"Memories of St Saviour: convent, parish, museum": the roots of the Custody in the city of Jerusalem

"Memories of St Saviour: convent, parish, museum": the roots of the Custody in the city of Jerusalem

The inauguration of the exhibition “Memories of St Saviour: convent, parish, museum” was held on 5th June in the Curia of the Custody. The exhibition is open to the public until 25th July.

This exhibition, made possible thanks to the support of the AFD (Agence française de développement) and the NDC (Ngo for Development Center) was the brainchild and was conceived by the Terra Sancta Museum and intends to highlight the close centuries-old bond  between the Franciscan friars and the city of Jerusalem.

Through three thematic routes and archive photos, work tools, works of art, ex-votos and fifteen explanatory panels, the exhibition retraces part of the history that has taken place within the walls of the large Franciscan convent, in contact with the Arab-Christian world.

From the 16th century, the presence of the friars in St Saviour  developed in two main directions: the convent and the parish, both places of cohesion with the local Arab world. In the first part of the exhibition, the focus is on the old workshops of St Saviour – the “sartoria” or tailoring shop, the pharmacy and the printing press – which were started from the need to create places to educate and spread knowledge. Until the 19th century, the apprentices, from other villages and orphans taken into the care of the Custody, were guided and trained by the friars themselves. One example is the Franciscan Printing press, which started in 1847 and immediately stood out for being the first printing press in Jerusalem to publish in Arabic. On this occasion, it is possible to admire a small Catechism from 1847, printed in both Italian and Arabic.

In the second part, attention is on the development of the pastoral activity of St Saviour, the first Catholic parish in Jerusalem where there had been Arabic-speaking priests from the 16th century for the needs of the local community. Lastly, the exhibition closes with some precious Palestinian works (the third part). These treasures will be on display in the future Historical Section of the Museum, which will be housed in the convent.

“This place on its own bears witness to the close bond that the Franciscans have had and still have with the Old City of Jerusalem and its inhabitants,” emphasized fr. Ibrahim Faltas, in his capacity as Director of the Schools Department of the Custody of the Holy Land . “St Saviour is much more than a convent: it is a parish, a library, an archive, a school and soon a museum which will continue to affirm the Arab Christian identity of this city. This is where today the importance of this event lies, so I would like to thank in particular George Al'Ama, director of the Centre and eminent member of the Scientific Committee of the TSM and fr. Stéphane Milovitch, director of the Cultural Heritage Department of the Custody of the Holy Land and the driving force behind the Terra Sancta Museum.”

For the whole duration of the exhibition Memories of St Saviour: convent, parish, museum”, guided tours in various languages will be offered, with particular attention to mediation with the young Arab-speaking public, in collaboration with the Pro Terra Sancta association, which has been entrusted with the educational activities of the museum.

Silvia Giuliano