2 April 2019

A.Sakleh, carpenter in Bethlehem: “My armoires will house a treasure!”

An unusual hubbub reigns in the department of Cultural Goods at the Custody of the Holy Land. The coming and going of volunteers carrying liturgical vestments is mixed up with that of carpenters who have come to install new wooden wardrobes. Afeef Saklheh, a Bethlehem carpenter, supervises the project and gives his instructions in Arabic to his fellow workmen. “I have worked on this project for nearly two months,” he explains as he takes up his drill. “This project is exciting because I know that my armoires will house a treasure!” The Custody, eager to sustain relations with the local communities and to maintain the profound connections woven between them for the last 800 years, wishes to integrate them into the development and the management of the future museum. Thus the Custody has hired a local team to construct the new wardrobes intended to house the liturgical vestments donated since the 16th century by the royal courts of Europe to the Holy Land.

Temporarily housed at the moment in the sacristy, the pieces will be relocated little by little into these new armoires, where they will be reserved for the museum. “The vestments will be closer to the museum than they are now,” adds Benoit Colin, art historian and specialist of antique textiles who is coordinating the project. “Our team will make the most of the project: cleaning the pieces, dusting them, judging their conditions, and packaging them for storage in their drawers, so as to satisfy all the norms of conservation.”