7 July 2023

Memories of St Saviour for the inhabitants of Jerusalem


Thanks to the support of the AFD (Agence française de développement) and of the NDC (Ngo for Development Center), the Custody invites inhabitants of Jerusalem, pilgrims and visitors to travel back in time… Here are some reactions from the first visits. You still have a few weeks left to discover the exhibition “Memories of St Saviour: convent, parish, museum”! Don’t put it off any longer !

The heads of the Oriental Churches on the feast-day of St Anthony, 13 June 2023.

From 5 June to 25 July 2023,  the Custody of the Holy Land is revealing, in a preview and in Arabic, a glimpse of the collections of the future historical section of the Terra Sancta Museum. It is a whole part of its history that can be discovered through archive documents, books and Palestinian collections… If the Custody has been able to preserve them until today, it is to return them to the sight of those who made this history alongside the friars. Moreover, some recent discoveries have accompanied the preparation of this exhibition: the story of the frame of ex-votos recently taken down from the altar of the Virgin Mary where it was covered in soot,  or that of the preparatory drawings revealing the work of the Bethlehem mother-of-pearl craftsman, Suleiman Roc.

Carta gloria, “altar cards,” from the mother-of-pearl workshops in Bethlehem, 18th century. 

An exhibition in three phases: the convent workshops, the parish and the future museum

The convent workshops which were an opportunity for the inhabitants of the City to learn and ply a trade have left memories of a past which is not so far away. Passing through these workshops, which are the Franciscan Printing Press, the pharmacy and the sewing shop, the visitor sees the busy life of the convent in the 19th century come to life again.  

The second part of the exhibition is devoted to the life of the parish that the Friars have developed from the 17thcentury until the present day.

Lastly, some masterpieces of Palestinian art crown the end of the visit : an icon of the Annunciation from the School of Jerusalem, which is still little-known, and objects of a dazzling whiteness from the Bethlehem mother-of-pearl workshops.  

Visitors from all horizons

“That’s my uncle, I recognize him” ; “and isn’t that Father Roc ?” The rich photographic documentation which punctuates the exhibition is the occasion for the inhabitants of the Old City to link the convent with their own memories. The Friars and the employees of the Custody stop from time to time to tell the stories hidden under these photos: “the nun that you can see in this parish photo used to teach embroidery to make banners like that one.” Another time, it is one of the kawas (the Palestinian guard in charge of the smooth proceedings of ceremonies) who comes to pose in front of the finely embroidered costume of the kawas, on his return from a procession. 

A particular accent on the young public

These same objects, familiar to the elderly, are also a source of wonder for children. “What did you like looking at best in the exhibition?” “The trumpet! And the printing press as well !” “So did I!” Aware of their centre of interest, Augustine Berger, a student on the Master’s course of cultural mediation at the University of Grenoble-Alpes, prepared an entertaining visit for them to discover the past of their city. Around a small number of objects which attracted their attention, a booklet was designed to accompany them on their visit to try and recognize the characters of the printing press in Arabic, the materials of the Palestinian jewellery and the sound of the trumpet. Half-way along the route, an activity allowed them to plunge into the archives of the Custody : gathered around an ancient plan of the convent, the children had to help one another to find the carpentry shop, the pharmacy or the cobbler’s workshop. A printing workshop completed the route: the worthy heirs of the workers of the Custody, the winner was the first to find the right letters among the authentic lead characters to print his or her first name! A printer’s diploma, well deserved, will be a personalized souvenir of this lively visit.

A mobilization in all directions

The visitors’ book echoes the enchantment of the visitors : here a community of Spanish nuns leaves words of admiration. A page later, a group of young Palestinian girls from the Al-Saraya centre came for a tour in Arabic guided by Hana Irshaid of the Pro Terra Sancta association. In order to kindle the attention of the youngsters of the Old City, together with the Christian Media Center, the museum’s communication team has edited a series of videos presenting in Arabic with English subtitles the main works of the exhibition, as a way of exporting this heritage outside the walls of the Custody!

[You can watch the film of the inauguration here :

The female team from the Al Saraya centre surrounding Hana, mediator at the Terra Sancta Museum..

Curious to know the world of the Custody better, about fifteen Israeli guides showed great interest in this part of the history of Jerusalem. Groups that wished to were able to continue with the visit of the church and a glimpse of the museum site in the maze of the convent. This exhibition is mobilizing the teams of the Terra Sancta Museum and of the pro Terra Sancta association which, with the holidays, are organizing the arrival of school summer camps and are ready to welcome all visitors who want to discover the memories of St Saviour!

Translated from French by Joan Rundo.

email whatsapp telegram facebook twitter