) are slightly earlier, at least in their first collections (16th century).
All have works of value, especially on Oriental studies: grammars and dictionaries of oriental languages, the Fathers, theology, apologetics, catechisms, history, geography etc.
The recent libraries to be mentioned include: that of the convent of Bab-Touma, in Damascus, which was burnt down in 1860, but rebuilt and subsequently well stocked; that of the Franciscan Biblical Institute of the Flagellation in Jerusalemwhich, founded in 1929 with books transferred from the central library of St. Saviour, has been continually enriched; and the most recent one, which is that of the Centre for Oriental Studies of Cairo.
The library that surpasses them all, however, at least for antiquity, is that of the main convent of the Custody of the Holy Land, St. Saviour in Jerusalem.
Antiquity of the central library of the Custody
By Fra Franco VALENTE OFM
According to the information provided by the compilers of the Jerusalem Public Lending and Reference Libraries, the oldest libraries in Jerusalem are: that of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, founded in 1865; that of the École Biblique of the Dominicans, founded in 1890; that of the Hebrew University, founded in 1892; and that of the American School, founded in 1901. The archives are naturally excluded.
The oldest collections of the present central library of the Custody of the Holy Land are made up of books and manuscripts that were part of the library of the convent of Mount Sion, from which the Franciscans were expelled in 1551. It is therefore clear that the central library of the Custody is far older than all the libraries mentioned above. We can divide its life into two periods: before 1551 and after 1560-61.
The library of Mount Sion
It is natural to suppose that people who are dedicated to study, prayer and the sacred ministry have a great love for books and procuring them is of great concern to them. This explains the formation of the convents’ libraries from the beginnings of the Franciscan Order in the 13th century.
The parent convent of the Franciscans of the Holy Land, the convent of Mount Sion, built in 1835, was no exception to this rule. The friars living there formed quite a large community: at first, there were twelve of them, but their number soon rose to twenty and more. Coming from all over Europe, they procured important manuscripts and, after the invention of printing, in the mid 15th century, the first books that rolled off the presses.
The convent’s library was thus built up. The Library and the Pharmacy of Mount Sion were well known to the countless pilgrims who enjoyed the Franciscans’ hospitality and were accompanied by them in their visits to the Holy Places.
This very old library of Mount Sion is consequently the most valuable collection of the library of St. Saviour. Naturally, over the centuries many books and manuscripts have been lost, however we think that the main part of it has come down to us and is preserved in the library of St. Saviour.
The manuscripts form the oldest part. Of those that have come down to us, one of the most valuable is a work on medicine by the greatest and most original of all Muslim doctors, Abu Bakr Muhammad IBN ZAKARIA AL RAZI (865-925). It is commonly known as Liber Almansoris, from the name of his patron, Mansur ibn Ishaq al-Samani. It is a large in-folio manuscript, from the end of the 13th century or the early 14th century, with the Latin translation of the Arabic work, decorated with beautiful miniatures in red and blue, and with many glosses. For a long time it was used by our doctors and nurses of Mount Sion.
Another important manuscript is the Mamotrectus or Correctorium of the Bible by the Franciscan Giovanni MARCHESINI of Reggio, in two copies, from the 14th century. The small codex containing a number of treaties by St. Bernardino of Siena is also of value (De contractibus et usuris and De restitutione) and by St. John of Capistrano (De matrimonio), copied around 1518 by Fra Hugo of Aquitaine, a Franciscan from Mount Sion, with two exquisite miniatures portraying the two saints.
However, not all the manuscripts in the library of the Custody come from Mount Sion. The majority were purchased later, with a good number of them through the efforts of Father Agustín ARCE, who was in charge of the library for almost forty years (from 1936).
The other important collection of the Custody’s library is made up of incunabula. They almost all come from the library of Mount Sion and are on all the subjects that formed the cultural background of the cultivated man of the period: the Bible, Law, Theology, Philosophy, Literature, Medicine, Casuistry, Ascetical Theology, History, Preaching, Decretals and Clementine Constitutions and Apologetics. They go from 1472 to 1500, the last date of the incunabula. There are texts and commentaries on the Bible, the Fathers, the Scholastic Theologians, such as Alexander of Hales, St. Bonaventure, Duns Scotus, St. Thomas Aquinas, Nicolaus de Ausmo, etc. The oldest incunabulum in our library is the Opus Quadragesimale by Roberto CARACCIOLO (Venice 1472). Worthy of mention are: the Sermons by St. Ephrem (Brescia 1490), the Fortalicium Fidei by the Franciscan Alfonso d’Espina (Nuremburg 1494), the Historia Ecclesiastica by Eusebius (Mantua 1479) and the De Civitate Dei by St. Augustine (Venice 1475).
The other great speciality of the Mount Sion library were the works on medicine. As there was a famous pharmacy in the convent and an infirmary for the friars and pilgrims, the most important works on medicine and surgery of the period were collected. The reader will find their detailed description in the work by Father ARCE Miscelánea de Tierra Santa volume I, in the chapter Libros antiguos de medicina en la Biblioteca de San Salvador (Jerusalem 1950), pp. 251-317.
Before ending these notes on the library of Mount Sion, it is worth recalling that many pilgrims explicitly mentioned having found many of the books there that they had been looking for: they include, Tucher (1479-80) in his Pilgerfahrt, in the Reyssbuch by Feyrabend, p. 306; Baumgarten (1507) in his Peregrinatio, p. 99, etc.
From Monte Sion to the convent of the Column
The library of Mount Sion was gradually moved in 1560-61 to the new convent, then called of the Column (deir el-’Amud) and now St. Saviour. Located above the small cloister of the original convent, which can still be seen, it remained there until the end of the 19th century, when the new library east to the sacristy was built, and which had previously been the choir and the presbytery of the first church of St. Saviour.
The library remained there until it was necessary to find it new premises to make room for new books and make it accessible to the public. After two years of work, from 1975 to 1977, the new library was ready: a fine room on the ground floor of the convent of St. Saviour, 28.20 metres long and with an average width of about 14 metres.
At the time of its move to the new convent, the library had a few hundred volumes: manuscripts, incunabula and books published in the fifteenth century. Nothing comparable to modern libraries. However, we should not be surprised by such a limited number of books and codices, as we know that the library of the Holy Convent of Assisi, which was the richest in the world after that of the Popes in Avignon, had just over 700 volumes in 1381; and the Vatican library, when NICHOLAS V organized it in 1447, had no more than 350 Latin codices, plus some in Greek and Arabic. This number soon rose to 1160 and to 3500 manuscripts and printed works in 1481 when SIXTUS IV enlarged the library.
The collections of manuscripts and printed works of the library of the Custody has also grown constantly, although not so quickly. A century after its installation in the new premises, it had about 2500 books; in the mid-19th century it held 12,000 books and in 1936 they numbered about 20,000. Today (2007) it has over 40,000 works. It also receives, by subscription or free of charge, many important journals on theology, liturgy, canon law, missionology, Oriental studies, history of the Church, hagiography, Franciscanism etc.
There are several reasons for this significant growth. The main one is the constant concern of those in charge of the library to enrich it. Of these, mention must be made of fra Cipriano da Treviso († 1883), the historian fra Girolamo GOLUBOVICH(† 1941), fra Agustín ARCE, already mentioned above, and fra Sabino DE SANDOLI († 2001). The Commissariats of the Holy Land, in particular those of Madrid and Paris, and the fathers who are Delegates of the Holy Land in Rome, have provided many works of great value. Books left by deceased friars and those offered by private individuals and scientific societies have also greatly contributed to increasing and enriching the library.
In addition to the manuscripts and the incunabula we have discussed, the library of St. Saviour also has many rare and precious works from the 16th and 17th centuries; important collections such as the two Patrologies, in Greek and Latin, by MIGNE; the Acta Sanctorum of the Bollandists, in 70 in-folio volumes, and many other major works; the main encyclopaedias; many of the great dictionaries of theology, liturgy, archaeology, Holy Scripture, spirituality, canon law, ecclesiastical history and geography etc.; and above all the section on PALESTINOLOGY, including a rich collection of Itineraries in the Holy Land. This is its most specific and precious treasure: several hundred travel diaries, from the incunabulum of Breidenbach to the present day.
The library’s sections are : Palestinology, Custody of the Holy Land, the Christian Orient, Jewish and Talmudic studies, Islamic studies, Armenian studies, Arabic studies, History of the Crusades, History of the Middle East, History of the Church, Civil History, Geography, Dogmatic Theology, Moral Theology, Bible studies, Patrology, Christology, Ecclesiology, Councils, Mariology, Pastoral, Predicables, Liturgy, Spirituality, Catechetics, Apologetics, Canon Law, Franciscanism, Hagiography, Biographies, Literature in various languages, Greek and Latin literature, Art, Natural sciences and Medicine, Encyclopaedias, Lexicons and Grammars, Incunabula, Manuscripts and a number of other minor sections.
The St. Saviour library obviously has many sections, however its specialized subjects are particularly on the sanctuaries and the history of the Holy Land.
In all periods, the library has been visited and used by scholars, including, for example, CHATEAUBRIAND, SALZBACHER and the great bibliographers of Palestine TOBLER and RÖHRICHT.
ARCE A., La Biblioteca Central de la Custodia de Tierra Santa, in Tierra Santa, Jerusalem, 38, 411 (1963) 25-30.
Id., The Central Library of the Custody of the Holy Land Jerusalem, in Miscelánea de Tierra Santa III, Jerusalem, 1975, 444-456.
Id., La Bibliothèque Centrale de la Custodie de Terre Sainte, in Miscelánea de Tierra Santa IV, Jerusalem, 1982, 423-432.
Id., Libros antiguos de medicina en la Biblioteca de San Salvador, in Miscelánea de Tierra Santa I, Jerusalem, 1950, 251-317.
Id., Itinerarios raros y preciosos de Palestina. Extractos, aportaciones y notas criticas, Jerusalem, 1963.
GOSSELIN N., La bibliothèque des Frères de la Corde au Mont Sion, in ACTS, Jerusalem, 30 (1985) II 377-400.
MISTRIH V., Catalogue des manuscrits arabes du couvent de St. Sauveur des Frères Mineurs à Jérusalem, in Studia Orientalia Christiana Collectanea, Cairo - Jerusalem, 33 (2000) 115-226.
By Fra Franco VALENTE OFM former Director of the Library of St. Saviour.
The Historical Archive of the Custody
The Historical Archive of the Custody of the Holy Land has a history of more than seven centuries. It is held to be the oldest catholic archive existing in the Holy Land, and documents not only the vicissitudes of the nearby religious institution, but also that of the catholic presence in very many regions of the Near East. Because of its difficult history, the archive has changed its name in the course of the centuries and only in 1975 did it take its current name of “Historical Archive of the Custody of the Holy Land”. In the spring of that year, in fact, the work of renovating and adapting the places destined for its exclusive use was finished in the Monastery of the Holy Savior, where today it continues to be.
History of the Archive of the Custody of the Holy Land in Jerusalem
The history of an archive is a little bit of the story of the institution of which it makes a part and of which it is an outgrowth.
The Historical Archive of the Custody of the Holy Land has a history of more than seven centuries and is able to vaunt of the honor of being visited by Pius X and by Chateaubriand, and then being mentioned in their writings. It is held to be the oldest catholic archive existing in the Holy Land, and documents not only the vicissitudes of the nearby religious institution, but also that of the catholic presence in very many regions of the Near East.
Because of its difficult history, the archive has changed its name in the course of the centuries and only in 1975 did it take its current name of “Historical Archive of the Custody of the Holy Land”. In the spring of that year, in fact, the work of renovating and adapting the places destined for its exclusive use was finished in the Monastery of the Holy Savior, where today it continues to be.
During the first centuries since its birth, the archive was found in the Monastery of Mount Sion, a place which the franciscans obtained at the beginning of their presence in the Holy Land. From that period written testimonials which refer to the archive with the name of capsa privilegiorum, conserved in the room of the Fr. Custodian. When in 1551 the franciscans had to leave the Cenaculum and establish themselves in the Monastery of the Holy Savior, the archive was transferred with them and began to be enriched, nonstop, by the archivists who succeeded them.
The position of the archivist, as an office well defined and distinct from the others, is found for the first time in 1868 and in 1882 and it was only officially established in 1918. This discontinuity, together with other factors, like lack of care, destruction, and natural deterioration, has caused the lacunas in the archive. Such shortcomings however permit researchers to reconstruct history all the same, not only departing from the material present, but from fragmentary and even missing documents.
The type of documentation which over the centuries was archived, just as that which was thrown out, tells us much about the life of the Custody and of the evolution of the problems confronted in the Holy Land. The material of the archive is able to be divided into two historic periods, corresponding to the seats in which it found itself: the period of Mount Sion, from the XIV to the XVI century, and the period of the Monastery of the Holy Savior, from the XVII to today.
From the first period are preserved above all documents of a legal character and a provenance external to the Order. It holds pontifical bulls and public and private documents in arab, regarding authorizations, official awards, court verdicts, bills of sale, titles of ownership and of civil and ecclesiastical rights. From the type of material preserved it is deduced that the brothers in the first two centuries were principally preoccupied with legal facts because this is what permitted them to live and remain in the Holy Land.
In the second period, departing from the XVII century, the Custody evolved, adjoining organisms to its interior, as, for example, the Commissariats of the Holy Land, which in that century were receiving their full juridical expression. The archive, as a result, has recorded these developments: the exigencies of such new institutions, in fact, have made necessary a more precise and vigilant cataloging of documents.
The Firman Treasury
The “Firman Treasury” is one of the richest and most important treasuries of the Historic Archive of the Custody of the Holy Land, today preserved at the Monastery of the Saint Savior. It contains mostly documents of a historic-legal character, the study of which permits us to understand intimately the vicissitudes of the Franciscans and the history of Catholicism in the Holy Land.
As the name itself suggests, the treasury contains, among other things, the official decrees firman promulgated by the Turkish sultan in the course of the ottoman domination.
What is a firman?
The term firman etymologically derives from the Persian, farman. It can signify order, authority, will, desire, and permission. It refers, then, to something abstract which must be realized. With the passing of time, the word farman came to designate the writing itself, the document with which an order was promulgated. Initially, the term was used to designate any document; only in a later period did it enter into and become part of the administrative language.
The “Firman Treasury” does not contain only firmans of the ottoman period: documents are found there both in the arab tongue and Turkish, regarding ownership and rights of office, in large part coming from authorities or civil officials, both local and of the central government.
The oldest documents come from the XIII century; almost all are on paper, those on parchment few. Among the documents that date from the earliest times until 1517, there are some coming from the Egyptian government; from 1517 to the second decade of the XX century are those, on the other hand, coming from the turkish government in Istanbul; the most recent spring from the British mandate. There is no lack of documents of a private provenance, but always of a juridical character, like buying and selling, donations, transactions and declarations of various kinds. The oldest document in absolute is a hogget (verdict) of a legal controversy between the Franciscans and Giacomo Zummi, who claimed to own a piece of land on Mount Sion. The document, dated the 31st of July 1247, resolved the dispute in favor of the Franciscans. The second oldest is a firmano of 1257, promulgated by the Saracen King Giuseppe, great grandson of Saladin, which permitted the franciscans to put a covering of lead on the dome of the church on Mount Sion.
It is just here, the peculiarity of the Firman Treasury: the documents it contains are part of the daily life of the franciscans in the Holy land, made up of anxieties, vexations, and injustices, sustained along the course of the centuries to preserve the catholicity, the right to visit, of praying and celebrating the liturgy in the sanctuaries of the Holy Land.
See the Firmans here
The Magnificat Institute
The Magnificat Institute of Jerusalem is a School of Music erected in the heart of the Old City of Jerusalem in 1995. The only one of its kind, it promotes the study of music, offering a professional preparation, but, above all, a place of dialogue and of education in peaceful coexistence, where children and young Muslim, Christian, and Jewish youths study together united by their common passion for the art of music.
The Magnificat Institute also has responsibility for liturgical services in the Holy Places (such as the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem and the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem). The Institute, moreover, offers high-level, academic teaching which allows students to attain European university diplomas and awards.
At the moment, the school hosts over 200 young students and about 18 professors, with growing success. The Magnificat teaches: Piano, Violin, Viola, Cello, Organ, Singing, Guitar, Composition, Flute, Percussion, Choir, Solfeggio, and the History of Music.
Terra Sancta Organ Festival
The Terra Sancta Organ Festival is one way to bear witness to the presence of the Christian communities in the Middle East and the Levant in the field of music and culture. Here, organ music is a superior artistic contribution perceived as specifically Christian, the pipe organ being present almost exclusively inside churches. The festival is also an opportunity to promote the maintenance of organs and the study of this instrument, necessary for the liturgy.
The unique feature of the Terra Sancta Organ Festival is that it is being held at the churches and shrines of the Holy Land and in the locations where the Franciscan Friars of the Custody of the Holy Land have been active for centuries: Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Greece, Cyprus, Egypt, Lebanon and Syria.
Terra Sancta Museum
The first Franciscan museum opened in 1902 in a room within the St. Savior Monastery in Jerusalem. The long history of the museum continued in the Flagellation Monastery in Jerusalem, where the museum was relocated and where it was inaugurated on February 10 1931. More than a hundred years after its foundation, an general renovation project has led the Franciscan museum to take the name of Terra Sancta Museum.
The mission of the Terra Sancta Museum is to let the world know about the roots of Christianity and about the history of the Christian presence in the Holy Land, through the extraordinary archaeological and historical-artistic collections of the Franciscans of the Holy Land.
The museum currently consists of three sections:
- A multimedia section (inaugurated in 2016) consisting of a multimedia installation that leads to the discovery of the Via Crucis on the Via Dolorosa. At the Monastery of the Flagellation in Jerusalem, the visitor is immersed in an atmosphere made up of lights, sounds, ambient noise, stories and animations, and he or she is transported to the time of Herod where the dramatic events of the passion, death and resurrection of Christ took place.
- An archaeological section (inaugurated in 2018), which is also located in the Monastery of the Flagellation on the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem. During the tour that includes six rooms, the visitor can discover archaeological finds related to the political institutions of the Herodian period and to the daily life at the time of the New Testament up to the first experiences of monasticism. The archaeological section will also include extraordinary specialized collections from Egypt and Mesopotamia.
- A historical section (whose inauguration is scheduled for 2020), which will be hosted in the Monastery of St. Savior in Jerusalem. Since September 2016, an international scientific committee led by Béatrix Saule (Director Emeritus of the Castle Museum of Versailles) has been working on a common strategy for the fundraising and setting up of this new museum. It will include extraordinary and rare collections of sculpture, paintings, jewelry (chalices and candlesticks), illuminated manuscripts from the 1400s and 1500s, furnishings, liturgical vestments and precious archival documents, rare pharmacy vases and armor, objects largely donated over the centuries by the European Royal Houses, by the Italian Republics and by the State of the Church to show their devotion to the Holy Places and to support the Custody.