10 November 2021

The Holy Land review celebrates 100 years of Christian history


It is about to celebrate its 100th birthday and yet many faithful and people passionate about the Holy Land do not know it. What are we talking about? The magazine of the Franciscans of the Holy Land, today in six languages and distributed all over the world.

A brief visit to the past…


It is 15 January 1921 and everybody is very busy at the Franciscan Printing press. Father Ferdinando Diotallevi, Custos of the Holy Land (1918-1925), has just started a new magazine, It is the successor of a line of publications in French created with the rise in pilgrimages in the 19th century. His intention is clearly stated in the first editorial: “Our programme is simple and very determined; to keep and spread knowledge about the Holy Land in its true character of God.”


The magazine meets a need: to make the realities of the region and of the holy places better known in the West. An ambitious cultural project, the magazine La Terre Sainte is to become a “showcase for [the] mission [of the Custody], but also a “voice” to defend its vision of the Holy Land” (“ La Terre Sainte, vitrine de la Custodie,” Marion Blocquet and Maria-Chiara Rioli in Terre Sainte Magazine no. 671, Jan-Feb 2021).

If the Franciscan friars intend to address the largest number of readers with the decision to print the magazine from its beginnings in three languages – Italian, French and Spanish – and to circulate it in Europe, it is more often than not during a pilgrimage that believers discover it.

With the simultaneous creation of the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum, in 1924, the magazine rapidly reported on the archaeological excavations and the restorations by the Franciscan archaeologists on Mount Nebo in Jordan, in Emmaüs-Qubeibeh, Ain Karem, Tiberias, Bethlehem, Bethany, Dominus Flevit or Nazareth. These discoveries and archaeological collections are already visible in the archaeological section of the Terra Sancta Museum.

First of all aimed at pilgrims, the magazine speaks a lot about the history of the Church in the region and allows discovering the variety of Christian life through the 25,000 pages already written ! The invaluable column “Palestine Chronicle” is a goldmine for historians, sociologists and anthropologists. “This column is like a memory that saw a variety of snapshots of the local past. Whether  it was the circulation of trains in 130 of Israeli women who will no longer do their military service near the Canal of Suez from December 1969; whether it is about the cinema and Muslim women in 1935 or the first Shabbat-buses in Tiberias in 2019. For a 100 years it has covered a vast range of things that have been seen and events in the region,” says Christophe Lafontaine, journalist and author of the article (“Une rubrique en or pour les chercheurs” in Terre Sainte Magazine no. 671, Jan-Feb 2021).

In this anniversary year, the Custody of the Holy Land had to honour its readers but also the numerous editors, religious and lay, who have followed on one another at the head of the different editions. An anniversary issue was published at the beginning of the year and in Spring 2021, to commemorate this rich heritage.



“Without the contribution of the magazine, it would be impossible for us today to make the message of the Holy Places known in a serious, intense and up-to-date way. The life and the work of the brothers of the Custody would remain unknown. A life of brotherly sharing between brothers from more than 50 different countries, a life of liturgical prayer and intercession for the whole of humanity, a life of humble service towards the small local Christian community, in harmony with the Church of the country, but also at the service of our Jewish and Muslim brothers. It is also thanks to the magazine that our commitment to dialogue and peace continues to be related, in the spirit of brotherhood that Pope Francis recently reminded us all of in his latest encyclical,” Fr. Francesco Patton, in his editorial of the anniversary issue of the Review.


It was with the same spirit of this universal desire that the Franciscans started an edition in Arabic, As-Salam Wal-Kheir, in 1940, addressing more the local Christians. Then, on the initiative of the Commissars of the Holy Land present in several regions of the world, the  magazine was gradually to be published in other languages. In 1945, the Vienna Commissariat launched  Im Land des Herrn ; in 1975, the first issue of The Holy Land Review, the English version of the magazine, was published; in 1986 the Portuguese version saw the light of day in Lisbon; lastly, in 1995, a Polish version, Ziemia Swieta.


But the magazine has also reported on, for several years, the progress of the Terra Sancta Museum, a cultural project which also aims to be at the service of the dialogue between cultures and religions. Several articles which have appeared in the magazine have generously been put on our website with free access. They include an article on the art of mother-of-pearl or the collection of icons. The latest dossier in the French edition was on the organ of Bethlehem which will be in display in the heart of the historical section with the treasure of Bethlehem…


To rediscover the magazine of the Franciscans of the Holy Land and subscribe to it :

In Italian : https://www.terrasanta.net/riviste/rivista-terrasanta/
In French : https://terresainte.aboshop.fr/
In Spanish : https://www.centrotierrasanta.com/revistatierrasanta
In English : https://myfranciscan.org/holy-land-review/
In Portuguese: pending
In Arabic: pending


(Translated from french by Joan Rundo)

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