Project & missions

The Franciscans of the Holy Land

Founded in 1217 by St. Francis of Assisi, the Custody of the Holy Land has been the guardian of the holy sites in the name of the Catholic Church for the last 800 years. Pontifical recognition gave the Franciscans numerous responsibilities: to be, at once, at the service of the local church as well as the universal church — in other words, to inhabit the Holy Places in order to receive pilgrims and to take care of the local Christian communities. Today, the Franciscans of the Holy Land continue to fulfill their mission, and they wish to give pilgrims, local churches, Jews, and Muslims the opportunity to discover the roots of Christianity and its holy sites, witnesses to the life of Jesus.

Genesis of the Terra Sancta Museum

The Terra Sancta Museum has its origins in the “Museum of the Franciscan Fathers”, founded in 1902. This first museum was conceived at the time as an annex to the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum (the Faculty of Biblical Sciences and Archaeology of the Pontifical “Antonianum” University in Rome). It was a place where the discoveries from its excavations in the Holy Places could be exhibited and preserved. It has been in the Shrine of the Flagellation since 1927. 

The exhibition “Treasure of the Holy Sepulchre”, which revealed the last Western Latin treasure, obtained immense success at the Château de Versailles (France) in 2013. The Cardinal Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, while Custos of the Holy Land, launched a new cultural dynamic: the Terra Sancta Museum i.e. a network of christian museums in the Old City of Jerusalem. 

The former “Museum of the Franciscan Fathers” thus became the Terra Sancta Museum – SBF Archaeological museum which after several years of renovation has reopened on June 27, 2018. It will soon be joined by the Terra Sancta Museum  – Art and History, which will open its doors at the Saint Saviour’s Convent (New Gate, Old city).  Completion and installation of the exhibits is scheduled for 2027.

Missions of the Terra Sancta Museum

The project of the museum is anchored in the long Franciscan tradition of protecting the Holy Places and supporting the Christian communities of the Holy Land. It has the following missions:

1- To promote the historical importance of the Christian presence in the Holy Land and the universality of Jerusalem.

2- To propose a new cultural offering contributing to the development of the economic and social framework of the Old City.

3 – To build a meeting place around Christian culture alongside the existing museums consecrated to Judaism and Islamic art that is open to everyone.

4- To take part in the formation of local actors and their appropriation of a rich historical and artistic heritage.

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